Jeff Wilson on the Rangers' rotation in 2010:
- Kevin Millwood hit his magic number Monday night when he got Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis to bounce into a double play in the fifth inning. The right-hander reached 180 innings to automatically earn a $12 million contract for next season and lock up a spot in the Rangers' 2010 rotation. After Millwood and 17-game winner Scott Feldman, though, there are no guarantees for the rotation.
Sure, Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland are strong candidates, but manager Ron Washington said that that rookie duo will have to earn a spot during spring training. "Once we get to spring training, everyone's going to be competing," he said. "Hunter and Holland, they've still got to compete. Doing good the first time around, the challenge comes the second time around to repeat."
The funny thing about that? Hunter and Holland haven't actually doing so good. Holland's got the best strikeout-to-walk ratio among the Ranger starters, but he's also given up the most homers and has a 6.17 ERA. Hunter's 8-4 with a 3.25 ERA, but has struck out only five hitters per nine innings. Both are still exceptionally young -- Hunter turned 23 a few months ago, Holland will turn 23 in a couple of weeks -- and both still figure as major leaguer starters. But both still have a lot to prove.
Which I suppose is Washington's point.
Among the other candidates for next season's rotation: Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Dustin Nippert, and Eric Hurley. Hurley has spent this season on the disabled list, and Harrison has joined him for much of the season. Nippert's 28, and has a 5.73 career ERA. This season's been his best, but he's still walked too many batters and given up too many home runs. Neftali Feliz. Well, we know about him, don't we? A starter during most of his professional career, Feliz has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since joining the big club in August, and given up only 12 hits in 28 innings.
Feliz is even younger than Hunter and Holland, and one should not trifle with talent like his. Still, it's hard for me to imagine a winning rotation next season that doesn't include Feliz for at least half the season.