BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers started the season by losing three of four to Houston. It’s undoubtedly too early to draw any rock solid conclusions. It’s only four games. But there are some ideas as to what this Ranger team is.

First, it is safe to say that there is a huge gulf between the Astros and Rangers. Jon Daniels has even publicly acknowledged that with the Astros in the division, the Rangers only path to the playoffs is the Wild Card. For example, Astro pitchers Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh would be one of the top three pitchers in the Rangers starting rotation if they were Rangers. They aren’t. On the Astros, they aren’t able to crack the starting rotation and have been shuttled to the bullpen.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Astros have at least three players that are better than anyone on the Rangers – reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer. Alex Bregman isn’t far behind.

It’s understandable then that the Rangers did so little this winter in the trade and free agent markets to get players that could help this year’s team. There was no sense getting tied down to significant contracts if the odds of making the playoffs are so slim.

A couple of problems with the position players last season was too many strikeouts on offense and a porous defense. Both of those issues still look the be problems. Ranger batters struck out 40 times in the series with four different players recording a hat trick – three K’s in a game. (Robinson Chirinos actually struck out four times in one of the games.)

The defense still looks porous. It’s not so much the errors – Texas committed just two in the series both of which occurred in the game the Rangers won – but it’s the plays not made that should be made. `

Texas avoided the injury bug in spring training. However, Friday Delino DeShields injured his hand. It was not thought to be serious at the time – he stayed in the game. On Saturday morning though, he woke up with the hand seriously swollen, and he landed on the disabled list Saturday afternoon. It is a broken hamate bone which likely will require surgery and will keep him out for four to six weeks.

Center field is one position where there is little depth. Carlos Tocci, the Rule 5 draft pick is a good defender with speed, but he is not a Major League hitter at this point. He started Saturday, but is not viewed as a solution. Drew Robinson played center on Sunday. He and Ryan Rua appear to be the standins for DeShields at this point.

DeShields with his plus speed has been a catalyst for the offense. On Sunday in his absence, the Rangers managed just four hits. They scored just 11 runs in the series. Putting fewer than three runs on the socreboard in a game isn’t going to win many games.

As for the pitching, three of the four starters pitched a decent game. Hamels, Fister and Minor were between okay and good. The problem is innings. None of them completed six innings, and Moore and Minor didn’t complete five. They totalled 19-1/3rd innings allowing 10 earned runs for a 4.66 ERA.

That left 16-2/3rds innings for the bullpen, obviously more than four per game. There are some good arms in the pen, but if they are repeatedly called upon to throw three, four or more innings in games; it won’t look good in June.

Tonight Bartolo Colon takes the hill for Texas against the A’s. He effectively takes DeShield’s roster spot on the active roster, and Ricardo Rodriguez was placed on the 60-day Disabled List to make room for Colon on the 40-man roster. More moves are coming as Martin Perez is scheduled to start Thursday in Oakland.

It will be a telling series for the Rangers. Oakland has also started the season 1-3. The A’s and Rangers could well be fighting each other to stay out of last place.

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