It was supposed to be the other way around. But that's how things have gone this spring for Texas. It hasn't been the kind of spring training the Rangers wanted or expected. They've had injuries and players fail to seize expected jobs (see Ogando and Neftali Feliz). But when that happens, it means opportunity for others.
Scheppers said when spring training started that he'd do whatever the team wanted or needed. What became clear over the course of the last five weeks in the desert was that this club needs Scheppers in the rotation. If he can prove that he's a capable starter (a job he did have at one point in the minors), he'll increase his value.
So that means the Rangers now have three-fifths of the rotation decided. Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Scheppers are in and ready to go for the season (assuming this neck stiffness gets loosened up and Darvish starts on Opening Day as expected). That leaves two more spots to be determined. And the Rangers are busy making those decisions as the season quickly approaches.
The toughest question might be whether to put Robbie Ross in the rotation. The left-handed pitcher wants to start. Badly. And he's pitched well this spring. He gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 5 2/3 innings last week with three strikeouts and, most importantly, didn't walk anyone. He's allowed just one earned run in 9 2/3 innings in his last two starts.
The numbers say Ross deserves a serious look, and you can bet he's getting one. Scheppers earned his spot and Ross certainly has a case too. Perhaps the wild card in all of this is Colby Lewis. His pitch count isn't where it needs to be and the Rangers have a few ways to approach it. They could keep having him ramp up, even doing so in a minor-league game after the season starts. But they don't need a fifth start until April 8. Perhaps he gets a few more outings and, even if he's not at 100 pitches, could be ready to hit that on April 8.
But if the club wants to give Lewis a little more time, they could go with Ross and Joe Saunders and then make a decision when Lewis is ready. The one name we haven't discussed is Tommy Hanson. But judging from the reports of late, the Hanson I saw the first few weeks of spring training is the one currently pitching. And that's just not good enough. The stuff isn't where it was pre-surgery with the Braves.
Last week, I had Darvish, Perez, Scheppers, Saunders and Lewis in the rotation. I still think that five is very possible, but it may depend more on how the club approaches Lewis. If they want to wait, Ross should get the nod. If not, it comes down to Ross vs. Saunders and whether the club feels that Ross helps them more in the bullpen as a multi-inning guy and, perhaps, as a spot starter. While Saunders hasn't dominated by any means, he's got a track record and he can eat innings. Then when Harrison is ready, you can make some more changes.
Who are you going with to fill those final two spots and why?