Rangers taking chance on rotation full of Tommy John patients in effort to get ‘bang for our buck’

ARLINGTON – It seemed a little bit odd Thursday to see Rangers general manager Jon Daniels helping to introduce the announcement of an upcoming Billy Joel concert at Globe Life Park.

Maybe, it was because Daniels, like Joel, is a native New Yorker.

Or maybe it was just because Daniels finally wanted to make an announcement about somebody who hasn’t had Tommy John surgery. If so, it didn’t work. After the announcement, Daniels was left to ask about a 2019 starting rotation that now has three guys who really haven’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery: Shelby Miller, who signed Wednesday, Drew Smyly and Edinson Volquez. Lance Lynn, whom the Rangers signed in December, had Tommy John surgery in 2016, but pitched all of last season.

“We have more experience dealing with [Tommy John recovery] now,” Daniels said. “The sheer number of guys who have undergone the surgery is larger. And let’s call it what it is: We are looking for players we can bring in from whom we can get bang for our buck. With that, there are going to be some questions along the way.”

The Rangers expect Miller, Smyly and Volquez to all be ready for the start of spring training. Along with Lynn and Mike Minor, who had major shoulder surgery, in 2014, they form the Rangers projected starting rotation.

“If everything goes well, we’ve got five guys with major league track records,” Daniels said.

The Rangers are still in the market for starting pitch depth, Daniels acknowledged, but said that could come via either an established veteran or by signing somebody to a minor league contract. Also, the club has identified a fourth minor league option for left-hander Yohander Mendez, which will allow them to have him start the season in the minors if he doesn’t have a strong spring training. Also, Ariel Jurado and Adrian Sampson will be rotation insurance.

The Rangers’ bigger focus right now, though, may be a third baseman to pair with Patrick Wisdom. The club has discussed free agents Josh Harrison and, to a lesser degree, Yangervis Solarte, sources have said. Daniels declined to discuss specific free agents, but did acknowledge the Rangers would like to find an infielder who can contribute at third base and who, in a perfect world, hits right-handed.

The team is also still looking for bullpen help. One possibility might be a reunion with lefty Derek Holland, who is still on the market. Though he pitched 171 innings as a starter last year with San Francisco, Holland’s left vs. left numbers really stood out in 2018. He held them to a .168 batting average and .440 OPS.

The Rangers have also remained in contact with free agent Adam Ottavino, who figures to be the next significant reliever to come off the market. Ottavino, 32, was 6-4 with six saves in 77 innings last year for Colorado while compiling a 2.43 ERA.

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