BY: Richard W. Humphrey
UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, the Rangers announced that Derek Holland would be placed on the.15-day disabled list and that the contract of Tanner Scheppers was being purchased from AAA Round Rock. He will join the team immediately. To make room for Scheppers on the 40-man roster, the Rangers have designated John Gaub for assignment.
Gaub, a left-handed reliever, was acquired in late May via a waiver claim and will be placed on waivers again.
It is speculated that Alexi Ogando will start against the Giants in Holland’s place Sunday.
With the 2-0 loss last night to Oakland, the Rangers’ record against their West Division foes fell to 10-11. A year ago, Texas romped through the West with a 40-17 record. The Rangers opened the season with a 15-4 spurt, but have fallen to 18-20 since. All but four of the West Division games have been played since that opening spurt, so the Rangers’ West Division foes have had a major hand in inflicting the damage over the past six weeks.
The amazing part of the Rangers’ sideways play since that opening spurt is that Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland have not made up more ground on the Rangers. Texas woke up Thursday morning with a 4.5 game lead over the Angels in the West, the largest lead in any division. The series with Oakland that concludes this afternoon commenced a schedule stretch of 23 games in which all but three games are against teams that currently have sub-.500 records. (The three games against a team above .500 are this weekend’s series against the Giants.) Thus, when the Rangers return to Arlington next Tuesday against Arizona, they’ll be looking at 16 consecutive games against teams currently under .500. It’s four weeks of the schedule then presents a tremendous opportunity to put together another spurt to extend their lead in the West, if not fully take charge.
At this point, Scott Feldman is still listed as the starting pitcher for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Giants. Manager Ron Washington has indicated the decision could change, but apparently no other option has caught the fancy of Ranger management. There is also uncertainty about Sunday’s starting pitcher, currently listed as Derek Holland. Holland’s velocity slowed down dramatically during the course of Tuesday’s start against the A’s, and he admitted later that he has been battling a stomach virus for more than two weeks. Of particular concern is that he has lost 15 pounds since the onset. Certainly Tuesday’s performance was far better than his previous start at home last week against Seattle when he didn’t get out of the second inning, but the weight loss and the duration of the virus has to be of concern. If the Rangers are scrambling to find an alternative to Feldman on Saturday, they are really in a bind to find a spot starter for Holland’s scheduled Sunday start.
When Craig Gentry took the mound last Monday, he became just the fourth position player to pitch for the Rangers in franchise history. The other three are Jeff Kunkel, who twice pitched in a game, Jose Canseco and Scott Sheldon. Washington had earlier indicated he would never use a position player to pitch, but he relented when faced with the opportunity to save a bullpen pitcher in a blowout game. Gentry said afterward that his previous pitching career consisted of one inning when he was a Junior at the University of Arkansas.
The Rangers wrapped up the First Year Player Draft yesterday. The final tallies: 43 players drafted, 26 pitchers, nine outfielders, five infielders, and three catchers. 24 were drafted out of college and 19 out of high school. Signings of local interest include outfielder Preston Beck from UT-Arlington and Bishop Lynch High School and left-handed pitcher Sam Stafford from the University of Texas. Stafford was drafted a year ago by the Yankees in the second round, but a shoulder injury prevented him from signing. If healthy, Stafford could be a talent significantyly better than his draft postion in the 13th round. Kwinton Smith and Jameis Winston were selected out of high school in the 14th and 15th rounds respectively. Both are highly regarded football recruits. Smith is a wide receiver committed to South Carolina, while Winston was according to Rivals and ESPN, the top quarterback prospect in the country. He signed with Florida State. Both are eligible to sign with the Rangers and retain their amateur status for football.