All-Star lefty Mike Minor feels like the Texas Rangers will be in pretty good shape if he and hard-throwing right-hander Lance Lynn can do again what they did last season.
The workhorse starters now have some veteran help in the rotation with the additions of a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner and a pair of right-handers coming off career highs in wins while pitching for playoff teams.
“Last year there was a lot of pressure on me and Lance to win the games that we pitched,” Minor said. “And there were some young guys in there just getting some time up there just to see how it was.”
While Lynn and Minor combined for 30 wins and each pitched 208 1-3 innings with at least 200 strikeouts, there were 17 other pitchers who started games for Texas. Nine of them were rookies, some relievers pitching in an “opener” role.
The Rangers got started this offseason by signing free-agent right-handers Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, but weren’t finished there. They acquired Texas native and former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber from Cleveland in a trade.
“You do have a lot of guys that have the ability to do a lot of good things,” Lynn said. “If you can stay healthy and post every five days, we’ve got a chance, especially with the starting five that we have.”
After a 20-win season for Cleveland in 2018, Kluber was limited to seven starts last season. He suffered a broken right forearm when he was hit by a line drive, and an oblique injury when he was close to returning to the Indians rotation.
“If me and Lance can repeat from last year, and Corey can bounce back from all the injuries that he had, I feel like you’ve got three potential aces up there,” Minor said. “I feel like it’s just competitive games, where every night we can have a guy up there compete … giving us competitive innings and going deep in ballgames.”
Kluber had thrown more than 203 innings in five consecutive seasons, a stretch when he was the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2014 and 2017, before only 35 2-3 innings last season.
“I’m going to look at it as hopefully it’s a good thing moving forward,” said Kluber, who turns 34 in April. “It gave me some time to kind of regroup physically. … It’s not something that I wanted to happen, but hopefully it’s a blessing in disguise.”
Lyles was 12-8 last year, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts at the end of season for NL wild-card team Milwaukee after being traded from Pittsburgh.
Gibson was 13-7 while throwing 160 innings for AL Central champion Minnesota, even after developing ulcerative colitis after an extended bout with E. coli that he contracted while on an annual mission trip before last spring.
“We’re pretty confident with where we’re at,” Gibson said. “With how Lance and Mike pitched last year, them doing that and getting even better is going to be really good for the staff. I think one through five we might have one of the more potent staffs in the league.”
Manager Chris Woodward emphasized that when addressing the five starters, and the other 33 pitchers in camp, before the first spring training workout in Arizona on Wednesday.
“We obviously have a quality pitching staff. And my challenge to them was, let’s be the best in baseball,” Woodward said. “And I know that there’s a lot that goes into that. But, you know, you set the ceiling high, set the bar high.”
Woodward also had a message for the young pitchers in camp, reminding them that they all will be needed to contribute at some point. He also told them to constantly hang around the veteran guys, watching and learning from them.
“Make them tired of seeing you around them,” Woodward said. “Don’t be intimidated by Corey Kluber. Go up and talk to him. Annoy him almost. Get to know what he’s all about and why he does what he does and why he was a champion and why he was the best pitcher in baseball. Ask him questions, same with Mike and Lance.”