Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rangers Pepper 6/7: No Canada, No Nellie, No Kirkman

By Dustin Copening
#RangersThoughts” on Twitter can be seen by following me @dfwfanconnect, but those thoughts evolve every few days from 140 characters into what I have dubbed as  “Rangers Pepper”. Here’s a very poorly executed game of pepper to get your mind right:
House Of TORrors - “The Rangers head to the Rogers Centre...” is on the list of phrases that cause Rangers fans to cringe. There’s not a lot to like about the place. The artificial turf is so callous and unyielding that it’s a certainty that Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz will be pulled from the field, if not benched for the majority of the series. Anyone else with the slightest hint of an issue with their lower body will surely get rest too.
Since 2010, the Rangers are 6-11 when playing the Blue Jays on the road, including last night’s loss. In those 17 games, the Rangers have scored an average of 4.2 runs, compared to the 5 runs per game they’ve averaged in the other 529 contests played outside of Canada. It’s a drop in production from the bats that you’d expect to see considering the strategy Wash uses to try and avoid long term injury to vital run producers.
Rogers Centre also plays as a hitter’s park, earning a favorable hitters rating in 8 of the last 12 full seasons according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors (and well on it’s way to ranking as a hitter’s park again in 2013). Since 2010, Texas has allowed almost one full run per game more to the Blue Jays in Toronto’s home park (5.1 vs. 4.2).
Less runs scored plus more runs given up is a predictable formula for two more nauseating afternoons of baseball before the Rangers return to the more hospitable confines of Rangers Ballpark.
Life Without Cruz - The other day I wrote about how I doubt any suspensions from the  Biogenesis scandal will start before the end of this year, and since then news about Tony Bosch trying to extract money from A-Rod (or others) to keep quiet only weakens the credibility of MLB’s primary witness.
The Texas Rangers can’t plan on that though. In the heat of a pennant race where key contributors continue to drop like flies due to injury, Texas must plan for a possible 50 or 100 game suspension for Nelson Cruz to drop in the near future. Jon Daniels could try to acquire a replacement through the trade market, but he’d be forced to overpay since other GM’s would know he’s backed into a corner. So for now, here are a few internal options that the organization could turn to if the worst case come to fruition:
  • Kinsler to RF, Profar to 2B - The Rangers are looking for an excuse to convince Ian Kinsler that a move to another position is necessary for the good of the team. Like it or not, trying to tell him to move because Profar is extremely talented won’t fly in the middle of this season. However, it’s possible Kins agrees to make a midseason move if it’s to put the most productive lineup on the field in the middle of August after the team’s HR and RBI leader has just been suspended for the rest of the year.

    A spot for Profar for the remainder of 2013 and the foreseeable future is opened up, but you’re asking Kinsler to take on a position that while he’s athletic enough to perform okay at, he’s not well prepared for.
  • Profar to RF - There is no reason why he can’t do as good if not better a job defensively in RF than what Cruz puts out on a daily basis, but like Kinsler, he has not played the outfield before. The best way to help accelerate the learning curve for Profar would be to send him to Round Rock once Kinsler is healthy and ask him to play in RF every few days.

    doesn’t want to send him back though, at least not at this time. The Rangers would have to be motivated to demote him for this scenario to play out, which would mean Profar’s performance at the major league level has taken a turn for the worse.
  • Moreland to RF - Like Kinsler, Moreland will be available for a rehab assignment after he recovers from the strained hamstring that’s landed him on the 15 day DL. He’s played 44 games in RF as a pro, so a few nights/afternoons playing the outfield in Frisco before being activated should be enough to shake the rust off of his outfield mitt.

    The issue created with this move is finding who to play at 1B once Mitch makes the move. A Lance Berkman/Jeff Baker platoon is one route to go, but Berkman’s time in the field would be very limited due to his balky knees and Baker has never excelled with regular playing time.
  • Mike Olt to RF - This is the choice I’d make if it were up to me. Olt was capable in RF this spring. He committed no errors and made a spectacular diving grab to keep a Yu Darvish outing against the Giants from getting out of hand. He’d need more regular playing time to determine if he’s a long term solution in RF, but he’s shown no signs of being any more of a butcher than Cruz.

    Doctors figured out what the issues with his eyesight were, and with the help of eye drops he’s regained some of his top prospect swagger with 2 HR and 2 doubles (AA and AAA combined) since resuming his season in the minors. Look for him to start getting some time in RF as an indicator that JD and Wash are leaning this way as a possible Cruz replacement.
Berkman Is Right & Wrong - Michael Kirkman warmed up next to Joe Nathan last night in the top of the 9th inning of a 3-3 ballgame on Thursday evening. Nathan got loose in the event that Jurickson Profar scored from second to set up a save situation. Kirkman got ready to come in to ensure the game wouldn’t go to extra innings if it stayed tied, or so I joked on Twitter. Turns out I was correct.
After the game, Lance Berkman did what good teammates in tight knit locker rooms do, which was taking total blame for the loss for bouncing a ball to Elvis Andrus on a failed double play. The play was far from certain had his throw been true, but Berkman knows that the last thing the Rangers need is fractures inside the clubhouse with the majority of a 20 game stretch without a day off still in front of them.
The sentiment is nice, but the reality is that Berkman contributed positively by throwing Jacoby Ellsbury out at the plate in the 5th inning after making an impressive snag of a hard hit bouncer by Jonny Gomes. Kirkman hasn’t thrown one clean full inning of baseball since May 15th. In the 5 inning pitched since that game against Oakland, Kirkman has allowed 8 ER on 14 hits while walking 4 and striking out 4.
Kirkman has an electric arm, and the organization refuses to give up on him. Maybe that’s because they’re still charmed by the 0.73 WHIP and 2.45 ERA he put up over 11 innings of spring baseball, or they truly believe that he’s been “unlucky” so far in 2013.
Yes, someone will grab him off waivers if Texas attempts to send him to the minors, but the time for taking that risk is now. The Oakland Athletics are on a ridiculous 20-3 tear, and have taken a half game lead over the Rangers in the West. This team can’t afford to let games like Thursday night’s in Boston slip away because one guy hasn’t figured it out upstairs, and probably won’t anytime soon.


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