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Clayton Blackburn, Ronald Herrera likely out until June

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Rangers pitchers Clayton Blackburn and Ronald Herrera are dealing with arm problems that appear likely to land the, on the 60 day disabled list to start the season

MLB: Texas Rangers-Media Day Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Blackburn and Ronald Herrera, Texas Rangers pitchers who had been expected to start the season in Round Rock as rotation depth, are expected to be on the shelf until at least June, according to reports from the beat guys.

Blackburn was pulled in the first inning of a game earlier this week, and the fear at the time was that he had a torn UCL. However, the MRI showed a strained UCL, rather than a tear, so Blackburn will rest 4-6 weeks before resuming a throwing program. If all goes well, he will be back in June. If things don't go well...well, Tommy John surgery likely ensues.

Herrera, meanwhile, has a labrum problem and has been shut down. He is not expected to be back in the picture again until July.

Neither Herrera nor Blackburn were expected to be in the mix to make the team on Opening Day, but both were acquired in 2017 with an eye towards them being rotation depth — guys who could come up from AAA to be a long man or make a few starts if need be. With the pair on the shelf, the depth options now consist of Yohander Mendez and not much else.

As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if the Rangers try to find a way to hang on to both Jesse Chavez (on the 40 man roster on a non-guaranteed deal) and Bartolo Colon (on a minor league deal and eligible to become a free agent if he isn't on the 40 man roster on March 24). Texas could go with a 13 man pitching staff and stick both pitchers in the bullpen, or could put Martin Perez on the disabled list to start the season and try to use the d.l. to rotate starters on and off to give them breaks during the season.

Herrera and Blackburn almost certainly will land on the 60 day disabled list, which would open up a pair of 40 man roster spots. I wouldn't be surprised if the Rangers look to claim or make a minor deal for a Blackburn-Herrera-esque optionable starter to help fortify the AAA depth for the first couple of months of the season.