Pitching issues come at right time for Rangers

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

The Texas Rangers are finally catching a break on the injury front when it comes to their pitching.

At least when it comes to timing.

Roy Oswalt’s Monday start against Boston is off because of a stiff back. Colby Lewis may not make his Tuesday start because he’s still being bothered by tendinitis in his right forearm.

The good news for Texas is that they are dealing with these injuries on July 22, which gives them time to make a move on the trade market if they desire. The better news is that the Rangers are doing so with a five-game lead in the American League West despite Sunday night’s 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Even though the Rangers lost two of three to the Angels and finished their first road trip after the All-Star break at 4-4, the Rangers will begin a 10-game homestand Monday night against Boston leading the West by one more game than they did coming out of the break.

The Rangers should know soon the severity of the injuries to both starters. Oswalt had his best start of the season against Oakland in his last outing, which is a sign of hope. Of course, his back led to two stints on the disabled list last year when he was with Philadelphia, which is a cause for concern.

As valuable as the veteran leadership of Oswalt is, losing Lewis for an extended time would be a lot more costly. He’s been the most reliable starter the Rangers have had for the last three seasons. His Tuesday start hasn’t been ruled out yet, but that could come Monday.

He’s only pitched nine innings since he first starting feeling tightness in the forearm more than a month ago in Houston. The worst thing is that he’s still be bothered by the same issue that put him on the disabled list.

Texas has a solid security blanket coming soon in Neftali Feliz, who struggled in his second rehab start last week. That start can be discounted some though because Feliz has pitched less than four innings in the last two months so rust is to be expected.

If Oswalt and Lewis are out for just one start, the Rangers can piece things together with the likes of Scott Feldman and Martin Perez. That five-game lead makes that a doable thing. If one of the starters is out for longer than that, it’s okay too because Feliz could be just a couple of starts away from returning to the rotation if needed.

But if both pitchers are out for an extended time, the Rangers may be forced to make a move for pitching. As good as Matt Harrison has been, is he ready to be the anchor of the Texas staff down the stretch? Lewis has the skins on the wall to do that. Harrison doesn’t. He didn’t pitch poorly Sunday, setting down after allowing three runs over the first two innings.

He also didn’t pitch the Rangers to victory either. If he would have done that, the Rangers would have had their biggest lead of the season in the West and a couple of more games to play with to try and sort out their injury concerns. Harrison may be Lewis-esque at some point this season, but he’s not there yet. The Rangers can’t afford to wait around to see if he is.

While it was a rough weekend for the Rangers in Anaheim on the field and in the trainer’s room, they aren’t alone. The Angels aren’t exactly locked in when it comes to a starting rotation either.

Los Angeles, which comes to Texas next week for a four-game series, is in the same boat as the Rangers when it comes to starters. The Angels don’t have the injury problems with the starters like Texas, they have quality problems. Outside of their two All-Star starters Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have question marks in their rotation.

They may have received a huge boost Sunday when Dan Haren beat the Rangers in his first start since coming back from the disabled list with a back problem. If Haren is healthy and back in his regular form, the starting pitching edge in the West goes back to the Angels.

But if the injury news on either Oswalt or Lewis isn’t bad, the Rangers will be able to counter the addition of Haren.  The Rangers could then avoid having a make a move because even though they lost the series to the Angels, they are still a better team than Los Angeles.

Of course, the next week could change all of that. Talk about timing.

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