A year ago today we were dissecting the depth of a Texas Rangers' pitching staff anchored by No. 1 and 2 starters named Scott Feldman and Rich Harden. Hopefully that perspective will soften the blow of a 2011 rotation that includes Alexi Ogando and a bullpen that features Mark Lowe, Dave Bush and somebody named Mason Tobin.
Somehow the Rangers absorbed horrible years by Feldman (still recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee) and Harden (now hurt -- surprise! -- with the Oakland A's) and won the American League.
Can they repeat this year with this staff? Mike Maddux, prepare to work your magic.
In front of former CEO Chuck Greenberg in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last night Ogando looked solid, allowing one run in six innings in a 6-2 victory over Coastal Carolina University. The Rangers finish their exhibition schedule tonight in Round Rock before Friday's opener against the Boston Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark.
Ogando, who will pitch the fourth regular-season game against the Seattle Mariners, allowed three hits but walked four. Neftali Feliz, yo-yo'd back to the bullpen as the closer, gave up a run on two hits and a walk in the ninth.
Earlier in the day the club announced former AL MVP Jeff Burroughs and all-time franchise pitching wins leader Charlie Hough will throw out the ceremonial first pitches Friday. Maybe Hough and his dancing, darting knuckleball should suit up.
Otherwise, the Rangers may have to actually rely on Tobin. Who?
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The starting rotation is set with C.J. Wilson, followed by Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Ogando and Matt Harrison. The bullpen will include Lowe, Bush, Tobin and Pedro Strop in long relief, set-up men Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes and Darren O'Day and Feliz as the closer.
Saw all those guys throw out in Surprise a couple weeks ago -- except for Tobin, a right-hander with a pedigree as rare as his path to Texas. He has a unique sports upbringing in Montana of all places and is apparently a Rule 5 draft choice from the Anaheim Angels (via a trade from the Chicago Cubs). Tobin hasn't pitched in two years because of Tommy John surgery in 2009. And he's never thrown above Class A.
Said manager Ron Washington of Tobin last weekend in Surprise, "We'll have to pick his fights."