SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The idea of a six-man rotation was floated in manager Ron Washington's direction again on Tuesday morning and he indicated it's something the club hasn't discussed.
But the skipper knows that he's once again going to have a couple of starting pitchers who aren't used to the innings workload or the five-day rotation schedule. Yu Darvish pitched in a six-man rotation in Japan, but pitched more than 200 innings in four of his last five seasons in Japan. Neftali Feliz was the club's closer the past few years and hasn't started since he was in the minors in 2009. The most innings he's thrown in a full season was 127 1/3 in 2008 in Class A and Double-A.
The Rangers plan on using the off days and structuring things to give some of those pitchers a break if they feel they need it.
"Every individual is different and I think we'll watch what happens," Washington said. "If we have to step in and do something, we will. Both of those guys are horses. You could even call them thoroughbreds. We'll watch and see and if we have to do something, we will. But we're not going to put it in the program."
In other words: Washington doesn't want to set limits on what Feliz or Darvish -- or anyone else, for that matter -- can do. They'll observe and be smart about making sure they get some breaks when they need it.
It was an approach the club used with Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison in 2011.
"It was obvious [they had fatigue issues]," Washington said. "We had to shut Harrison down. We had to shut Ogando down. They had never carried this load before. Holland was an inigma. He got stronger as the year went on. Colby is Colby, C.J. is C.J. Those other kids that was the first time they had to take on that load and I thought they did an admirable job."
Ogando joined the rotation when Tommy Hunter strained his groin the last week of spring training in 2011. He put up All-Star numbers, going 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA (started the season 7-0) before the break. But after that, he was 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA. It was clear the number of innings caught up to him. And it looked like it may have happened a second time in the postseason, when he ran out of gas in the World Series.
Harrison ended up throwing 185 2/3 innings, the most of his career. He was in the starting rotation for the entire season for the first time and the 26-year-old stayed healthy. He did look tired down the stretch and was given some extra days through off days and a skipped start.
For both Ogando and Harrison, it was a learning experience physically and mentally. The same may be true for Feliz and Darvish, though no one knows for sure. The Rangers will monitor things and make decisions accordingly.