ARM-aggedon?

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 7/24/12**

What first appeared to be a second trip for Colby Lewis to the disabled list with forearm tendonitis, just one start after his previous DL stint for the very same ailment, turned out to be a full-blown season-ending injury.  Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt was scratched from his latest start, due to a recurrence of his chronic back problems.  Lewis won’t return to the mound until 2013 at the earliest (possibly not even until after next year’s All-Star break), and though Oswalt’s situation is likely not season-ending, who knows when (or if) his aging body will fully recover.
As for the younger end of the rotation, concerns also persist there.  Neftali Feliz is technically on the mend, but he’s really been struggling through his rehab assignment.  All signs seemingly point toward an eventual return to the bullpen once he’s back with the big club.  Meanwhile, Derek Holland remains a maddeningly inconsistent underachiever, who has yet to successfully sustain the level of performance his talent dictates he should, now that he’s in his fourth season as a Ranger.

Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish have been the two most reliable starters on the team this year, but even they have had occasional struggles.  They are definitely good enough to help anchor the Rangers’ rotation through the rest of this season into what should hopefully be another trip to the playoffs, but they aren’t enough by themselves.  The Rangers do have two other potential starters already on the roster in Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman, but Feldman has been largely terrible virtually all season (though he was surprisingly solid Monday night against the Red Sox), and Ogando has become an indispensable part of the bullpen (despite his recent post-DL struggles).

In an article I wrote back on July 11 (“To Trade Or Not To Trade”), I advocated being willing to part with prized prospect Mike Olt (but not Jurickson Profar) if that’s what it took to acquire Phillies ace Cole Hamels.  Since then, the Phillies have apparently entered serious contract negotiations with Hamels that seemingly remove him from the Rangers’ potential shopping list.  At the time I’m writing this, the Braves are supposedly in the process of finalizing a trade for Ryan Dempster of the Cubs.  Options appear to be dwindling by the minute.

There is a difference of opinion among those who follow the Rangers regarding their title chances with the current squad as it is presently constructed.  Many think this team is good enough as is to make it to – and even win – the World Series.  Most of the guys on this team have been to the last two, so why not?  Well, while I don’t think it’s impossible for the team as is to make their third straight World Series appearance, I think it gets less likely with each passing day.

It’s just asking an awful lot to pin championship hopes on a rotation containing so many question marks at this point in the season.  Of their two most battle-tested veterans, one will only return to the mound if the Mayan calendar is eventually proven wrong, and the other gets around about as nimbly these days as 1992 Dream Team-era Larry Bird.  Their two youngest arms are mercurial talents with intermittent focus and waning confidence.  Darvish and Harrison give the Rangers half of a solid, playoff-caliber rotation.  But unless the other half somehow gets resolved – either through health, improved performance, trade, or some combination of those – I have serious doubts as to whether this rotation is ultimately championship-caliber.  

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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