Banged-up Rangers could be in world of hurt as season approaches

Jurickson Profar is one of many Rangers who will miss the early part of the season.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Within a span of 24 hours this week, the Rangers learned that they would need to place three players on the 60-day disabled list — second baseman Jurickson Profar, outfielder Engel Beltre and catcher Geovany Soto.

Want to hear something even more incredible?

These latest injuries actually are the least of the Rangers’ problems.

I’m not trying to be flip — while Beltre likely would not have made the club, Profar and Soto both projected to be regulars. Still, the bigger issue for the Rangers by far remains the state of their pitching staff. And Yu Darvish’s stiff neck is perhaps the least of those problems, though that situation, too, is turning ominous; Darvish will return to Dallas and undergo an MRI on Wednesday, and the Rangers are ruling him out for Opening Day.

Two of the team’s left-handed starters, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison already will open the season on the DL. Righty Colby Lewis could join them. And righty Alexi Ogando will return to the bullpen, which is undergoing its own reconstruction.

Pay attention, it gets a little confusing.

Two relievers, righty Tanner Scheppers and lefty Robbie Ross, could be in the rotation, at least temporarily. The closer the past two seasons, righty Joe Nathan, is in Detroit. And the closer before that, righty Neftali Feliz, is struggling to regain velocity and will open the season in Triple A.

The new closer? That would be righty Joakim Soria.

And if all this is giving you a headache, imagine how general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington feel.

The Rangers are not in trouble yet, but could be if any of their injured pitchers experience setbacks, or if the nagging problems afflicting Darvish, shortstop Elvis Andrus and left fielder Shin-Soo Choo turn into something more.

For now, though, let’s play best-case scenario, difficult as it might be.

Neither Lewis nor Harrison is exactly a sure thing — Lewis is coming off hip-resurfacing surgery, Harrison three back operations. The Rangers, though, currently project that both could return sometime in April. Lewis could even be the Rangers’ choice the first time they need a fifth starter, on April 8, though it might be more prudent for the club to allow him to open at Triple A.

In any case, Scheppers and Ross could return to the bullpen the moment that Lewis and Harrison replaced them as starters. The ‘pen at that point would become much deeper, and the rotation could get deeper still once Holland returns from left-knee surgery.

Yes, each of the above sentences contains multiple assumptions. And yes, the Rangers also are likely to rely on a questionable veteran such as righty Tommy Hanson or lefty Joe Saunders as a short-term rotation option.

You expected this to be easy?

The second-base picture is slightly more encouraging, but not by much. Profar will be out 10 to 12 weeks with a torn muscle in his right shoulder. The Rangers can try to patch with veterans such as Adam Rosales, Josh Wilson and Kensuke Tanaka. And if the team’s top prospect, Rougned Odor, starts off hot in the minors, they can summon him to bridge the gap to Profar. Heck, some in the organization are tempted to go with Odor right now.

The catching is more dicey – Soto will be out 10 to 12 weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee, leaving the position to J.P. Arencibia and Robinson Chirinos. So, it wasn’t surprising Tuesday that the Rangers signed Chris Snyder to a minor-league contract. Likewise, it wouldn’t be surprising if they added a pitcher or two shortly on the same type of deal. The team will need every body the front office can summon, and then some. 

If this is the worst of it, and most or all of the injured players return, the Rangers will be fine. Problem is, no one can assume this is the worst of it. And if it isn’t, a summer of immense promise in Texas might prove nothing more than a hot mess.