Healthy staff key for Texas as Deadline nears

Healthy staff key for Texas as Deadline nears

Healthy staff key for Texas as Deadline nears
ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels expects significant improvement to his pitching staff by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around.

Daniels is hoping the improvements come from within, as pitchers start coming off the disabled list. That would keep him from having to give up significant prospects in another big Deadline deal.

"Getting our own pitchers healthy would have a bigger impact than anything we might do outside," Daniels said. "You look at everything, but we're hoping that we can improve ourselves from within."

The Rangers know which players are available. They know that the Phillies are willing to talk about Cole Hamels and the Brewers are willing to discuss Zack Greinke. Texas also knows its farm system is loaded with prospects desired by other teams.

But right now the Rangers rotation includes All-Star pitchers Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison. Derek Holland rejoined the rotation when he came off the disabled list right before the All-Star break, and Colby Lewis is expected to do the same next week. They also signed Roy Oswalt at the end of May in the hopes that move would keep them from having to make a big move at the Trade Deadline.

They still have Neftali Feliz, who is on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow and could be close to going on a rehab assignment in the next week or so. He could be back in the rotation by the end of July.

That would give the Rangers six starters for a five-man rotation, assuming they don't have to use the disabled list again. The Rangers are also hoping that relievers Alexi Ogando, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe will be back off the DL at some point this month to reinforce a bullpen that has been pushed hard with all the injuries.

All of that would be the perfect scenario as the Rangers push for a third straight trip to the World Series. But rarely does anything go according to the best-laid plans, and Texas still could be tempted to add a top-of-the-rotation starter before July 31. The club is monitoring Hamels and Greinke, and will continue to do so.

But it appears adamant about not wanting to give up its best prospects, which includes shortstop Jurickson Profar, third baseman Mike Olt, outfielder Leonys Martin and pitcher Martin Perez. Even so, the Rangers still have sufficient depth in the system to get something done if they so desire, although competition could be fierce for the pitchers who are available.

Right now, though, the Rangers went into the All-Star break with the second-best record in the American League after two thrilling extra-innings victories over the Twins, and they have a four-game lead in the AL West.

There are three weeks left before the Deadline hits. That gives the Rangers sufficient time to evaluate their staff, see who is healthy and see who is pitching effectively. By July 31, the Rangers could still be quite satisfied with what they have, or Daniels could become quite aggressive with his phone calls. When he does sense a need, he is not afraid to move boldly.

If the Rangers do make a move before the Trade Deadline beyond pitching, it could be to strengthen the bench. They could use more offensive firepower in reserve, especially a veteran hitter who can handle a backup/pinch-hitting role. A right-handed hitter is also a possibility.

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.