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Rangers seek SP depth, but have options

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers appear to have a set rotation of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor.

But they have needed a minimum of 10 starting pitchers per season since getting by with seven in 2011. The Rangers may or may not add another front-line starting pitcher before the offseason is over, but adding starting-pitching depth appears to be paramount.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers appear to have a set rotation of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor.

But they have needed a minimum of 10 starting pitchers per season since getting by with seven in 2011. The Rangers may or may not add another front-line starting pitcher before the offseason is over, but adding starting-pitching depth appears to be paramount.

Here is what the Rangers have right now as far as depth with two weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14.

• Right-hander Matt Bush has spent the past two years as a reliever, but the Rangers are determined to give him an opportunity to start this spring. The Rangers have had mixed results moving relievers into the rotation in the past and doing so with Bush runs the risk of weakening a bullpen that could also use more depth. But the plan is in motion for Bush to get a chance to start.

• Left-hander Jonathon Niese was signed on Tuesday to address the depth. Niese had a good run as a middle-rotation starter for the Mets and Pirates from 2010-16, but he missed all of last year while recovering from knee surgery. He could also fit into the bullpen as a long reliever.

• Right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx was 5-2 with a 4.67 ERA in six starts and 18 relief appearances last season. His six starts included wins over the Nationals in Washington and the Yankees in New York. He also pitched the final two months of the season with a broken bone in his right hand.

Video: TEX@NYY: Bibens-Dirkx tosses seven strong innings

• Right-hander Ronald Herrera, 22, was acquired from the Yankees on Nov. 20, and he went 8-0 with a 1.13 ERA in nine starts at Double-A Trenton last year. He also made two relief appearances for the Yankees.

• Right-hander Adrian Sampson was once a highly regarded prospect for the Pirates and Mariners before needing surgery on his right flexor tendon in 2016. He spent last year on a rehab program but made two strong starts for Triple-A Round Rock at the end of last season, allowing one run in 10 innings.

• Right-hander Clayton Blackburn, 25, has made 62 starts and six relief appearances in Triple-A over the past three seasons, going 23-16 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.

• Right-hander Paolo Espino, 31, made two starts for the Brewers before being purchased by the Rangers on Aug 26. He made six relief appearances for the Rangers but was used as a starter in the Dominican Winter League for Toros del Este, going 0-2 with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. The right-hander from Panama has 11 years of Minor League experience that includes 198 starts.

• Left-hander David Hurlbut, signed to a Minor League contract out of the Twins' organization, also has three years of Triple-A starting experience and was 10-8 with a 3.44 ERA at Rochester last year.

• Right-hander Erik Goeddel made 110 relief appearances for the Mets over the past four seasons, but he was originally a starter after being drafted out of UCLA in 2010. The Rangers plan to stretch him out in Spring Training.

• Right-hander Tayler Scott, who was acquired from the Brewers last summer for Jeremy Jeffress, is another pitcher with versatility who could be used as a starter or a reliever.

The Rangers will also have some of their top Minor League pitching prospects in camp, including left-handers Yohander Mendez and Brett Martin and right-handers Reed Garrett, Jonathan Hernandez and Ariel Jurado.

But the goal is to have enough pitching depth to allow them to continue their development in the Minors. The Rangers continue that search.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

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