Rangers continue to lock up young pitching

ARLINGTON, Texas — All you have to know about how the Texas Rangers are trying to build their team for the future is look at their starting rotation.

Yu Darvish is under contract through 2017. Derek Holland’s current contract could run through 2018. Alexi Ogando is under team control through the 2016 season.

And after Matt Harrison signed a five year, $55-million deal on Thursday that includes a vesting club option, the left-hander is Texas property through at least the 2017 season.

Ogando, who is making the transition back to start this spring, is the grizzled veteran of the four at 29. 

“To look up and have Matt and Yu and Derek and Alexi and know that the core of the rotation’s going to be here,” Texas general manager Jon Daniels said. “You’re talking about three guys that are 27 or under that are All-Stars and Derek had a shutout in the World Series.

“These are accomplished young pitchers. We’re not done. We’re always looking to get better. But it is evidence that all the efforts we’ve made on the scouting and development side that has put this young rotation together is paying off.”

Harrison is proof of that.

In 2010 he wasn’t even on the postseason roster. But over the next two seasons, Harrison developed into an All-Star pitcher who is among the top five in victories in the American League over that span.

Now he’s happy to be part of a rotation which has a bright future.

“It’s huge to have two guys (Darvish, Holland) of that caliber to already be locked up and to know I’ll be another piece of that of rotation for the next five years is huge,” said Harrison, who could have been a free agent following the 2014 season. “It’s huge to know we have those guys, and with Ogando back in the rotation, we’ve seen what he’s done two years ago.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a good pitching staff.”

Harrison set career highs in victories (18), starts (32), innings pitched (213 1/3) and strikeouts (133) in 2012 while earning his first trip to the All-Star Game. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month in June and tied for third in the AL with four complete games.

While those are gaudy numbers, Harrison, 27, has no plans to rest on them.

“I definitely want to continue to improve,” Harrison said. “I’m not content where I’m at right now. I want to be one of the best pitchers in the game — not just left-handed. I want to continue to work as hard as I can in each aspect of the game and continue to learn. I don’t ever want to stop learning this game because once I do that, there’s no point in playing anymore.”

Harrison, who grew up in a one-stoplight town in North Carolina, said it hasn’t sunk in yet that he’s signed such a lucrative deal. He doesn’t think the new contract will change him however.

“In this industry if you’re able to go out and able to do your job, the money’s there to be made,” Harrison said. “At the same time, coming from hardly anything growing up, I know how hard it was for my parents. Now that I’ve signed this deal it sets up my family and my daughter for life.

“It’s very humbling to be able to do that. I won’t take it lightly.”

Despite that opportunity, Harrison signing the deal wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Both sides wanted a deal to happen but that doesn’t mean it was going to. But the bright future for the Texas pitching staff helped make up Harrison’s mind.

“It looks like they’re bringing in the pieces here to continue to win,” Harrison said. “I want to be able to continue to win. I look at is it could be my last start any day. This contract sets me up for life. It sets up security for my family. It’s a place I can call home for the next five years.”