Equipped with what is effectively a four-man bullpen after being forced to endure one of the more teeth-grinding losses of the 2009 regular season, the Texas Rangers have moved to fortify their active roster with a seven-player contingent as a huge day-night doubleheader looms imposingly just a few hours away.
According to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers are expected to recall right-handers Warner Madrigal and Guillermo Moscoso from Triple-A Oklahoma City, purchase the contract of catcher Kevin Richardson from Oklahoma City, reinstate infielder Esteban German and left-hander Eddie Guardado from the 15-day disabled list and right-hander Brandon McCarthy from the 60-day disabled list, and -- in a surprise move -- purchase the contract of outfielder Craig Gentry from Double-A Frisco, altogether requiring Texas to vacate two 40-man roster spots.
[According to Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Ranger have designated long-enigmatic Double-A Frisco right-hander Thomas Diamond for assignment, and, after recalling outfielder Brandon Boggs from Triple-A Oklahoma City, have placed Boggs on the 60-day disabled list, thereby creating the requisite space on the now-full 40-man roster for Gentry, McCarthy and Richardson.
Additionally, immensely talented but perpetually frustrating High-A Bakersfield outfielder Engel Beltre has been promoted to Frisco, and right-hander Michael Main -- who has been beset by a mysterious viral infection for most of the minor league season -- has been assigned to High-A Bakersfield.]
● McCarthy's reinstatement plunges right-handed rotation counterpart Dustin Nippert into a sea of uncertainty, with the former seeming likely to supplant the latter as the Rangers' No. 5 starter through the regular season's last five-odd weeks. Since Vicente Padilla was designated for assignment for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release back on August 7th, Nippert has compiled a 5.66 ERA in four starts (spanning 20.2 innings), posting a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 19-to-14 while yielding .284/.394/.432-caliber production to opposing batters, and while Nippert's control isn't nearly as terrible as those numbers would indicate, his residence in the starting rotation is growing less and less tenable.
Said McCarthy -- whose retooled pitching mechanics have elicited quite a bit of praise from those in the know -- of his latest opportunity: "It's now or never. It's time to get going. It's the same situation. As long as I can come back and get my health back, my career is going to go where it goes. I've spent the last 2 1/2 years trying to get healthy and get my mechanics right. There are no excuses now. I've done what I feel needs to be done."
A thought that was whisked past me late last night: if Nippert and McCarthy should both pitch exceedingly well in both halves of today's doubleheader, might the Rangers elect to retain both in the rotation and slide struggling left-hander Derek Holland back to the bullpen? The notion might be entirely implausible, but with Holland -- who noted his fatigue after an 83-pitch outing against the Twins back on August 20th -- not-so-quickly approaching the 120-inning threshold and coming off a disturbingly poor Monday evening performance in which it seemed as though everything was off (velocity, movement, command, you name it), might such a course of action actually be prudent in the grand scheme of things? You tell me.
● Recurring numbness in the right shoulder of disabled catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) forced the Rangers to terminate his minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco, and might next force season-ending surgery (performed by noted Dallas vascular surgeon Dr. Gregory Pearl), which wouldn't be quite so damaging as the "Rangers' starting catcher out for the year" headline would imply; his marked defensive improvement doesn't completely offset the fact that he's been a virtual offensive cipher in 2009, and with the Taylor Teagarden-Ivan Rodriguez backstop tandem serviceably humming along in his absence, there isn't a pressing need to reinstate a sub-100 percent catcher right now.
The return of Richardson isn't really indicative of forthcoming playing time, although manager Ron Washington will assuredly work him into the mix every now and again; rather, it's about creating the roster flexibility needed to employ Pudge as a right-handed designated hitter here and there without having to fret about the lack of a third catcher in the event of Teagarden's injury-caused exit.
If I were a betting man, I would bet on Saltalamacchia being assigned to the 60-day disabled list and RedHawks infielder Joaquin Arias being designated for assignment, thereby creating the requisite space on the 40-man roster to add Gentry, McCarthy and Richardson, but stranger things have happened -- and there are definitely other players besides Arias that are riding the roster bubble right now.
● Guardado, Madrigal and Moscoso alleviate some of the back-end pressure on a relief corps that appears to be slowly wearing down, but 90-plus percent of the high-leverage innings will likely continue to be allocated to Neftali Feliz, Darren O'Day, C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco ... and while that's all well and good, there are a significant number of high-leverage innings to be pitched these days. How much is really left in the tank?
Quick Hits: Wondering why signed-then-released utility infielder Ryan Freel's stay in the Rangers organization lasted just 72 hours? Texas reportedly told Freel that he would not be considered for a September callup, and after two games Freel decided that he wasn't interested in playing in Oklahoma City without an opportunity for promotion.