Inbox: How will Rangers fill rotation spot?

Beat reporter Kennedi Landry answers questions from fans

May 12th, 2021

The Rangers sit at 18-20 a little over a month into the 2021 season, well past the win total anybody would have expected at this point in the year. The club was at .500 (18-18) just before being swept during a two-game stint in San Francisco.

With Texas exceeding expectations, it figures to be a perfect time for an inbox before a four-game road trip in Houston kicks off on Thursday.

Who’s up next for the rotation?
-- @GoSeeWrite on Twitter

Do you see Arihara getting moved to the bullpen if he continues to struggle?
-- @lorecheta on Twitter

These were two separate questions, but they’re definitely related so I wanted to answer them together.

With starter Kohei Arihara off to the injured list with a contusion in his right middle finger, the pitching schedule figures to get a bit of a shakeup.

Manager Chris Woodward said lefty Wes Benjamin may be called back up from Triple-A to pitch on Friday for a spot start.

Benjamin started the season on the Opening Day roster out of the bullpen, but he was optioned to the alternate training site on April 15 and then to Triple-A Round Rock at the start of the Minor League season.

He was the Express’ Opening Day starter, pitching five shutout innings while allowing just four hits and notching eight strikeouts. Benjamin, normally a pitcher who pounds the zone, struggled with his command when he was in the big leagues early in the season. Through 5 2/3 innings, he walked more batters (6) than he struck out (5).

Hyeon-Jong Yang could also come up from the bullpen and slot in as a starter. In his one spot start this season, he went 3 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and eight strikeouts.

When Arihara gets off the IL, things could go a couple of different ways, but right now I think the Rangers see him as a starter. The staff had pointed to the finger injury as the root of his recent issues, so he’ll likely stay in the rotation if he’s at 100%.

What does this team do with Gibson? Being 33, is there any chance he is traded before the Deadline if he keeps up this pace?
-- @JefftheWASP on Twitter

I see where this question is coming from, and Gibson is currently one of the only stable pieces in the rotation. I’m sure a solidified contender could use somebody like him, but I also think it would have to be a pretty good package of prospects to ship him off at the deadline.

Manager Chris Woodward is such a big culture guy, I think he’d like to keep Gibson around as a veteran leadership presence on the pitching staff at the start of a rebuild.

I also think Gibson’s future with the club depends on where the Rangers are in the standings come the Trade Deadline, which leads me into the next question.

Do you think the Rangers can keep this up? Or is this not sustainable?
-- @ridersfan06 on Twitter

I got a couple of variations of this question, including the possibility of the Rangers making a run at a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.

Texas has been swept three times this season: by the Padres, the White Sox and most recently the Giants. All three are among the best in the Majors right now. They’ve also won series against very good clubs like the Red Sox, the Rays, the Blue Jays and the Mariners (who are right above the Rangers in the AL West standings).

The Athletic’s Levi Weaver mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, but I don’t think we’ll truly know if this team is for real until it gets through this stretch of mid-to-late May. Over that time, the Rangers have seven games against the Astros, four against the Yankees, two against the Angels and four against the Mariners.

If Texas gets through this month and gets back to .500 or just over it, I think we can start considering the possibility of a Wild Card spot. But then the club might need to make some moves at the deadline, especially for a pitcher or two if Arihara and right-hander Jordan Lyles continue to struggle.