The Rangers were in for a shock yesterday when they learned that starter Derek Holland injured his knee in a fall at home, forcing him to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn cartilage. He is expected to be out until around mid-season. As a result, the Rangers are scrambling to find a substitute starter in the month-plus between now and the start of spring training.
Reports have indicated that the Rangers prefer not to make a big splash, such as signing Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza. Rather, they prefer to stay in-house. Names such as Robbie Ross have emerged, as well as last year’s set-up man Tanner Scheppers. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have told Scheppers to arrive to spring training ready to start and compete for a spot in the rotation.
I’m just going to go in the best shape of my life, ready to throw, whatever they need,” Scheppers said. “I’ve been asked to possibly be ready for both (starter or closer) so I’m going to go in ready for whatever. I feel like my body is feeling good, healthy.”
Scheppers was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, finishing with a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings setting up for former closer Joe Nathan. Scheppers last started in 2011, when he made one start with Triple-A Round Rock. He started seven games in 2010 with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Despite the loss of Nathan, the Rangers have a lot of bullpen depth, so they can afford to move Scheppers to the rotation in a pinch.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.