Fifth starter spot up for grabs during camp

Colon, Niese headline group in competition for rotation job

February 13th, 2018

ARLINGTON -- Set rotation? The Rangers? Not likely … not going into Spring Training.

Such an arrangement would be highly unusual, not only for the Rangers, but for almost any Major League team. It just doesn't happen in February.

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The battle for the fifth spot in the Rangers' rotation is an annual event in Spring Training, ranking right up there with country music legend Charley Pride's arrival, "precautionary" injury updates and the morning clubhouse meetings to discuss security, nutrition, social media and other exciting topics.

The Rangers made sure there would be competition by signing to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Colon is 44, and this will be his 21st season, but the Rangers are serious about him.

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"This is a guy with a ton of history," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Who he is, what he is capable of … go out and compete, mix it up with the pitching staff, be the guy in the clubhouse we all have heard about."

The Rangers' first four are set with Cole Hamels, , Doug Fister and Matt Moore. Here is a rundown for the fifth-starter spot.

• Mike Minor -- He was a reliever for the Royals last season, but the Rangers will give him a chance to start again.

Pros: He has a four-pitch mix, led by a 90-94-mph fastball. He won 13 games and threw 204 innings for the Braves in 2013.

Cons: Minor hasn't started since 2014. He missed 2015-16 because of injury before becoming a dominant reliever for the Royals.

Impact on club: If Minor can handle an increased workload, he would be a strong addition to a rotation.

• Colon -- He is the career active leader in the Major Leagues with 240 wins and 528 games started.

Pros: He doesn't throw hard but knows how to pitch and throws strikes. He led the National League in walks per nine innings in 2015 and '16 while with the Mets.

Cons: Does he have anything left and how are you going to tell by Spring Training in Arizona?

Impact on club: If Colon makes the rotation and Minor is used as a reliever, the Rangers bullpen will be much better.

• Matt Bush -- He wants to start and the Rangers are going to give him that chance.

Pros: He is the hardest thrower on the team and has potentially dominating stuff.

Cons: Bush was out of baseball from 2012-15 and has been used as a reliever the past two seasons, so his ability to handle an increased workload is a complete unknown.

Impact on club: Presumably, Minor would fill the void in the bullpen.

-- Another former Mets starter coming to camp on a Minor League contract. He did not pitch in the big leagues last season while recovering from knee surgery.

Pros: He was a solid middle-rotation starter for the Mets in 2010-15, averaging 28 starts and 171 innings with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.

Cons: Niese is not going to overpower, overwhelm or over-excite anybody.

Impact on club: If he makes it, Colon won't. But it means Minor and Bush will be a part of a strong bullpen.

-- The 22-year-old right-hander was acquired from the Yankees in November and has pitched just three innings in the big leagues.

Pros: He is not overpowering, but has a 90-plus-mph fastball with an above average changeup and a good feel for pitching. He was 8-0 with a 1.13 ERA in nine Double-A starts last year.

Cons: He has just three career starts at Triple-A and could use more experience.

Impact on club: If he makes the rotation, it probably means the Rangers didn't have a good Spring Training overall.

-- The 23-year-old left-hander has made nine relief appearances in the big leagues the last two Septembers, but has never started a game above Double-A.

Pros: He is the Rangers' top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall in the system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Cons: He needs more experience to refine his pitches and fastball command.

Impact on club: What would Spring Training be without a young pitcher getting everybody overly excited?