Righthanded pitcher Kyle McClellan has been diagnosed with a strained right latissimus muscle that will prevent him from throwing for the next four weeks.
That puts an end to McClellan's already slim chances of making the Rangers' Opening Day roster.
McClellan, who had spent the previous five seasons with the Cardinals, putting up a 3.69 ERA in 378 innings (mostly in relief), is with the Rangers on a minor league deal, and was considered a candidate for the temporary fifth starter job. However, he was still recovering from a surgery that cut short his 2012 season when spring training started, and only appeared in one spring game.
Since McClellan won't even be throwing again until mid-April, he's obviously out of the picture for the Rangers' pitching staff for now.
There were seven candidates for the #5 starter job when camp began -- Martin Perez, Justin Grimm, Robbie Ross, Cody Buckel, Randy Wells, Kyle McClellan, and Nick Tepesch. Perez and Grimm were considered the favorites, given that they each started some games for the Rangers in 2012.
Buckel had a poor start to the spring and was shipped to the minor league camp early on. Grimm also pitched poorly, and has pretty much eliminated himself from consideration. Perez appeared poised to win the job, but then was hit by a line drive that fractured his left ulna, sidelining him until May. Now McClelland is also out due to injury.
That leaves Wells, an NRI who had a terrific 2009 season, and okay 2010 season, and bad 2011 and 2012 seasons for the Cubs, battling it out with Ross and Tepesch.
The easiest thing for the Rangers to do at this point would probably be to give the job to Wells. It allows them to put Ross back in the bullpen, where he excelled last season, and send Tepesch, who has spent just a half-season above A ball, to the minors for more seasoning.
But at this point, I think Tepesch is probably the favorite for the fifth starter's job. He's pitched well, shown poise, and seems to have impressed the major league staff. I dismissed him as a legitimate candidate for the job when I first saw his name among those who were identified by Mike Maddux as a possibility, but at this point, it seems like he has the inside position.
That's particularly true given that the Ranger bullpen is still unsettled. Joe Nathan, Jason Frasor, and Michael Kirkman all seem assured of jobs, and Joe Ortiz has pitched well, but none of the righthanders battling for a spot seem to have impressed. Given that, the Rangers may feel more secure with Ross in the bullpen, giving Ron Washington an arm he trusts (since at this point, Nathan and Frasor are probably the only relievers in Wash Circle of Trust).