Fourteen or fifteen hours from now (or from the time stamp on this post, at least), we'll either find ourselves busy imbibing in celebration of a game that the Rangers should win, or lamenting a lost opportunity ... but as far as right now is concerned, we're scrabbling for any kind of additional news or insight that we can get our hands on, and though the deadline for teams to set their divisional-round rosters doesn't pass until 9 a.m. this morning, there nevertheless appears to be enough information out there that we can go ahead and analyze some of the latest ALDS roster developments.
As of early Friday morning, we know a few different things: (a) common sense has prevailed on the Rangers' end, in that they've elected to roll with a third catcher instead of an eighth reliever, (b) Alexi Ogando is bullpen-bound, but Michael Kirkman isn't (which officially shoots the wheels off of my previous ALDS roster projection), (c) Andres Blanco's back trouble has taken him out of commission and forced the Rangers to name Esteban German as their playoff utility infielder, and (d) perhaps most significantly, the so-called "team of destiny" has decided to throw left-handed pitching phenom Matt Moore -- and his 9.2 career innings -- up against C.J. Wilson in Game 1. As a result, we know the identities of 24 out of 25 players on the Rangers' playoff roster, and I can obviously feel pretty comfortable throwing one final projection out there:
|Texas Rangers Projected ALDS Roster: Act III|
|SP||C.J. Wilson||11/18/80||4.8||5.7||2001 Draft, 5th Round (#141)|
|SP||Colby Lewis||08/02/79||1.9||1.9||Free Agency (01/25/10)
|SP||Matt Harrison||09/16/85||3.7||3.8||Trade, ATL (07/31/07)|
|SP||Derek Holland||10/09/86||2.7||3.4||2006 Draft, 25th Round (#748)|
|LR||Alexi Ogando||10/05/83||3.5||3.4||Rule 5 Draft (12/08/05)
|MR||Mike Gonzalez||05/23/78||0.0||0.1||Trade, BAL (08/31/11)|
|MR||Yoshinori Tateyama||05/09/79||0.1||0.1||Free Agency (11/30/10)|
|SU||Darren Oliver||10/06/70||1.7||1.3||Free Agency (12/22/09)
|SU||Koji Uehara||04/03/75||0.1||0.0||Trade, BAL (07/30/11)|
|SU||Mike Adams||07/29/78||0.7||0.4||Trade, SDP (07/31/11)|
|CL||Neftali Feliz||05/02/88||1.5||0.7||Trade, ATL (07/31/07)|
|C||Mike Napoli||10/31/81||5.3||5.4||Trade, TOR (01/25/11)|
|C||Yorvit Torrealba||07/19/78||0.7||1.3||Free Agency (11/29/10)
|C||Matt Treanor||03/03/76||-0.2||-0.2||Trade, KC (08/31/11)|
|IF||Elvis Andrus||08/26/88||3.5||4.2||Trade, ATL (07/31/07)|
|IF||Adrian Beltre||04/07/79||5.0||5.6||Free Agency (01/05/11)|
|IF||Esteban German||01/26/78||0.4||0.3||Free Agency (04/08/09)|
|IF||Ian Kinsler||06/22/82||5.1||7.1||2003 Draft, 17th Round (#496)|
|IF||Mitch Moreland||09/06/85||0.0||0.5||2007 Draft, 17th Round (#530)|
|IF||Michael Young||10/19/76||2.6||4.1||Trade, TOR (07/19/00)|
|OF||Endy Chavez||02/07/78||0.8||1.6||Free Agency (02/15/10)|
|OF||Nelson Cruz||07/01/80||1.5||2.0||Trade, MIL (07/28/07)|
|OF||Craig Gentry||11/29/83||1.4||1.9||2006 Draft, 10th Round (#298)|
|OF||Josh Hamilton||05/21/81||3.7||4.1||Trade, CIN (12/21/07)|
|OF||David Murphy||10/18/81||-0.4||1.2||Trade, BOS (07/31/07)|
With Treanor in the fold, Texas has the luxury of starting Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate, one of Mike Napoli or Michael Young at first base, and the other at designated hitter with relative impunity against the Rays' left-handed starters; that said, playing Napoli at first base would actually still be the more flexible play, in the sense that Ron Washington could theoretically pinch-hit for Torrealba -- say, with Endy Chavez or Mitch Moreland against a tough late-inning right-handed reliever -- and then slide Napoli over behind the plate after the inning without losing the designated hitter. Barring that, however, the cushion provided by Treanor is still likely of more benefit to Texas than an eighth reliever.
Speaking of Moreland, Ron Washington refused to outright commit to Moreland as his starting first baseman against even right-handers on Thursday, responding to an inquiry on the issue thusly: "Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what comes out of my pen that day." I wouldn't equate that to Moreland losing his manager's trust, per se, but it isn't hard to claim justifiably that his abysmal post-June numbers have rattled the organization's confidence in his ability to contribute at the needed post-season level.
The battle for the seventh and final bullpen spot has come down to Scott Feldman vs. Darren O'Day vs. Yoshinori Tateyama (both Michael Kirkman and Mark Hamburger have been dispatched to Arizona to keep their arms stretched out in the event that they're needed at a later), and, as I suggested before, this particular roster battle is probably decided by the Rangers' deployment plan for Ogando. If they're open to using him as a multi-inning bridge/long reliever in the event that one of their starters is knocked out early, Tateyama makes quite a bit more sense, given his appeal as a righty killer. If, however, the coaching staff is set on using Ogando in a shorter, later-inning role, Feldman will likely be the pick. For my money, give me option No. 1 and Tateyama over Feldman. O'Day is technically still in the mix, but yo would have to think that he's an enormous long shot at this point.
With Ogando locked into the bullpen, we're now looking at C.J. Wilson vs. Matt Moore today and Derek Holland vs. James Shields on Saturday, with both rotations still being somewhat up in the air beyond that point. These are both very winnable games, particularly given that Wilson and Holland have been nothing less than dominant throughout the second half of the season -- but, objectively speaking, you have to feel better about the Game 1 matchup than Game 2, as Shields has pitched at the level of a five-win(s above replacement) monster this year, whereas Moore boasts dominant stuff but virtually no experience on such a big stage against front-line offenses. Winning both would guarantee C.J. Wilson a chance to save the Rangers in Game 5 if needed, but, obviously, you'd like to see Texas find a way to wrap this up in four or fewer games and preserve Wilson for a Game 1 start in the ALCS.
TBS also released its division series television schedule, and it features the Rangers-Rays series at 4:07 p.m. CDT today on TBS (Game 1), 6:07 p.m. CDT Saturday on TNT (Game 2), and 4:07 p.m. CDT Monday on TBS (Game 3). I'm curious as to the effect this will have on Ballpark attendance, as the relatively inconvenient start time of Game 1 combined with the potential for Friday afternoon traffic overload in the I-30/Highway 360 area renders this game a bit more challenging for Joe Average fan to attend than the usual 7:07-timed playoff game. If you're intent on making the excursion out there this afternoon, leave early, arrive early ... and kids, please, do not jar.