So, Nolan Ryan commented last night on the radio that the team was looking at putting Scott Feldman in the bullpen, and Ron Washington acknowledged that that was something being discussed.
This is something that I think is being fueled by concerns and uncertainty over some of the bullpen spots, and struggles by some guys this spring. Three guys -- Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, and Eddie Guardado -- have jobs nailed down.
But the other four spots are in flux, and in particular, there seems to be a gaping hole for your righty setup guy. Joaquin Benoit would have had that spot, but he's hurt. Brendan Donnelly early in camp looked like he might be a fit, but he then struggled and has been released. Derrick Turnbow has been inconsistent. Willie Eyre has apparently impressed, but also missed half of 2007 and all of 2008 due to T-J surgery. Josh Rupe has been terrible. Dustin Nippert is hurt. Warner Madrigal has pitched well but hasn't been a pitcher for that long, and could probably use some more time in AAA.
So Madrigal and Eyre will probably make the team just by default, as the only two candidates who are pitching well, which leaves a couple of slots still open. The Rangers, one would think, would probably prefer to keep Nippert and Rupe around as they are out of options, and let Turnbow try to get his act together in AAA. But they clearly aren't going to be that fired up about having their righty options behind Francisco be Madrigal, Eyre, Rupe and Nippert.
(And by the way, wouldn't this bullpen be looking a hell of a lot better with Juan Cruz out there as the 8th inning setup guy?)
At the same time, the rotation (knock on wood) has been remarkably problem-free, with all five guys who were announced over a month ago rockin' and rollin' along. And Kris Benson has, thusfar, shown enough to have some folks thinking he may be a viable 5th starter.
Which, I would guess, as led to the thought that Scott Feldman could be bumped from the rotation back to the bullpen in a setup role, where he's been in the past, and Benson could stick around as the 5th starter.
Now, remember...while we are in rebuilding mode, we are also in a short-term win-now mode. Ron Washington wants to keep his job, which means not sucking out of the gate, and Nolan Ryan and Tom Hicks want more folks in the stands, which means not sucking out of the gate. After two straight horrendous starts, the organization is clearly prioritizing getting off to a good start this year.
And this, I think, is the thought process that is fueling thoughts of putting Feldman in the bullpen and sticking Benson in the rotation.
I've said before that where I think the team has tended to get into trouble is by over-thinking things, and this is a typical example. You've got a guy, in Feldman, who wasn't great last year, but who was steady and gave you some innings, and who deserves to get a chance to stick in the rotation.
You've got the five guys you said at the start of spring training were going to be in the rotation who have done nothing thusfar to lose their jobs.
And yet, you are wanting to stick Feldman in the bullpen as a short-term fix so you can go with a short-term, one-year, proven mediocrity solution?
Benson, along with Jason Jennings, is supposed to be here as insurance, as this year's Sidney Ponson, a guy who can step in in April or May if someone is hurt or struggling, so you aren't having to put Tommy Hunter or Luis Mendoza back out there when they aren't ready, or rush Neftali Feliz or Derek Holland.
They aren't supposed to be the guys who are here to push one of your young starters -- who hasn't done anything this spring to lose his job -- out of the rotation.
I said before that the Rangers should have signed Juan Cruz, even at the cost of a 2nd round draft pick. That option is out the window. They can still look at trying to pick up a reliever from a team that has excess arms, but at this point, the guys you are going to likely be able to get for the price the Rangers are going to be willing to pay in terms of talent surrendered are going to be of the Derrick Turnbow/Dustin Nippert variety of Gump-box-of-chocolates mystery pack.
Personally, I'd just as soon see the Rangers roll with the guys they have and leave Feldman in the rotation. See of Guillermo Moscoso adapts well to the bullpen in April and consider bringing him up after the first month of the season, if he impresses. See how John Bannister progresses. Consider Neftali Feliz in a Joba-esque bullpen role, if he does well in AAA and there's not a starting job available.
But don't start jacking with the rotation guys, and open up a hole there, in an effort to fill a hole in the pen.