Angels 7, Rangers 2
Rangers' ace Kevin Millwood was on a 90-pitch limit for today's start against the Angels. Manager Ron Washington was hoping for six or seven innings.
What he got out of his #1 starter was just 45 pitches and 1 2/3 innings. Yep, that's the 2007 Texas Rangers for ya.
Millwood slipped on the mound as he made his 4th pitch of the game, re-injuring the left hamstring which put him out of action for 16 days. I went back and watched the pitch in question on MLB.TV, and he clearly loses his balance after making his delivery. He attempted to shorten his stride, but it didn't work: Kevin ended up walking the leadoff hitter Reggie Willits and gave up a single to Orlando Cabrera.
Vlad then hit a chopper to Ian Kinsler, who tagged out Cabrera but bobbled the ball while trying to throw out Vlad. Even though he wasn't charged with an error on the play, Ian's defensive miscue would prove very costly, as this put men on the corners with only one out instead of a man on third with two outs. Gary Matthews Jr. drew a walk, Casey Kotchman belted a grand slam, and the Rangers' fate was sealed. Granted, Millwood would have eventually come out anyway, but at least the damage could have been limited on the scoreboard.
Millwood's leg was wrapped between innings, and he retired the first two Angels in the 2nd inning. But after giving up a walk and a single, trainer Jamie Reed and pitching coach Mark Connor had seen enough, and came out to get him. Willie Eyre came on in relief and retired Vlad for the final out of the inning, and for a short while it looked like Texas might be able to stay in the game. Unfortunately, Willie Eyre's downfall is that he's not a very good pitcher, and Anaheim tacked on three more in the next inning to make it 7-0. At that point, the game was essentially over.
So what happens next? There's no official statement from the club on the matter, but I'd have to imagine Millwood will end up back on the disabled list. Kevin's next start would have been on Saturday in Houston, so the Rangers will likely add a reliever in the meantime - probably Wes Littleton.
Should Millwood be unable to start, John Koronka or Bruce Chen would be the most likely replacements, since we've seen by now that Mike Wood doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Koronka is 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his eight starts at Oklahoma City, while Chen is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts. As much as I want to root for "JoKor," he's giving up way too many baserunners right now. While neither one is all that attractive of an option, I'd probably lean towards Chen.
Brad Wilkerson and Hank Blalock both had nice days at the plate, with each belting a solo, albeit meaningless, home run. They've quietly put their OPSes over the .800 mark, which isn't too bad.
Robinson Tejeda's next start has been pushed back to Friday in Houston, in what's becoming yet another disturbing storyline out of Arlington. Tejeda originally had soreness in his left hamstring (sound familiar?) and right forearm following last Wednesday's start against the Yankees, but two days later said he would be ready to start in today's game.
Sometime Sunday, Tejeda complained of pain again in his forearm, but then was fine again while fooling around in the clubhouse before today's game. At some point in there, Connor and Washington said "forget it" and moved everybody in the rotation up one day to let Tejeda start on Friday.
Frank Catalanotto is expected to return from the disabled list on Tuesday and DH, but then will be limited to pinch hitting duties off the bench for the next four to five games after that, due to facing two left-handers in Tampa Bay and having no DH in the Houston series. Catalanotto faced live pitching in Frisco on Saturday night, and here's what he had to say:
"The pitcher was throwing it at 88 [mph] and it looked like 110 [mph] to me," said Catalanotto, who went 0-for-4. "My timing was off. That's what I have to work on."
The fact that Frank sounds like he was totally overmatched by AA pitching does not bode well for the Rangers, and sitting him on the bench for a string of games is no way to get him back into a rhythm, either.
With Catalanotto's return, Texas will have to make some roster adjustments. Victor Diaz, who has hit .211/.211/.421 in his 19 ABs, is probably the most likely candidate to head back to the minors. However, Nelson Cruz is hitting just .185/.250/.261 in 92 ABs, and went 0 for 4 today in the wake of his walkoff home run on Mother's Day, so his job isn't exactly safe, either.
Something else worth considering: Jerry Hairston Jr.'s hitting just .227/.286/.341, and the need for his positional flexibility is lessened with Matt Kata on the roster. Marlon Byrd is a possibility to platoon with Kenny Lofton; Byrd's hitting .359/.429/.550 in Oklahoma City, and Jason Botts has a .907 OPS in May after a terrible April. Of course, this organization doesn't seem to be interested in giving Botts an opportunity...
With the Rangers going just 2-5 in this critical seven game stretch against the Yankees and Angels, Texas is now 15-23 on the year and 6.5 games back. As if right on queue, Tim Cowlishaw has an article out tonight bemoaning the 2007 Texas Rangers. This line pretty much says it all:
The Rangers are hopeless.
I hate to say it, but you might be right Tim.