Martin Perez, the Texas Rangers pitcher who suffered a broken elbow this offseason that was expected to keep him out until May, has said all offseason that he was going to be ready to start the season.
Well, it appears he will be ready, but the Rangers are stashing him on the disabled list, instead. Perez is expected to be activated the first day he is eligible — April 5, 2018, the eighth game of the season, when he will be slated to start against the Oakland A’s.
The Rangers appear to be doing this to allow them to keep Bartolo Colon on the major league roster for at least the first few weeks of the season. Colon has had a good spring, and the Rangers are concerned about the lack of starting pitching depth in AAA, a situation that has been exacerbated by the injuries to Clayton Blackburn and Ronald Herrera, which have them on the shelf for the first half of the year.
So Colon will get a start or two at the major league level during the Rangers string of fourteen straight games to open the season, after which the Rangers can decide if they want to keep him in the bullpen in a swingman/long relief role as insurance. At this point, with Perez and Tim Lincecum on the disabled list to start the season, and Tony Barnette likely joining them, the Rangers could end up keeping Colon, Kevin Jepsen and either Jose Leclerc or Drew Robinson to start the year.
Perez and Barnette would seem likely to both be activated for Game Eight, and clearing one roster spot would be easy -- you send down Leclerc or Robinson, whichever one of those guys made the roster. Clearing another roster spot would be problematic, however. You aren’t going to drop lower than a three man bench, and the pitchers you could option -- Alex Claudio, Keone Kela, Matt Bush -- are the guys you presumably don’t want to option.
What the Rangers will effectively be doing, most likely, is juggling a fourteen (or fifteen, once Tim Lincecum is ready) man pitching staff through thirteen spots through creative use of the 10 day disabled list. If no one is really “hurt” when Perez and Barnette are ready to return, maybe Barnette gets sent out on a rehab assignment instead of being activated. Or maybe Jesse Chavez gets put on the disabled list with a random ache or pain. But one way or the other, it appears Texas wants to maximize their depth options, rather than risk losing a Colon or a Jepsen, only to see injuries strike in May and have those guys be unavailable.
And most likely, there will be attrition — someone will get hurt, someone will be ineffective, and the situation will likely resolve itself. Its unlikely all every pitcher is going to stay healthy and effective over even the first couple of months of the season. But until that shakes out, the Rangers appear to want to make sure they are covered.
UPDATE — The Rangers have released Colon, so apparently my assumption that Perez starting on the d.l. was to open up a spot for him was erroneous.