Rangers' injury bug won't keep Banister up at night

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A couple hours after learning pitcher Derek Holland would miss at least two months with a strained muscle in his left shoulder, Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister drove home and went to bed.

He didn't need a late-night cocktail or a sleep aid. He didn't spend the night tossing, turning or fidgeting as he searched for the right position.

Banister slept soundly. You might even call it peacefully.

Really? That's hard to believe.

"He was one of 25," Banister said of Holland. "When one guy goes down, you put another one in his place and keep it moving. It is what it is. It's the nature of the game. It happens in baseball.

"I slept good."

Seven games into Banister's first season as a big league manager, he's already in a pitching pickle. His ace, Yu Darvish, is out for the season, and the guy who was supposed to be his new rotation anchor won't return until June, at the earliest.

That would create anxiety for most folks. But most folks didn't overcome cancer and a brief paralysis after a neck injury before their 25th birthday, as Banister did. Those experiences always seem to put baseball disasters in the proper perspective for him.

The man who has seemingly single-handedly made the Twitter hashtag #nevereverquit popular among Rangers fans and players refuses to give in to adversity. The manager liked his club's body language the past two days.

He hasn't seen any pity parties -- public or private. If he had, Banister would have quickly squashed them.

"We were good from the first inning on," he said. "It wasn't good news, and we moved on. I check in with guys every day. I'm not just going to assume everybody has moved on."

The Rangers showed the proper attitude again Sunday, when they rallied from a four-run deficit with two runs in the seventh and eighth innings before losing to the Houston Astros 6-4 in 14 innings at Globe Life Park.

It would be understandable if the players who were on the team for the past season's 67-95 debacle took a few moments to whine and question the baseball gods as to why their club keeps getting hammered by injuries.

Remember, the Rangers used an MLB-record 64 players the past season. That shattered the previous record of 59 held by three other clubs: the 2002 Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres and the 2008 Padres.

None of those three teams won more than 74 games.

"You can't do anything about it," Prince Fielder said of the injuries. "You just gotta keep playing."

Well, the Rangers are already ahead of the past season's pace, after what happened during their home opener. Texas lost Holland for an extended period of time and placed left fielder Ryan Rua on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle that had him in a walking boot when he left the ballpark Friday night. Shin-Soo Choo left the home opener with upper-back spasms and didn't start the next two games, though he was used as a pinch hitter Sunday.

Injuries are never an excuse for losing, but teams can become so compromised because of them that it's difficult to compete on a daily basis. That's pretty much what happened to the Rangers the past season, which ended -- with a thud -- their streak of four consecutive 90-win seasons, which was tied for the longest in baseball.

This game is about pitching, and with MLB aggressively taking steroids out of the game and teams relying more and more on extreme defensive shifts, pitching is even more important.

Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis, expected to be the Nos. 3 and 4 starters, find themselves leading the rotation these days. They're good choices (not that there's much of a choice) because each is mentally tough and relies more on guile than velocity.

They are thinking-man pitchers who will figure out ways to keep the Rangers in most of the games they start while showing Nick Martinez and the other guys who will pitch in the rotation how to compete at the big league level.

It's what Lewis did Sunday. After yielding four runs in the second inning and allowing five hits -- two homers, a triple, a double and a single -- to the first 10 hitters, he pitched into the seventh inning and didn't allow another run.

There will be some rough moments in the first half of the season, as the Rangers try to stay in the playoff race with a patchwork rotation.

Whatever happens, Banister will continue to sleep well.