"Let me see you go back, back, forth and forth ... back, back, forth and forth ..."
According to D Magazine's Evan Grant, the Texas Rangers have elected to reinsert 22-year-old southpaw Derek Holland into the starting rotation, supplanting recently activated right-hander Dustin Nippert as the ballclub's nominal third starter with the resumption of the ballclub's heated pennant chase looming a matter of hours away.
Right-handers Vicente Padilla and Scott Feldman will start the first two games of the Rangers' three-game home weekend series versus the Twins, with the designation of Holland as the starter in the Sunday evening series finale being the apparent product of manager Ron Washington's desire to exploit a lefty-stacked Minnesota lineup comprising the three-headed monster of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel:
"Holland matches up good against the Minnesota Twins with their lefties and good against Kansas City with its lefties," manager Ron Washington said. "It has everything to do with [Justin] Morneau and [Joe] Mauer and it has everything to do with the lefties in Kansas City."
What's interesting about this justification, of course, is that the Twins have fared equally well from an offensive standpoint against left-handed and right-handed pitchers in 2009, hitting both dexterities at a roughly .270/.340/.420 clip, but Holland is clearly the most viable starting option at the Rangers' disposal right now. Flamethrower Dustin Nippert reprised his typical mid-90s heater in two pre-All-Star break starting opportunities and, to his credit, did throw strikes, but a number of those strikes were raked for hits during the course of an underwhelming pair of 3.2-inning outings which felt all too reminiscent of the mid-00's Rangers rotations that were forced to rely on unreliable, second-rate spare parts far too often. None of us want to go back to that.
[Also, as we pointed out last Wednesday morning, Nippert had never previously performed well in a starting role, much less at replacement level (which I would think would be the absolute minimum acceptability threshold at this point), and while the sample size probably isn't sufficient to pigeonhole him as a reliever with any degree of permanency, the bottom line is that the Rangers are trying to capture a post-season berth. Nippert's raw stuff is mouthwatering, but based on both objective (statistical) and subjective (observational) inputs, it's pretty difficult to argue that Nippert gives the Rangers a better chance to win right now as a starting pitcher than Holland does.]
Holland will reportedly make at least two starts and possibly one more after that before the Rangers re-assess the situation and determine whether (a) they will acquire a starting pitcher via trade or (b) injured left-hander Matt Harrison (left biceps tendinitis) is prepared to seize his rotation spot back in spite of four consecutive bumpy starts preceding his placement on the 15-day disabled list. Should Holland assert his disinclination to yield his newfound rotation spot by performing exceptionally well during this multi-start audition, Harrison might ultimately supplant rookie right-hander Tommy Hunter if his own grasp on a rotation spot should begin to loosen.
Injury Updates: Matt Harrison threw approximately 70 pitches during a live batting practice session on Thursday and is slated to throw again on Friday; he is expected to make multiple minor league rehab starts before possibly rejoining the team ... Outfielder David Murphy (jammed right ring finger) is still experiencing mild soreness during at-bats, but intends to play through the discomfort.
Quick Hits: Triple-A Oklahoma City right-hander Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez is expected to activate his July 20th opt-out clause and take his immediate free agency, as the Rangers do not anticipate adding the veteran reliever to their 40-man roster before that date comes to pass; right-hander Neftali Feliz is currently positioned ahead of Hernandez in the "potential call-up" food chain ... Says right-hander Kevin Millwood of the extra rest he has been afforded by the All-Star break: "It's nice. Everything's been kind of achy lately ... It's nice to get eight or nine days." ... Baseball America's Todd Traub wrote a feature piece on Double-A Frisco left-hander Kasey Kiker.