Vet or prospect? Deciding DH pitching depth

Andrus still working to overcome effects of elbow injury

September 8th, 2020

The Rangers have a doubleheader on Saturday, and they are undecided on who will start the second game behind Kolby Allard.

Their choices are interesting, and right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is one of them.

Eickhoff is a five-year veteran with 76 Major League starts. He was an 11-game winner over 33 starts for the Phillies in 2016, but he has been derailed by injuries the past three years. He was with the Padres on a Minor League contract, but he took his free agency and was signed by the Rangers on Aug. 30.

“I don’t know if he is fully stretched out for that, but he could be an option,” manager Chris Woodward said.

Eickhoff could fill in for one start. He could also be a rotation option next season if the Rangers don’t want to rush young prospects who had limited or no action this year due to the absence of the Minor Leagues.

The Rangers have four young pitchers who are stretched out at the alternate training site: right-handers Cole Winn, Ricky Vanasco, Jason Bahr and Tyler Phillips. Winn was the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick in 2018, and he is their No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Vanasco is No. 18. Both have yet to pitch above Class A, and they don’t need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.

Phillips, who is on the 40-man roster, and Bahr, who needs to be added this winter, both pitched at Double-A Frisco last year and were getting closer to being Major League ready until the shutdown. This is also going to be a lost season for left-handers Joe Palumbo (ulcerative colitis) and Brock Burke (left shoulder surgery), because of their physical issues.

“I don’t want to rush those guys if they are not ready,” Woodward said. “I would love to see them. I love putting guys in situations like that. I don’t care how young they are. But at the same time, we do have to develop.”

That’s why Eickhoff could be a key signing for the Rangers, giving them a veteran option for the rotation next year.

“There are certain things that we have noticed from our younger guys that we are asking them to do that they are not ready to do yet when it comes to execution,” Woodward said. “I would like to make sure these guys are developed more. If we feel like they are ready, bring them up. If they are not ready, I wouldn’t want to rush them.”

The Rangers have already made the decision to go full speed ahead with rookie right-hander Kyle Cody as a future starter. They also must decide if they see right-hander Jonathan Hernández and left-hander Taylor Hearn as future starters.

Hernández has been the Rangers' top right-handed setup reliever this year. Hearn also has elite stuff, but his command has not progressed as quickly as Hernández's has this season.

“With Jonathan throwing as well as he has this year, it still burns in the back of our minds -- can this guy be a starter? Because his strike percentage was so much better,” Woodward said. “In the past, it scared us because to get him through four or five innings was a nightmare. Couldn’t throw the ball over the plate. Now you see him throwing the ball over the plate consistently. Now it’s like, maybe it could work. Same with Taylor.”

Ortiz on Andrus
Shortstop Elvis Andrus suffered a fractured right elbow when he was hit by a pitch in 2018, and he missed two months. Hitting coach Luis Ortiz said Andrus has still not overcome some issues created by that injury.

“We started doing some drills and he said, ‘My elbow is hurting,’” Ortiz said. “It is because he hasn’t used it for three years, because he has been protecting it. Great athletes are great compensators. They are going to try and compete with what they’ve got, and that’s what Elvis has tried to do.

“Now he is learning that what he is doing is not the same thing he was doing during those good years. Now he is getting back to it, and the elbow is sore because he hasn’t used those muscles as often as he had three years ago.”

Andrus went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Monday's 8-4 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.

Rangers beat
• Infielder Yadiel Rivera has cleared outright waivers, and he has been assigned to the alternate training site.

• Rangers wives are hosting an online auction featuring one-of-a-kind baseball memorabilia at Proceeds will benefit SafeHaven and their mission to end domestic violence through safety, support, prevention and social change. Items available include Joey Gallo-autographed cleats, a Lance Lynn-autographed baseball and photo, Danny Santana-autographed cleats and a Corey Kluber-autographed jersey.

• The Rangers scored all three runs Sunday on solo homers by Gallo, Leody Taveras and Ronald Guzmán. It is only the third time in the past 11 seasons they have scored three runs in a game coming on three home runs.