So, the hammer has finally dropped on the issue of who was going to be tabbed to start on Saturday in place of Alexi Ogando, and the winner is RoughRiders right-hander -- and 2010 fifth-round pick -- Justin Grimm, whose contract will be purchased from Double-A Frisco and who will start on Saturday against the Astros in this weekend's interleague tilt.
To clear the necessary room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Rangers will be placing Koji Uehara on the 15-day disabled list with what is being called a strained right latissimus muscle, and will move Neftali Feliz (right elbow inflammation) to the 60-day disabled list, which has some interesting implications that I'll dive into in a second here.
There had been considerable sentiment in favor of simply plugging Robbie Ross into the rotation, which -- despite some utterly bizarre cries from one of the Metroplex's dailies about how starting a game or two could ruin Ross -- made sense from both a performance and convenience standpoint, as Ross has been pitching well in the majors, is semi-stretched out, and doesn't require a corresponding roster move to move him to the rotation. Ron Washington was adamant about not wanting to compromise his bullpen by pulling Ross over there, though, and so while it sounds like some people in the front office -- including Nolan Ryan -- didn't necessarily agree with Washington's viewpoint on the matter, it's Washington's team and Washington's rear end on the line, so Washington's word is the final word.
Grimm, 23, has firmly entrenched himself on the prospect map with the formidable combination of quality stuff and the results/progression to match, as he conquered both Low-A Hickory and High-A Myrtle Beach last year in his first year of pro ball, and had fared very well at Frisco up to this point, posting a 1.87 ERA (2.55 FIP, 7.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9) in 77 innings at his Texas League stop this year. Despite the fifth-round selection, Grimm was thought of as a potential first- or second-round pick going into the 2010 amateur draft on the basis of his ability, and he was compensated as such, with the Rangers ultimately paying him supplemental first-rounder money ($825,000) just before the 2010 signing deadline.
Last year, Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole cited Grimm's low- to mid-90s heater and promising but underdeveloped secondary arsenal as bullet points in his favor, as well as the solid athleticism that scouting types hoped would produce consistent mechanics and good command of the strike zone. Last month, Jason Parks talked about how Grimm had found the mechanical groove that allowed him to throw strikes consistently, and praised his work ethic, with the ultimate determinant of his success at the big league level being his ability to fully develop and execute his secondary pitches.
I imagine the one big thing you can take away from those various and sundry scouting-type comments is that Grimm, at the very least, will brandish a quality fastball and hopefully display the same strike-throwing aptitude that he's exhibited at Frisco, and if he can do that, he should have a decent chance of keeping his head above water for however long this first major league stint of his lasts.
It is, however, a strange roster move, a move that elicits questions, because you're looking at Grimm being the first guy to go back down to the minors once either Roy Oswalt -- who is scheduled to throw roughly 100 pitches in his next minor league start at Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday -- or Derek Holland is ready to go again, and you're creating a new 40-man roster problem in the process. Grimm didn't require placement on the 40-man roster for Rule 5 draft avoidance purposes until after the 2013 season, and by pulling the trigger on this now, you're burning two of Grimm's minor league options through both 2012-13. This also guarantees that Feliz cannot return until July 20th or thereabouts at the earliest, although even with the recent positive reports on Feliz's progress, that kind of return date might have been a foregone conclusion anyway.
It's also the kind of roster move that makes you wonder about what the ultimate plan is for Grimm -- whether he's going to be in the rotation for longer than we think on account of Holland or Oswalt not being as close as we think they are, or if the organization really does view Grimm as somebody who can immediately contribute at the big league level on a consistent basis through the 2012-13 window, which would neutralize some of the concerns over burning two options that otherwise wouldn't need to be burned.
Meanwhile, Round Rock's Martin Perez -- who is already on the 40-man roster and wouldn't have necessitated such transactional craziness, and who was already on schedule to start on Saturday -- has been passed over in favor of somebody with fewer than 80 innings pitched above the A-ball level and who will be making a two-level jump, and I don't think that says particularly great things about how the organization feels about Perez right now. Per Jason Cole, both the stuff and his star prospect status have gone backwards, and while he is still very young (21) relative to the league that he's pitching in, the stagnation of his development and his difficulty in keeping his head above water in the high minors has to be regarded as a fairly significant concern at this point.
On a tangentially related note, Uehara will reportedly not throw for at least two weeks, which suggests that we're looking at an injury that will keep him shelved for closer to a month than the 15-day minimum. When it rains ...