Note: This week, we're running a series titled "Ranger Resolutions" as we look at some things the Texas Rangers hope to do better in 2014.
Today's resolution: Keeping the rotation healthy
Injuries happen and there's very little general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington can do about it. But when those injuries happen to several members of the rotation, it's very difficult to overcome.
Last season, the Rangers entered with 18-game winner Matt Harrison on the mound on Opening night in Houston. But Harrison started just two games and dealt with injuries and surgeries. He's expected back at the beginning of this season. But losing one of your best pitchers for the entire season is nearly impossible to make up. But the injuries didn't stop there. Colby Lewis, expected to return in June, never did make it back to the big leagues. He'll try again in 2014. Martin Perez, the leading candidate for the final spot in the rotation in spring, fractured his left forearm at spring training and missed the first three months of the season.
The Rangers tried to fill the gaps as best they could, but having just two starters make the majority of their starts -- Yu Darvish and Derek Holland -- took its toll. When you're talking about a team that needed just one more win to make the AL wild card, every injury counts.
Darvish won 13 games in 2013 with a 2.83 ERA. He led the league with 277 strikeouts and was a Cy Young Award finalist. The bar for Darvish is high, which is why each and every start was analyzed and nitpicked. And he didn't perform as well as he could have when his offense didn't respond with hits for him. But Darvish remains one of the elite pitchers in the league and this club's ace. He got an injection in his back right after the season, but the reports have been good this offseason and he is on schedule with his throwing program.
Holland's season was an improvement from 2012. He was 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts and showed a little more consistency, though he admits that he has to be better. Still, he stayed in the rotation and stayed healthy. That needs to happen again this year.
Harrison talked about his frustration at not being able to pitch and is desperate to get back to form and healthy. He had put together back-to-back seasons before the injury bug hit and if he can do that in 2014, it's a huge boost for this rotation.
Perez pitched well enough down the stretch to earn a club-friendly extension. The Rangers stayed patient with Perez, long considered one of their top pitching prospects, and it paid off in 2013. Perez was 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts and showed improvement almost with each outing.
So going into the 2014 season, the Rangers' rotation looks solid with Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Perez. There are a few candidates for that final spot, including Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross or Lewis, should he be healthy when the season begins.
But while all the offseason discussion has centered around the offense, as it should, keeping this rotation is key to not only making the playoffs but doing something once they are there.