MLB Insider: Disabled list has derailed once-powerful Rangers

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2014 - 7:53 PM
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Texas first baseman Prince Fielder had played in 547 consecutive games, tops among active major leaguers, but that streak came to a thud when he landed on the disabled list because of a neck injury expected to end his season.

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The Twins and Rangers entered Saturday with an identical number of victories; the same fits-and-starts frustration over the difficulty in producing a winning streak; and a similar position in the muddled middle of the standings. Yet the Texas club that arrives at Target Field on Monday is feeling far more anxiety about its win-one-lose-one season.

The Twins are trying to solidify their improvements after three desolate seasons, trying to keep the offense productive while the pitching stabilizes. But the Rangers, now almost three seasons removed from their back-to-back AL pennants, are beginning to wonder whether it’s time to tear it down and start over. They are a prime example of how careful planning and a $133 million payroll guarantee nothing.

When the most durable player in the game breaks down, you know things are bad.

“You’re not going to replace certain guys, and then when you’ve got that critical mass of injuries that we have, it becomes a secondary challenge just to field a healthy, talented club,” Texas GM Jon Daniels told Rangers reporters last week. “We’re going to stay positive and stay the course and let this team get going.”

Good luck with that. The Rangers come to town with a disabled list that now numbers 15, or fully three-fifths of the club they thought they would have. Only four of their projected regulars remain healthy, and while it’s still a talented core — third baseman Adrian Beltre, right fielder Alex Rios, shortstop Elvis Andrus and free-agent signee Shin Soo Choo, the left fielder — it’s also only a portion of the arsenal they expected to have.

The biggest blow was losing Prince Fielder, their star offseason addition, to a herniated disk in his neck that requires surgery. Fielder had played 547 consecutive games but was off to a slow start, hitting .247 with three home runs this season, a slump the Rangers believe was due to the debilitating nature of his injury. “When you talk to him and see the medical staff test his strength,” Daniels told reporters, “he has a real deficiency in his left side. I don’t have any doubts it’s affected his play.”

But it’s not just Fielder. Beltre missed most of April because of a strained quad. Catcher Geovany Soto had knee surgery and is on the 60-day disabled list. Second baseman Donnie Murphy has a neck injury that has kept him out most of the month. Corner infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff had back surgery and is out for another couple of months. And on the same day that Fielder received his diagnosis, the Rangers learned second baseman Jurickson Profar has a torn muscle in his shoulder and is out for the year.

And the pitching staff? Three starters are out, two of them for the rest of the season. Martin Perez had Tommy John elbow surgery, Matt Harrison needs back surgery. Derek Holland hasn’t pitched yet because of a foot he broke in spring training, but he hopes to return in July. Relievers Tanner Scheppers, Joe Ortiz, Jim Adducci, Pedro Figueroa? Elbow, foot, finger, elbow. Adducci is the only one sure to be back this year.

“I haven’t ever been a part of anything like this — never across the board to this degree,” Daniels said. “You try to plan all offseason to give yourself depth. ... But there is a limit to how many premium innings you can replace, and how many premium offensive players you can replace.”

The Rangers’ plight was summed up by an ill-fated promotion last week: While Fielder was wrestling with whether to seek season-ending surgery, the Rangers held Prince Fielder Bobblehead Night, sponsored by a hospital. The sponsor’s name was misspelled.

Central Intelligence

The presence of Glen Perkins gives the Twins a reliable answer at an important position, because not every AL Central team can be as confident when its closer takes the mound. A look at the situation around the division:

Indians: Piling up 70 saves in his first two seasons in Milwaukee made John Axford a star, but home runs — 10 apiece the past two seasons — caused the Brewers to give up on him.

Signed as a free agent by Cleveland, he entered Saturday 9-for-11 this year but had a 7.08 ERA in May and had surrendered three homers already.

Royals: One of the few relievers in baseball as automatic as Perkins, Greg Holland is having another All-Star season.

Kansas City’s closer had 13 saves in 14 chances, had struck out 25 batters in 17⅔ innings and had given up only four runs all year.

Tigers: Signed as a free agent to address Detroit’s nagging bullpen weakness, future Twins Hall of Famer Joe Nathan is having the good-but-not-great season that is to be expected from a 39-year-old veteran.

His strikeout rate is at a career low, and Wednesday he blew his third save in 14 chances — but he is still a huge upgrade for the Tigers.

White Sox: Figuring a last-place team doesn’t need a lights-out closer, they dealt 40-save Addison Reed to Arizona for a hitting prospect, then held auditions for closer role. Matt Lindstrom won the job, saved six games and tore an ankle ligament; journeyman Roland Belisario gets the job for now.

Notes

Tanaka will try again

The New York Yankees rotation swings back to Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday, and the Japanese righthander is really looking forward to his start against the Chicago White Sox.

It will be Tanaka’s first game since he picked up his first major league loss.

“I try to go out there to do my best every time out,” Tanaka said Saturday through a translator. “But given the outing last time, yes, I really want to go out there and perform better.”

Tanaka had his unbeaten streak stopped at 42 regular-season starts when he lost to the lowly Cubs on Tuesday. He had been 34-0 in Japan and North America the last two seasons, though he did drop Game 6 of the Japan Series last year before earning the save in Game 7.

Tanaka gave up eight hits, matching a career high, and three earned runs in six innings Tuesday.

Who’s at fault?

Carlos Gomez’s aggressiveness on the basepaths proved to be costly for the Brewers on Saturday.

The All-Star center fielder was thrown out at third base trying to advance from first on a single by Mark Reynolds for the final out of the sixth inning, which prevented Ryan Braun from scoring in a 2-1 loss at Miami.

“I made the decision to go to third because that’s how you make things happen,” Gomez said. “… That’s how we play the game.”

Braun was on his way to score easily from second, but left fielder Christian Yelich’s throw to third got Gomez before Braun crossed the plate, preserving a 1-0 Marlins lead.

“I run the bases like I do every time and I think he’s supposed to score,” Gomez said. “If you look at the replay, I think you’ll find some answers to it.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
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Massachusetts
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(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
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(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
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Southern Miss
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(13) So Carolina
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Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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