That was an embarrassment wrapped inside of a farce last night. Yes, it still only counts as a single loss in the standings, and yes, it was just one game out of 162, and no, the Scott Feldman vs. Jarrod Parker matchup didn't portend especially well for the Rangers right from the outset -- but that was still a miserable showing from both sides of the offense/pitching coin, as Parker carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning with relative ease before Michael Young saved the day (sort of), and Scott Feldman, who is at this point a placeholder in the rotation until Roy Oswalt is ready, couldn't make it out of the second inning against the worst offense in baseball. * Unbelievable.
[* I'm probably reaching a bit here for dramatic effect, but, oh, what the hell: Going into Monday night's tilt, the Athletics were hitting .209/.288/.329 with a team OPS+ of 72. From 2008-present, Joaquin Arias has hit .254/.294/.340 with a 71 OPS+. Scott Feldman was knocked out after just five outs against -- and allowed eight runs to -- a lineup full of Joaquin Ariases in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Try and wrap your head around that.]
The thing that's more troubling than a single blowout loss on the road, though, and even more troubling than almost being no-hit, is that Feldman is actively getting worse with each subsequent start. From the Rangers' perspective, the blueprint called for Feldman to gradually increase his per-game workload until he ramped back up into the 95- to 100-pitch per start range, and for him to at least furnish the Rangers with the caliber of performance you'd expect from a No. 4-5 starter until Oswalt arrived in Arlington bedecked in shining armor.
Instead, he's gone out and done this in his four starts thus far this season, and, in the process, forced Ron Washington to back out of his pledge to never use a position player as a pitcher, as Craig Gentry became the first Rangers position player since Scott Sheldon in 2000 to throw a single major league pitch (and, thankfully, did not blow out his arm in the process):
I was fully on board with giving Feldman a shot out of the back of the rotation once Neftali Feliz went down with his UCL sprain (though they weren't exactly swimming in better immediate options), and I'm not usually one to kneejerk in response to a few cruddy performances, but he's doing nothing to reward my own or anyone else's faith, and his presence in the rotation is disadvantaging the bullpen in two different ways at this point: first, Feldman in the rotation means no true long reliever to function as a low-leverage innings sponge in bad games, and second, Feldman not giving you any more than five innings -- or even two innings, where last night was concerned -- exacerbates the need for the long reliever that you don't currently have.
Now, obviously, the Rangers could stick it out with Feldman for a couple of more weeks until they receive the good word that Oswalt is ready to go, and Feldman certainly seems to be clamoring for another shot (the fact that he's selling himself to the press suggests that even he knows he's on tenuous ground at this point), but it's not clear the Rangers are willing to do that or to commit to Feldman as even a temporary starter for one second longer. The problem, though, is that the Rangers still aren't swimming in better short-term options, as Oswalt is still thought to be a couple of weeks away from being ready, and Alexi Ogando seems to be completely out of the spot-starting candidacy at this point.
Setting aside the more immediate question of what the Rangers will do to bolster the bullpen going into Tuesday night's affair (swapping Yoshinori Tateyama out for Mark Hamburger would make some sense in that regard), you're looking at going with one of the following options when Feldman's next turn in the rotation comes around:
(a) Stick with Feldman, hope that the Oakland catastrophe was merely a blip on the radar, and keep looking for that elusive five- to six-inning start of back-rotation pitching that you'd happily take at this point;
(b) Rush Oswalt to the majors, despite the fact that he only went 36 pitches in his first minor league start at Triple-A Round Rock (even if you were going to rush him due to the urgency of the situation, you'd think the most you could shave off his minor league preparation time is 4-5 days, or one start at most);
(c) Roll Robbie Ross out there, which could make some sense given that he's held his head high above water in his rookie campaign and has compiled a significant body of minor league rotation work and could conceivably baffle a few lineups in that way that rookie lefty starters tend to do, but also doesn't make sense in that he's maxed out at 40 pitches this season and wasn't stretched out during his Monday appearance (even though it would have been an opportune time to do so in preparation for a potential Ross start in five days);
(d) Throw Martin Perez or Neil Ramirez out there and justify it as a learning opportunity in a big league environment with less pressure than you usually see with a major league debut, as it would only be a temporary gig until Oswalt came riding to the rescue; of course, it would be a lot easier to argue in favor of this option if one or the other was pitching well this season (hint: they aren't);
(e) Give the ball to Michael Kirkman or Greg Reynolds (who aren't prospects at this point, and can theoretically be handled with less care than Perez/Ramirez), close your eyes, and hope for the very best;
(f) Skip Feldman's turn in the rotation altogether and mandate that Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison each go on three days' rest until Oswalt makes it back, using the Rangers' upcoming off day on June 11th as an opportunity to get them each one more four-day breather until Oswalt arrives. I'll be shocked if they elect to go this route.
I'm not sure any of these are especially great options, but the Rangers are going to have to pick one and settle on it within the next 24-48 hours ... and while I'd be alright with Feldman getting that one more start that he's publicly lobbying for, and while I get that nobody feels worse about last night than Feldman himself, I still find myself unusually disappointed with how this has all played out. I know he's being paid far more than virtually any long reliever/spot starter is worth, and that he's been disappointing overall since he got his "big contract," but I was still eager to see how well he could fare in a fill-in capacity (even before the Oswalt signing made his rotation days numbered), and he hasn't been even remotely passable.
If we don't see you again, Scott, we'll at least see you next lifetime.