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Rangers' rotation set ... but short

According to Jeff Wilson, the Ranger rotation is set:

Rich Harden, the Texas Rangers' biggest free-agent pitching acquisition during a busy off-season, appears on course to be the club's Opening Day starter.

Team officials will meet today to discuss how they will go forward with the remaining Cactus League innings, but the tentative schedule has Harden targeted for April 5.

C.J. Wilson's bid for the rotation has proven successful, and he would follow Harden as the No. 2 starter. Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis would round out the five-man rotation.

--snip--

Brandon McCarthy is scheduled to start today against the Chicago Cubs, and Derek Holland will start Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels -- for now their final A-game starts of the season.

The Rangers will determine where they land next, either in the bullpen, Triple A Oklahoma City or, in McCarthy's case, possibly on the trading block.

Neftali Feliz, who was given a chance to win a starting job, will now work as a reliever after making only a three-inning B-game start Monday.

McCarthy's 26, and has started 56 games in the majors. Holland is 23, and has already started 21 games in the majors after establishing himself as a top prospect two years ago. Feliz remains one of the more interesting young pitchers in the game.

Point being, the Rangers entered spring training with a great number of viable candidates for their rotation, and sifting through all of them couldn't have been easy for management. From this distance, I'm not prepared to say they've made any poor choices.

The problem is that while the Rangers had a great number of viable candidates for their rotation, they don't have any viable candidates for the Cy Young award. You don't need one of those guys ... but they sure do help. Think about the teams that reached the playoffs last season. Do you have any problem remembering their ace starters? OK, so the Twins sneaked into the playoffs without anyone resembling a Cy Young candidate; it happens. But you don't want to start the season that way.

We already know a great deal about Rich Harden and Scott Feldman. Harden's going to pitch well when he's healthy, which won't be particularly often. Feldman was exceptionally lucky last season, and this season will win about a dozen games with a 4.50 ERA.

C.J. Wilson, though? His six career starts were five years ago.

Matt Harrison? He's been uniformly ineffective in his seasons, giving up too many homers and walks, striking out too few batters. Until he pitches well in the majors, there isn't any good reason to think he will.

Colby Lewis? Good luck. In 217 innings in the majors, he's got a 6.71 ERA. On merit. So what's he doing in the Ragners' rotation? Pitching in Japan last year, Lewis struck out 10 times more batters than he walked. By way of comparison, last year there wasn't a starter in the American or the National League who struck out six times as many batters as he walked.

We've not mentioned Tommy Hunter, who's out with a minor injury but figured into the Rangers' rotation plans after going 9-6 with a 4.10 ERA last season. His underlying skills don't support that ERA but he's exceptionally young, so he fits right in with Harrison, Holland and Feliz.

Nolan Ryan says he expects the Rangers to win 92 games. I don't really believe him, and I really don't believe the Rangers will win 92 games. I just don't think their starters are going to give them enough high-quality innings. Not this year.