Rangers set ALCS rotation, will add reliever

Rangers set ALCS rotation, will add reliever

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington made it official on Wednesday. C.J. Wilson will start in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Friday at 7 p.m. CT on TBS at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Right-hander Colby Lewis will follow and pitch in Game 2 on Saturday. The Rangers will have to wait until Game 3 to pitch Cliff Lee, but Washington still expressed confidence in having Wilson and Lewis lead off the ALCS against the defending World Series champions.

"They may be [inexperienced] as far as starting in the postseason, but they've thrown some tough ballgames throughout the year," Washington said. "They are battle-tested. They helped us get here; I expect them to help take us further. We have confidence in them. As long as they execute their pitches, we'll be fine."

Wilson and Lewis, in making their first postseason starts, combined for 11 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rays in the AL Division Series. The Rangers' rotation posted a 1.15 ERA in the series, the seventh lowest by a Major League team in that round of the playoffs since postseason was expanded in 1995. It's the fourth lowest by an AL team.

It's the bullpen that might be more of a concern, and the Rangers are going to add a seventh reliever for the ALCS. The Rangers carried six relievers in the ALDS against the Rays: closer Neftali Feliz, left-handers Darren Oliver and Derek Holland, and right-handers Darren O'Day, Alexi Ogando and Dustin Nippert.

The Rangers wanted infielder Esteban German on the roster as a pinch-runner. But now they prefer the extra reliever.

"Going into a seven-game series, we want to go with seven relievers," Washington said.

Left-hander Michael Kirkman is a strong candidate to get that spot. He had a 1.65 ERA in 14 games for the Rangers, holding opponents to a .161 batting average. Left-handers hit .207 off him, but right-handers hit just .107. He can also pitch multiple innings.

Clay Rapada could be the other candidate. He is a left-hander who is extremely tough on left-handed hitters. The only drawback is he is a situational reliever who general pitches to just one or two batters at a time. The other candidates are left-hander Matt Harrison and right-handers Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.

The Rangers met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the roster while the players took the day off after finishing off the ALDS on Tuesday night with a 5-1 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

While the starters were flourishing in the ALDS, the relievers were struggling. They posted a 5.91 ERA in four games, allowing eight runs on 16 hits and five walks in 13 2/3 innings.

Of the six relievers, only Oliver had ever pitched in the postseason before this year.

"What we have is what we have," Washington said. "We just have to make these guys believe in themselves. You can't teach experience. You have to go through it. My young bullpen went through the experience, and that will help them as we move forward."

The other issue that Washington and his staff are discussing is how to deploy their first basemen and how much will they use Jorge Cantu, their right-handed hitter at the position.

The original plan going into the playoffs was to have Cantu face left-handers and Mitch Moreland face right-handers. That has changed. Cantu was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Game 1 of the ALDS and did not play again the rest of the series. When the Rangers faced left-hander David Price in Game 5, Moreland started at first base.

Now the Yankees expect to start left-hander CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS. Andy Pettitte will also be in the rotation, and the Yankees could be starting a left-hander in at least four games if the series goes the distance.

Washington said he will use Cantu, but is not sure how much, and he left open the possibility that Moreland could still start against left-handers. He was 4-for-20 against left-handers during the regular season.

"I will probably give Cantu a start or two against left-handers, because at some point we're going to need him." Washington said. "I can't sit here at some point and say when I'm going to do that. But Cantu is a reason why we're here."

Washington said the Rangers will know more after they work out on Thursday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.