Looking Ahead: Matt Harrison

One of the more interesting storylines, for the 2014 Texas Rangers, is Matt Harrison. Coming off of an injury that limited him to just 2 games and 10 2/3 innings pitched, the Rangers need Harrison to return to something close to form. In 2012, he was a solid starter who was an All-Star selection and garnered Cy Young consideration, finishing 8th in the voting. Harrison made a huge step forward in his development as a starting pitcher in 2011 and it continued in 2012, posting nearly identical numbers in both years.
With the injury to starter, Derek Holland, there is a void in the starting rotation in Arlington. The Rangers have announced that Yu Darvish will start the opener, but behind him, the rotation doesn’t look to be finalized. Harrison, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis (who himself, is coming off of an injury) and even Tanner Scheppers are the candidates to fill out the starting staff with Darvish. While Perez and Darvish are the clear locks to start, the return of Harrison is almost a must-need to add depth to the staff.

At age 28, Matt is in his prime, but with back and shoulder injuries that sidelined him for nearly the whole 2013 season, the concern about his health is at an all-time high. There is pitching depth for Texas, but most of the candidates remain unproven, because of either their young age or health concerns, themselves. Harrison, along with Colby Lewis seem to be keys to the success of the pitching staff until Holland can come back and hopefully, return to form.

The Rangers will scour the planet for a viable starter to help them solidify the rotation, but if Harrison can be an effective starter once again, another option may not be needed. This is based, of course, on the ability of the other starters to remain healthy as well. Otherwise, Ubaldo Jimenez, Paul Maholm or Ervin Santana might find themselves in Arlington. With the Texas strategy of having young, inexpensive pitchers, bringing in a veteran could negatively affect the payroll, unless a one year deal can be reached. With the additions of Shin Soo Choo and Prince Fielder the Rangers payroll, as of today, is estimated north of $123 million, according to Baseball-Reference.com and currently ranks 9th in Major League Baseball. We don’t know how far the ownership group is willing to go in additional payroll, but it’s a safe bet that adding a significant contract to the mix is not exactly what they want to do.

Harrison can certainly alleviate the concerns about his health with a strong showing in Spring Training, and with that, ease the nerves of the front office by not having to overpay for a veteran starter. The cost of pitching is going down as we near the date of pitchers and catchers reporting to Surprise, and some of the starters available on the open market will come cheap, but will they be better than Harrison?

Let’s hope we see a resurgent Matt Harrison and not Aaron Harang, Tommy Hanson or Bruce Chen.

Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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