Rangers' rotation navigating through speed bumps

May 15th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' rotation has hit a speed bump, and at a point where they were getting their starting pitching lined up just the way they wanted.

They're hoping this is just a temporary setback. But there could easily be more games like the ones seen the past two nights at Globe Life Field as Texas spends the season evaluating its young starting pitching.

Rookie right-hander Glenn Otto, who had a 3.14 ERA through his first three starts, allowed eights runs in four-plus innings in the Rangers’ 11-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. Otto gave up eight hits and four walks after allowing eight hits and six walks in his first 14 1/3 innings this season.

“It’s tough falling behind guys,” Otto said. “If you fall behind guys in this league, it will come back to bite you. Leadoff walks … leave pitches in the middle of the zone, good hitters will take advantage of it and do what those guys did tonight. There are some sequences I would like to have back but you learn from it and go on to the next one.”

Otto’s rough outing came after right-hander Dane Dunning allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 7-1 loss to the Red Sox on Friday. The eight runs allowed by Otto were the most by a Rangers starter this year.

“There are definitely going to be some speed bumps,” Woodward said. “With any young or inexperienced player, there are going to be some speed bumps. You just hope they aren’t as big. Today, we needed Glenn to get us through five innings and try and save the bullpen. It didn’t work out that way. You hope those speed bumps turn into minor bumps and I think, for the most part, they have. But today was a big one.”

Prior to that, Otto and Dunning had been a part of a seven-game stretch for the Rangers in which their starters had a combined 1.04 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. The Rangers won seven of 10 games and were really feeling good about the direction of the rotation.

The Rangers also see veteran Jon Gray getting healthy again and ready to start Monday against the Angels. Gray is the No. 1 starter in a rotation that also includes left-handers Martín Pérez -- who has pitched like a No. 1 starter lately -- and Taylor Hearn, who is viewed as having No. 1-type stuff.

The Rangers are still struggling offensively, managing just three runs, two earned, against veteran starter Rich Hill and three relievers on Saturday. They are hitting .192 with 22 runs scored in their last nine games and are hitting .216 as a team on the season.

But offenses can be more easily fixed than pitching staffs, especially rotations. The Rangers invested heavily in their offense last season with the expensive acquisitions of infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, along with catcher Mitch Garver.

The Rangers have reason to feel good about the talented young pitching they have compiled over the past few years during their painful rebuilding process. Now they’re at that point where they want to see significant improvement and consistently reliable outings from those pitchers.

“We are learning every time out,” Otto said. “Definitely want to be here a long time, want to help this team win a lot of games. To do that, I’m going to have to execute pitches. Simplify it as much as possible, go out every time and execute pitches as much as possible.”

The progress of the young starting pitchers, more than anything, could be the ultimate measure of success for the Rangers this season.

The Rangers have other young pitchers in the Minor Leagues eager to get their turn, including right-handers Jack Leiter, Cole Winn, A.J. Alexy and Spencer Howard. Right now, though, the Rangers appear to have a set rotation that includes Otto and Dunning. The pitchers just need to keep these speed bumps to a minimum and prove this year they can win at the big league level

“The pitching is paramount for us,” Woodward said. “If we pitch, we can have a bad day offensively and still win a game. Overall pitching, those guys have been good, but we’ve got to try to keep them, especially these young guys, to learn how to get through an entire season.”