Wednesday Newsletter time: Texas Rangers may have to get creative with rotation again in 2022

Only two pitchers have a grasp on starting spots for next season, and the top prospects are still developing.

Dane Dunning, above, and Taylor Hearn likely have locked up spots in the rotation for 2022, but the Rangers will have to turn to free agency to help fill it out. (The Associated Press/Duane Burleson).

The Texas Rangers took an unusual approach to their 2021 pitching staff coming off of a 60-game season in which they were going to be short on innings.

Three rotation members would have a traditional starter’s role, but the last two spots would filled be what eventually were coined as tandems.

One included veteran Jordan Lyles, who needed to prove he could get deeper into games, and the other included Dane Dunning, who was pitching on an innings limit.

When Opening Day rolls around next season, the Rangers could again find themselves getting into creative mode.

Only two spots appear to be set, with Dunning and left-hander Taylor Hearn positioning themselves nicely this season. That leaves three openings and not enough MLB-ready arms to fill them. Maybe one, but not all three.

Manager Chris Woodward said Friday on the Texas Rangers Baseball Podcast that the Rangers will seek starters in free agency. As many as two starters could be targeted, leaving one to be filled by an assortment of young pitchers.

Woodward also suggested that the Rangers’ biggest offseason splashes will be made on position players. So what, exactly, does that mean on the pitching side?

That doesn’t mean the Rangers won’t take the plunge with a top-of-the-market starter. It seems like Marcus Stroman or Robbie Ray are better (i.e. younger) fits than Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw.

Jon Gray, Steven Matz and Tyler Anderson seem more likely (and affordable), and it wouldn’t be a shocker if Lyles was brought back.

The sense here is that the Rangers are buying time for their prospects to reach the majors. Cole Winn is the closest, and there is an expectation that 2021 first-rounder Jack Leiter will move quickly.

Reaching the majors this season might be too quick, but 2023 seems reasonable.

The Rangers need veterans in the rotation. They can plug the final spots with the combination of Kolby Allard, A.J. Alexy, Glenn Otto, Drew Anderson and Brock Burke, who is pitching well at instructs.

The rotation might not be as hectic as it was in 2021, but there will be some moving pieces.

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October baseball

Two National League starting pitchers worked on three days’ rest Tuesday, one in an attempt to keep his team from a Game 5 and one to get his team to a Game 5. Two NL first basemen are trying to rush back from injuries in case their team can advance to the next round.

That’s October baseball for you. Players are out of gas but somehow willing themselves to go back to the ballpark and perform at a high level.

Woodward hopes Rangers players are watching and learning. He is pleased that they made it through a 162-game season to gain an understanding of how taxing it is physically and mentally, and to learn how to manage a season and still have something left for the postseason.

Woodward believes the Rangers will reach the postseason … eventually.

“Maybe with two or three weeks left, you could tell that guys were fried,” Woodward said. “I told them point blank, if this was a pennant chase, you would naturally definitely have a little more energy, but you’ve got to be able to trust your processes at that point. You’ve got to be able to trust your mental preparation, your physical preparation.”

Not only that, Woodward said, all eyes would be on Rangers players while on baseball’s biggest stage. The other 29 teams would be watching. Each game would be picked apart by TV analysts and writers.

There’s no time to be tired.

“If you’re already tired now, could you imagine playing in an October game?” Woodward said. “We’ve got everything on the line. This is when you want to be at your best.”

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Hitting the mat

All fans of wrestling — no, not the WWE kind — need to pay attention here: Oklahoma State and Iowa are coming to Globe Life Field for a dual match.

Two of the most storied college wrestling programs will take part in Bout at the Ballpark on Feb. 12. For the first time, a college dual match will be held simultaneously with an international dual match as Team USA takes on Iran.

The teams will alternate bouts at each weight class.

Oklahoma State vs. Iowa is like Duke vs. North Carolina in men’s basketball or Alabama vs. Michigan in college football. If you’re just a sports fans, this might be for you.

Iowa is the reigning national champion. The Hawkeyes have won 24 national team titles while Oklahoma State has won a record 34.

“The Oklahoma State-Iowa series is one of the best things the sport of wrestling has to offer,” said Cowboys coach John Smith, a former Olympic gold medalist. “The history of both programs speaks for itself, and it’s always matched by the intensity on the mat. I’m excited to show this rivalry to a new part of the country and help grow our sport in the process.”

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday at texasrangers.com/wrestling.

Doggy video!

Me going up the stairs at 3 a.m. still mostly asleep to check on the kids. Enjoy. See you Thursday.

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