The Rangers pitching staff is an intriguing one. Aside from Kyle Gibson, the Texas ace, the rotation jumbles around with pitch limits, shuffling, and tandems. The Rangers still have a couple of tandems, but the piggyback role can range from a bulk of the work to just 30-40 pitches. The club ranks the fifth-worst ERA in MLB during June and the highest opposition batting average this month. In talking with Chris Woodward, some plans are in place but with uncertainty. Woodward told me the designated limits and roles don’t occur far in advance.
“We communicate those as a week of the start or the five days [leading up]. I wouldn’t say it’s the day of; it’s usually within those five days.”
Of course, certain factors like bullpen capacity come into play. Even Rangers pitching coach Doug Mathis says, it’s a wait and see scenario that’s performance based.
“[Woodward] has asked if I wanted to know, and I told him no,” Dane Dunning said after I asked him if Woodward communicates the pitch limit to him. “I don’t want to know when I’m getting pulled out of games or if I’m on a leash of 70 pitches or 80 pitches. I don’t want to think about that during the game.”
Dane Dunning breaks down his outing and reflects on the stellar defensive play behind him in the Rangers' victory over Kansas City.@Rangers | #StraightUpTX pic.twitter.com/bAEFRBPXKZ
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) June 26, 2021
Easing John King to a starting role
The Rangers have a slew of relievers they feel could fit into a starting mold, but John King is the next in line to prepare. King’s 2021 is one of the better seasons among Texas relievers, and he was a starter at the University of Houston and the minor leagues. “I feel good about it,” King said. “I really like the bullpen, but I’ve started my whole life,” King mentioned that the experience of the bullpen helps build that momentum to a starting role, and although he’ll still enter the game as a reliever, the rest schedule lies as a starter.
While the Rangers limit Dunning’s innings, the outlook is to extend John King. Right now, King is following Dunning, but I asked Rangers pitching coach Doug Mathis if there’s a chance that script flips. “We’ve talked about King making some starts,” Doug told me. “We made both of them aware of that [and] we may explore that. Mathis said any re-evaluation or flip would at the earliest happen after the All-Star Break as King isn’t built all the way up, yet. “He threw 55 [pitches] last night, he’s got to do that again and another outing where he can go 65-70 pitches. That’s still a ways a way.”
This will not happen.
King was one strike away from Jorge Soler ending it, but three straight hits by the Royals and Spencer Patton will try to finish this game out.
One strike away seems like a phrase Rangers fans hear all too well. #StraightUpTX https://t.co/gfVI1FUtuo
— Alex Plinck🏳️🌈 (@aplinckTX) June 26, 2021
Stretching Kolby Allard
In Allard’s last four starts, the trend for Kolby is consistent but not simple, 79, 91, 75, and 97 pitches in that order. The 75 pitch count came last Saturday against the Twins, an outing where Chris Woodward mentioned before the game it was a light workload. The question becomes if the 90 pitch limit is consistent or in Allard’s next outing, it’ll be a easlier load. For Kolby, though, the workload is not his mindset heading into a start, “that’s not the mentality going in,” Kolby said. “Sometimes starting in the first inning, rather than attacking from pitch one, you get a little cute, try to feel this [and] feel that.”
“Kolby is in the rotation now,” Doug Mathis told me. “He’s stretched out. I don’t see it temporary moving forward. I see him getting consistent chances.” Easing Allard to the rotation was the Rangers original plan according to Mathis. Therefore, look for a more consistent workload for Kolby moving forward.
What Role Taylor Hearn fits into
Tuesday, the Rangers inserted Taylor Hearn into the starting role to allow Jordan Lyles some rest (or a lighter workload). Unfortunately, the start turned disastrous for Taylor, and Hearn couldn’t finish the first inning. Right now, Jordan Lyles slates to start Sunday against Kansas City, which I assume Hearn will follow on the tandem day.
A question is where Taylor Hearn fits into the pitching staff? The goal of the early tandem was to ease two young pitchers to eventual starting roles. However, Hearn’s outings range from one thirteen pitch inning to three innings. Taylor appears to fit into what the team needs at the time. “I want to try whatever I can for them to maximize my potential, at whatever it is, starting or relieving,” Taylor said. I even brought up closing to Taylor. “I’ll do that too,” Hearn responded. “I joked with our bullpen coach when Kennedy went down. If you need it, I’ll do it. I’m not going to be Aroldis Chapman, but I was like, I can do it.” For the bulk of the season, Taylor’s role was to piggyback off of Jordan Lyles. However, Lyles’ seven innings Sunday halted those plans. “Taylor we want to get back in there,” Woodward said after Sunday’s game. It’s all good, he’ll get in there in Oakland at some point.
Mathis told me Saturday that the Rangers still view Taylor as a starter in the rotation. “We’ve talked about giving Hearn opportunity to make some starts, but we haven’t gotten deep into it,” Doug told me. Again, don’t expect any shifts in rotation now, but come post All-Star break Taylor could make some starts.
I’m not going to pretend that there’s no disarray among the pitching staff. It’s a young group featuring three players born before 1990 and a lot of inexperience. The key in the second half of the season is determining future roles and which guys can take that next step. Obviously, Kyle Gibson is a popular name among trade rumors which opens the door for another potential young Rangers starter. Yes, rebuilds suck, but think of those Entrepreneur books From Scratch to Success.
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