Rangers lay out initial pitching plan

February 28th, 2021

Rangers lefty Wes Benjamin will start the team's first Spring Training game against Kansas City in Surprise on Sunday, manager Chris Woodward announced Thursday.

Benjamin debuted for the Rangers in 2020 and pitched 22 1/3 innings, posting a 4.84 ERA. Woodward said that Benjamin was an easy choice with Kyle Gibson and Kohei Arihara not pitching until later in the week.

For the first four games, each pitcher is only expected to pitch one inning a piece. Major League Baseball announced in its 2021 Operations Manual that games up to March 13 can be shortened to five-inning or seven-inning games if both managers agree. 

“Things can change, obviously,” Woodward said. “If they're at eight [innings] and we're at five, or we're at five and they're at eight, we gotta come up with something. I don't know how that works when there are four-inning discrepancies, but it should be fine. We just have to communicate with [the opposing teams].”

The Rangers opener against Kansas City will be seven innings.

Woodward said that a different group of pitchers will throw for those first four games, each for only one inning. Those groups are as follows: 

  • Sunday @ KC: Benjamin, Drew Anderson, Jason Bahr, Joe Gatto, Nick Vincent, Hunter Wood, Luis Ortiz
  • Monday vs SF: Kyle Gibson, Kolby Allard, Taylor Hearn, Sam Gaviglio, Spencer Patton, Tyler Phillips, Josh Sborz
  • Tuesday @ CWS: Kohei Arihara, Kyle Cody, Brett de Geus, John King, Cole Winn
  • Wednesday @ LAA: Jonathan Hernández, Drew Anderson, Hans Crouse, Jimmy Herget, Fernery Ozuna, Yerry Rodriguez, Hunter Wood, Joe Gatto

Woodward sees these Spring Training games as big opportunities for the Rangers' young pitching staff, not just physically but mentally. Woodward pointed out that the likes of Crouse, Winn and A.J. Alexy may not make the Opening Day roster, but could be called up at any point this season. 

Even guys like Wood who are looking for a bounce-back season have the chance to make the Opening Day roster as non-roster invitees. Wood has a career 3.32 ERA and posted a 2.98 ERA through 45 1/3 innings in 2019.

“Whether that you have success or not, it's how you handle yourself and your attitude, just your openness to dialogue and just how mature you are,” Woodward said. “That's the best thing that a lot of these guys can do."