It would be hard to have a more disastrous day than what Jordan Spieth experienced Sunday at The Masters. But the Rangers sure tried.
Falling to the Angels was just the tip of the iceberg. The injury bug hit Texas especially hard Sunday as the Rangers managed to lose two starters in less than 24 hours.
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right calf. He suffered the injury warming up before Saturday’s game. Choo was a last minute scratch for that contest, which should have been an immediate red flag for fantasy owners. Now the Rangers are saying he’ll miss 4-to-6 weeks.
While Choo hasn’t lived up to his $130 million contract, the 33-year-old from Korea did tie a career-high with 22 homers last year. Meanwhile left fielder Josh Hamilton is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and won’t be ready for several more weeks. That makes Choo’s absence even harder to swallow.
Robinson Chirinos joined the injury parade on Saturday night. Garrett Richards drilled Chirinos on the right arm with a 94 mph fastball. Because he swung at the pitch, Chirinos was not granted first base. Instead he finished his at-bat, flying out to the warning track in right field. Chirinos was writhing in pain afterwards and his X-rays showed why. The catcher was diagnosed with a fractured right forearm and immediately placed on the 60-day DL. He’s looking at a 10-to-12 week recovery window. The Rangers, who were already thin at catcher, will now turn to Bryan Holaday behind the plate.
With Chirinos and Choo both out on Sunday, Texas struggled to put runs on the board against Los Angeles. In his first start of the year, Angels right-hander Jered Weaver limited the Rangers to just six hits and one run over six innings. Recently diagnosed with a degenerate spine condition, Weaver’s fastball doesn’t have the same kick that it used to. His heater ranged from 79-84 mph on Sunday, but the 33-year-old was able to get by with deception and pinpoint accuracy.
The bright spot for Texas was a home run by Nomar Mazara, who was making his major league debut on Sunday. Mazara was responsible for three of the Rangers’ seven hits with all three coming against Weaver. The Rangers could have called up power-hitting Joey Gallo to replace Choo in right field but instead they went with the more complete player in Mazara. The 20-year-old top prospect batted .296 in the minors last year including .358 in 20 games for Triple-A Round Rock. If you’re in a deep mixed league or playing in an AL-only format, Mazara is certainly worth a speculative add.
While Mazara is a star in the making, Ian Desmond seems to be trending in the opposite direction. Desmond had to wait almost three months this offseason before finally landing a one-year deal with Texas. That contract was worth $8 million, only $99 million less than the seven-year extension he turned down when he was still a member of the Nationals.
A shortstop for most of his career, Desmond is making the switch to left field this year. So far it’s been a work in progress. Desmond, who committed 27 errors at shortstop last year (second-most in MLB), made his first error in left field Sunday on a ball that went through his legs.
Things aren’t going much better for Desmond at the plate. So far he’s hitting just .148 with nine strikeouts in 27 at-bats. All four of his hits this year have been singles. Desmond still has plenty of time to turn things around (he did much better in the second half last year) but that doesn’t mean you should be starting him on a regular basis.
The Rangers are off to a 3-4 start but at least Yu Darvish is getting closer to making his return. Darvish is nearing full strength after taking last year off to recover from Tommy John surgery. He threw 50 pitches Saturday and is scheduled to pitch a live batting practice on Wednesday. The plan is for Darvish to throw three BP sessions before advancing to a minor league rehab assignment. The Rangers will activate him after he’s made six rehab starts. That puts him on track to return sometime in late May. Beat writer Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram believes he could be back for the Rangers’ series against the Angels that begins on May 23. The right-hander owns a brilliant 3.27 ERA across 83 career starts.
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What’s Up With deGrom?
For Jacob deGrom this year, it’s been one obstacle after another. A sore upper leg sidelined him for a couple weeks at the start of spring training, limiting him to just 16 2/3 innings over four Grapefruit League starts. Just when that roadblock was cleared, Friday came along and stopped him right in his tracks.
Instead of drawing the Opening Day assignment against Kansas City, deGrom took the mound for the Mets’ home opener Friday against the Phillies. Things were going well for deGrom until his lat started tightening up in the sixth inning. Manager Terry Collins gave him the hook after just 76 pitches.
DeGrom was still feeling sore two days later, prompting Collins to skip his next turn in the rotation. Logan Verrett will start in his place Wednesday against the Marlins. While the hope is that deGrom will only have to miss one start, we won’t know his status for sure until he resumes throwing.
It’s April 10, which is far too early to press the panic button. For all we know deGrom could return in a few days and power full steam ahead toward a Cy Young season. But right now, something feels off. Maybe it’s his steep decline in velocity—deGrom’s fastball averaged 91.9 mph Friday compared to 95.0 last season. Pitching in 40-degree weather probably didn’t help but even when the Mets were in Florida, deGrom’s fastball didn’t have the same bite as it did last year.
Between the playoffs and regular season, deGrom threw a combined 216 innings last season. That’s a big workload but nothing out of the ordinary. 28 pitchers in MLB logged at least 200 innings in 2015. But while most of those starters were on the couch in October (probably reading Evan Silva’s NFL matchups column), deGrom was still pitching. The shorter offseason, even if it was only by a few weeks, might explain why deGrom hasn’t looked like himself this year. Or maybe it’s just bad luck. In that case, I just wasted 400 words trying to explain something we’ll never know the answer to.
Even if deGrom was feeling 100 percent, there’s a chance he would have missed his next start anyway. DeGrom’s wife Stacy was due to give birth on April 5, which means the baby should be coming any day now. DeGrom was prepared to leave Friday’s start early if his wife went into labor. If the baby is born on Wednesday, the newest deGrom will have the good fortune of sharing a birthday with both me and Hunter Pence. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
Quick Hits: Nick Swisher signed a minor league deal with the Yankees on Sunday. Swisher won a World Series wearing pinstripes in 2009 and represented the Bronx Bombers at the All-Star Game in 2010 … Miguel Sano was ejected for arguing a called third strike Sunday against Kansas City. The Twins are the only team in the American League without a victory this year … Marco Estrada (back) returned from the disabled list Sunday against Boston. He held the Red Sox to five hits over seven scoreless frames … Brock Holt took the day off Sunday after fouling a ball off his foot on Saturday. Red Sox manager John Farrell expects him back for Boston’s home opener on Monday … Another day, another home run for Trevor Story. The rookie now has seven homers in his first six games. That’s never been done before … Brian Matusz (back) will be activated Thursday when the Orioles travel to Texas. Matusz will pitch 2-3 innings Monday in a rehab outing for Double-A Bowie … Adam Jones sat again on Sunday. He’s missed Baltimore’s last three games with a rib cage injury. J.J. Hardy returned to the lineup Sunday after missing Friday’s game with calf tightness … Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only pitcher who hits dingers. Last year’s NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta took Shelby Miller deep on Sunday. His home run traveled 442 feet … Tim Melville allowed one run over four innings Sunday in his major league debut for Cincinnati. The Reds beat Pittsburgh on a walk-off triple by Jay Bruce … Yangervis Solarte was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a right hamstring strain. With Solarte out, the Padres will turn to Adam Rosales and Alexi Amarista at third base … The Indians were rained out for the third time this year Sunday against the White Sox. Those teams will now play a doubleheader on May 23 … The Yankees and Tigers were scheduled to play Sunday night but the game was postponed due to inclement weather. No makeup date has been announced … Ender Inciarte was sent to the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Mallex Smith was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett in the corresponding roster move … The Braves are considering moving Erick Aybar to second base if his struggles continue. He’s already made two errors this year but finally had a good game at the plate with two hits Sunday against the Cardinals. Atlanta is the only winless team in the National League … Dexter Fowler got a breather on Sunday. His hip still hurts from his collision with Kyle Schwarber on Thursday night … Evan Gattis (hernia) could be activated for Houston’s series against Kansas City this week. The veteran has hit .417 in the first three games of his rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi … Jon Gray was hoping to return Thursday against San Francisco but he needs more time to recover from an abdominal strain. Christian Berman will start in his place.