When the results of the MRI exam on your $48 million investment's ailing right shoulder reveal "an impingement and fraying of both the labrum and rotator cuff," you had better hope that AFLAC is covering you:
● After experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder following a batting practice session on Tuesday, right-hander Vicente Padilla was diagnosed with a strained right deltoid muscle by team physician Dr. Keith Meister and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list (with closer Frank Francisco, recently beset by right biceps tendinitis, expected to be activated and installed in his place on the active roster); Padilla will be eligible for activation on June 1st and the Rangers expect him to be ready to return to the starting rotation around that date, although it is probable that he'll make one minor league rehab start before returning (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Said general manager Jon Daniels of the setback: "Dr. Meister is relatively confident it's not structural and it's not the rotator cuff. He has already felt a decent amount of improvement. Those are reasons why I have a decent degree of confidence it's not going to be a long-term issue." Padilla was prescribed medication for the injury, but did not require an injection of anti-inflammatories -- a good sign, albeit not much more than that.
Padilla has been a veritable horse as of late, logging 23 innings and 309 pitches over his last three starts while yielding just four earned runs during that span; of course, his recent success has been predicated on luck and superb defense to a large degree (as evidenced by an inverse strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 7-to-10 over that three-start period), but this is nevertheless a hindrance for the Rangers as they prepare to tackle the Astros, Yankees and Athletics before June 1st. It's difficult to definitively state whether the odd fluctuations in his fastball velocity from one start to the next thus far in 2009 are at all related to this injury, but this is definitely an issue worth keeping one eye on.]
● 22-year-old left-hander Derek Holland will make Padilla's previously scheduled Friday evening start in Houston, denoting his first major league start; it is expected that Holland will make at least two starts before Padilla returns, at which point the Rangers will assess the situation and determine whether he should remain in the starting rotation (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Not exactly the happiest conceivable circumstances surrounding a major league rotation debut that has been many months in the making (and should, in fact, be cause for celebration rather than trepidation, given its significance as a landmark moment in the Rangers' conversion of that considerable minor league promise into major league victories), but sadly it was only a matter of time before one of the Rangers' remarkably healthy rotation dominoes finally fell.
What should we expect both tomorrow evening and in the weeks to come? More change-ups, for one; a low-to-mid 80s offering which possesses what industry publication Baseball America deemed "good arm speed and fade" last December has been utilized just 5.1 percent of the time through the first 216 pitches of Holland's major league career, and if he is to survive the Astros' righty-laden lineup he'll require an effective secondary weapon with which he can dispatch his foes. The slider has been an effective pitch for Holland, but that third pitch will be critical.
Second, I'm not sure if Holland can be counted on to surpass the 75-pitch threshold by a particularly wide margin at this point; manager Ron Washington will have a completely rested seven-man bullpen at his disposal tonight, but it's my expectation that veteran right-hander Kris Benson will emerge from the shadows to toss multiple innings if Holland's evening is brief, thereby preserving the remainder of his relief corps with five more games looming after Saturday's before Texas can enjoy an off-day.
Excited? Yes, to a certain extent. But experiencing a smidgen of apprehension over the Padilla-for-Holland swap isn't going to prompt a revocation of your Rangers fan card, because it's improbable that Holland will effortlessly subjugate his foes during what amounts to a two-start audition for the starting rotation; heck, few highly touted young pitchers dominate during their first swim through the league. Is Holland one of those elite few? Stay tuned.]
Quick Hits: Center fielder Josh Hamilton (strained right groin muscle) believes that a Saturday evening return might be more realistic, running contradictory to manager Ron Washington's expectation that his All-Star slugger will be available from the outset of the Lone Star Series ... Chris Davis, possessor of the worst walks-to-strikeouts ratio in the American League (0.16), will make at least two starts at first base this coming weekend according to Washington ... The Rangers' three-game weekend home series against the Angels drew a 3.5 rating in the Metroplex.
Minor League Transactions: According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas has promoted outfielder Steven Murphy from Double-A Frisco to Triple-A Oklahoma City, activated Frisco outfielder Dustin Majewski from the disabled list, transferred first baseman/outfielder Clark Murphy from Low-A Hickory to extended spring training in Surprise, Arizona, and shipped infielder Leury Garcia from Arizona to Hickory.