Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

May 25, 2013

Morgan: Solid shape - Despite injuries, Rangers just fine

By Ron Morgan
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Let me see a show of hands. Who was worried this season about the Rangers losing Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli? Come on, now. You know it was hard to see how they would replace both the production and the leadership provided by that threesome. Oh, and let’s add that they would have to start the season without Coby Lewis and Neftali Feliz. Surely, you had to wonder if even Moses could lead us could lead us out of the AL West.

OK, let’s complicate things a little. What if I had told you that they would lose to injury Martin Perez before the season even started, that Matt Harrison would last a total of two starts, that Ian Kinsler and A.J. Pierzynski would both go on the injured reserve list along with Alexi Ogando? If I had told you that the starting rotation would at times show names such as Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf, would you have guessed that they would have the best record in baseball?

You have to give a ton of credit to Jon Daniels and the staff for having a well-stocked minor league system. Think about it, they have the top minor league prospect in baseball and can’t find any place for him on the major league team. When Kinsler went down to bruised ribs, they called Jurickson Profar up to the majors, but they really didn’t need him. Leury Garcia was filling in quite well.

Outside of Joe Nathan and Robbie Ross, look at what comprised the bullpen during spring training. They had lost some key pieces in the offseason. At this point in the season, the Ranger bullpen is among the best in baseball if not THE best.  Then consider that the bullpen is not a finished product by any means. Coby Lewis and Martin Perez are almost ready to return to Arlington. Perez, who had won the No. 5 spot in the rotation, may have to go to Round Rock.

In a few weeks, Harrison, the season-opening starter, will be able to return. Where do Grimm and Tepesch go? The Rangers just brought up Neal Cotts who impressed in the first major league game in which he’d appeared in over three years. Oh, and did I mention that also recovering from off season surgery is former All-Star closer Joakim Soria? Oh, yeah, he’s on the horizon.

All the bench players have played a significant role so far this season. Geovany Soto has given the catching spot a little depth, and Jeff Baker and Garcia have made large contributions at different times so far.

Nathan has lost a few mph from what he used to have. His closes aren’t always a thing of beauty, but guess what? He hasn’t blown a save yet this season. Even if they didn’t have Soria waiting in the wings, the closer of the future just may be in Arlington right now. Tanner Scheppers has turned into something spectacular.

I don’t care what sport it is, you cannot overstate the importance of depth. All you have to do is glance about a half mile west of the Ballpark to see the importance of depth. When starters went down among Jerry’s boys last season, you need to pull up Google just to find out where some of those guys came from. Free agents had to be replaced by more free agents. Jerry was looking for diamonds in the landfill.

Every team in every sport has to deal with injuries during the season. The successful teams either (a) have few injuries or (b) have the depth to cover it. This season, the Rangers seem to have lived with option (b).

We have heard over several years now that the Rangers have, top to bottom, one of the deepest minor league systems in baseball. We have come to appreciate that with home grown talent such as Kinsler, Elvis, Mitch Moreland, Harrison and Derek Holland. Injuries this season have shown us the value of depth beyond the starting lineup.

After decades of wandering through the baseball desert, Jon Danielss and the front office have brought us just a taste of milk and honey. Wolf may not be prime filet mignon, but the other night he sure looked like manna from heaven. He was certainly a plague to Oakland.