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Rick Porcello, Kyle Lohse, and the #5 starter situation

Two weeks before the season, there's still talk the Rangers could go outside the organization for their #5 starter

Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross

Two different items this morning, involving the Rangers and their level of interest in two different starting pitchers.

Gil Lebreton has a column about Kyle Lohse, making the argument that the Rangers should go after him on a two year deal, even at the cost of a draft pick, as he makes the team better now, and if Texas doesn't sign him, the Angels might.

Ken Rosenthal, meanwhile, has a piece up about Detroit Tigers starter Rick Porcello, a pitcher the Rangers have supposedly expressed interest in, and who would be a decent fit in Texas because of his groundball tendencies. Rosenthal says the Tigers' asking price from the Rangers for Porcello is Nick Tepesch, Leury Garcia, and another prospect, while the Rangers aren't even interested in dealing Tepesch straight up for Porcello.

Tepesch, of course, is one of the last men standing in the battle for the Rangers' fifth starter job. He's impressed the Ranger coaching staff with his composure and willingness to throw strikes, and one of the compliments you regularly hear about Tepesch is that he's poised -- he's not someone who is going to let the pressure of being on a big league mound with a couple of runners on base and a stadium full of screaming fans get to him.

Tepesch's main internal competition for the fifth starter job appears to be Robbie Ross, the lefty who spent the 2012 season pitching out of the bullpen. Ross and Tepesch have both had solid springs, but my guess is that, if the competition between Ross and Tepesch is close, the Rangers will give the nod to Tepesch, since moving Ross out of a bullpen that has already lost Koji Uehara, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando and Mark Lowe from last season's pen, and which won't be getting Joakim Soria back until June, would leave the pen with almost no one that Ron Washington is going to trust in the late innings.

One of the disappointments this spring has been the performance of the righthanders vying for the 7th inning role behind closer Joe Nathan and 8th inning guy Jason Frasor, as Tanner Scheppers, Josh Lindblom, and Evan Meek have all had disappointing camps, and Kyle McClellan never got healthy. Ogando, meanwhile, has also had a shaky camp, as he tries to transition back to the rotation from the bullpen (after transitioning from the rotation to the bullpen last season, after transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation the year before).

And it leads to speculate that, if the Rangers are going to go get a Kyle Lohse (who I'm sure the Rangers are still talking to) or a Rick Porcello (who I'm sure the Rangers have some interest in trading for), it may have more to do with Alexi Ogando and the state of the bullpen than with the rotation.

As far as the #5 starter job goes, Colby Lewis is expected to be back in May. He's going to be in the rotation once he's healthy. Lebreton, in his column, says that the Rangers are wanting eight starts from whomever ends up as the #5 starter, thinking that, by that point, Lewis or Martin Perez (who was the favorite for the #5 starter role before he got hurt) would be able to step in and fill that role.

If you acquire a Porcello or a Lohse, then someone is going to have to go to the bullpen with Lewis is healthy. And the obvious choice at that point would be Ogando.

If Ogando and Ross are in the rotation to start the season, the Ranger bullpen looks pretty shaky. But if you were to acquire, say, Rick Porcello, and slot Nick Tepesch in the rotation until Colby Lewis is ready, that gives you a bullpen of Nathan, Frasor, Ogando, Ross, Kirkman, Derek Lowe (who, according to Ron Washington, is not a candidate for the fifth starter's job, so quit asking about it), and either Scheppers or Lindblom. And all of the sudden, you have a pretty nice looking bullpen to go with a strong everyday lineup and a solid rotation.

So it is worth keeping an eye on this situation...but it is also worth considering who it is the Rangers are really wanting to replace in the rotation at this point.