ARLINGTON --This is the rotation the Rangers have been waiting for, going back to last year when they acquired Cole Hamels from the Phillies, and Derek Holland and Martin Perez showed they were over their injuries.A.J. Griffin and Cesar Ramos did a nice job filling in as fifth starters, but
ARLINGTON --This is the rotation the Rangers have been waiting for, going back to last year when they acquired Cole Hamels from the Phillies, and Derek Holland and Martin Perez showed they were over their injuries.
A.J. Griffin and Cesar Ramos did a nice job filling in as fifth starters, but now Yu Darvish has completed his 14-month recovery from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. He will join Hamels, Holland, Perez and Colby Lewis in the rotation, pitching against the Pirates on Saturday night.
This is a rotation the Rangers expect to be one of the best in game, one that can get them into the playoffs and beyond. If it really all does begin with starting pitching, Texas appears to be well-positioned.
"We're going to be really good," Holland said. "There is no doubt we have the confidence. We believe it. He adds one more power arm to the rotation."
Hamels and Darvish are both former All-Stars, two power pitchers with No. 1 talent. Holland and Lewis are World Series veterans who have climbed back from an oppressive array of injuries, while Perez has long been considered the Rangers' best pitching prospect but had to overcome his own Tommy John surgery.
They are all healthy and lined up for the final four months of the season on a team that is 27-21 and 1 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. Now they add Darvish to the mix. The last time he was healthy for a full season was in 2013 when he finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting and led the league in strikeouts.
"When he's out there, you have the utmost confidence that he's going to help the team win," Hamels said. "It's always good to have another starter. We have five starters and some spot starters that have come in and done really well. It's been great to see as a starting rotation what guys are able to do day in and day out every time they get called upon to pitch."
Through Friday, Texas starters have gone 18-10 with a 3.53 ERA that is the lowest in the AL. The Rangers also have 32 quality starts -- second in the AL -- and third with 280 nnings pitched over 48 games. The Rangers can only anticipate how much better it will be with Darvish among them.
"I am absolutely excited about it," Lewis said. "He brings another threat to the rotation and brings some excitement. The fan base goes crazy with his electric stuff and his ability to throw 14 pitches for strikes. He is the type of guy who has no-hit stuff. He gets everybody excited when he takes the mound."
The Rangers are a franchise known for their sluggers, but they have assembled some good rotations, including in the 1970s, when they had Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven come through Texas.
The 1983 team had the last Rangers staff to lead the league in ERA with a rotation that included Rick Honeycutt, Charlie Hough and Frank Tanana. The 1996 rotation that included Ken Hill, John Burkett, Bobby Witt and Darren Oliver combined for a club record 75 wins, and the 2011 rotation of Lewis, Holland, Matt Harrison, C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando holds the record for highest winning percent (74-40) at .649.
"We had a great rotation in 2011 when we all threw around 200 innings," Lewis said. "This could be as good as that, if not better. We definitely have the ability to keep us in ballgames and keep it close. With Cole and Darvish, we've got two aces sitting at the top of the rotation."
Hamels was in some good rotations while with the Phillies when they won five straight division titles in 2007-11, and he was pitching alongside Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez.
"We fed off each other in everything that we did," Hamels said. "We competed with each other, we tried to push each other to get better. We always had a sense of pride whenever we went out there to show as equals what we were all about, and see if we could one-up them.
"I think that's what made it fun. There wasn't any stress or added pressure, because even if you didn't have your A-game, you knew the next guy behind you was going to take care of business. It was a good feeling that we knew we had a lot more confidence that we were going to have a chance to win a series and potentially sweep, opposed to getting swept ourselves."
This rotation has a chance to be just like that. The Rangers are counting on it.
"In order to be that kind of rotation, you have to have the experience and the numbers," Hamels said. "I don't think we necessarily have the numbers yet, but that's for us to go out there and show everybody. Potential is just a figure of your imagination, you have to go and back it up. I think this is where we can turn that and start backing up our own belief and add to our confidence."
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.