Going back to even before Spring Training began, when Derek Holland hurt his knee playing with his dog to require microfracture surgery that’s keeping him out until at least the All-Star Break, the Rangers’ roster has looked like a MASH unit to say the least. The club already has a league-high 12 players on the disabled list with not even a month gone by on the season the latest being Pedro Figueroa, deactivated due to elbow inflammation.
Yet here the Rangers are, with the best record in the American League at 14-8 following a sweep of the Oakland A’s. Despite all the injuries and almost no production from major acquisition Prince Fielder, the team has done far more than just stay afloat waiting for the likes of Adrian Beltre and Matt Harrison to return.
How have they done it? Give credit to “The Replacements,” the players that have come out of nowhere to make the most of their opportunities – and giving Ron Washington and Jon Daniels some very tough decisions to make when everyone starts getting healthy again.
Signed to a minor league deal and having not played in the majors since 2011, Kouzmanoff suddenly became the insurance policy the Rangers desperately needed when All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre pulled a quad muscle during the Rangers’ series in Boston. All he’s done since being called up from AAA Round Rock is hit .362 with 10 RBI in 13 games. Called a “godsend” by manager Ron Washington, Kouzmanoff was named American League Player of the Week after hitting .345 with eight RBI, and then aided the team’s first win in Oakland of the year with a leadoff double in the eighth inning that led to the winning run. This is the biggest upcoming question for the Rangers. When Beltre is healthy again, do you have him DH to give the quad more time? And if you that or move Kouzmanoff to DH, what then happens to Mitch Moreland, who’s production has not been bad at all so far?
Ross has been tagged as a potential starter for years now, but few were expecting him to make the leap so soon – until Derek Holland badly hurt his knee before Spring Training and the rehabs of Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison were forcibly extended. So both Ross and Tanner Scheppers were thrown into the rotation. While Scheppers has not been so hot (a 9.82 ERA in four starts before landing on the DL), Ross has so far proven the rotation is where he was meant to be, posting a 2.31 ERA in four starts so far. This includes two starts already without allowing an earned run, including throwing nearly eight shutout innings against Seattle. Not bad for a guy who people had been losing confidence in as just a setup man last year.
Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy
Jurickson Profar’s shoulder injury in Spring Training was a major setback, forcing a platoon situation at second base. Murphy has played decently, batting .240 while getting hits in good situations for seven RBI. Wilson, meanwhile, has thrived, hitting .333 in 15 games. With both players in the lineup on Wednesday (4/23), Wilson ended a three-game streak of him scoring a run, but he still went two-for-three; Murphy, meanwhile, had his first home run of the year. This could pose a very interesting dilemma for Washington, who seems to have been slow to have faith in Profar over the years, even before the injury. Someone like Wilson could very well be to the 2014 Rangers what Kevin Elster was to the 1996 squad.