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The return of Kohei Arihara

Kohei Arihara was supposed to be out for the year, but he’s now expected to be back for September

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

An update on Kohei Arihara, the Texas Rangers’ injured pitcher who had surgery for an aneurysm in late May and was expected to miss the rest of the 2021 season...

Kohei Arihara is apparently no longer expected to miss the rest of the 2021 season.

Arihara has apparently recovered much more quickly than was expected, and after throwing a simulated game on Wednesday, August 18, it sounds like he could be going out on a rehab assignment this coming week. Per the Kennedi Landry story linked, the plan appears to be to have him in a multi-inning relief role when he returns — and his return could be as soon as September 1, when rosters expand from 26 to 28.

I had dismissed Arihara as a factor for the rest of the season when he went on the injured list, given what the reports at the time indicated. Arihara is in the first year of a 2 year, $6.2 million deal that will pay him $3.6 million in 2022, and given his lack of success before he landed on the injured list, if he didn’t pitch again in 2022, I figured the Rangers would put him on waivers at some point in the offseason and outright him from the 40 man roster. No one would claim him, I figured, and that would allow the Rangers to free up a 40 man spot, with Arihara still being under contract and in the organization.

And that still may end up happening. But Arihara will apparently get a chance to get major league innings again in September, giving the Rangers — and the rest of MLB — an opportunity to see how his stuff looks post-surgery, and whether he profiles as someone who can be a major league contributor in 2022.

Arihara was a good but not great pitcher in Japan, and the hope when the Rangers signed him this past offseason was that he could be an inning-eating back of the rotation starter. Arihara had four solid starts results-wise to begin the season, although the x metrics suggested that performance was a mirage, as he was not missing bats and was giving up a lot of loud contact. He had three straight disaster outings before landing on the injured list in early May, with his final line being a 6.59 ERA in 28.2 IP, with 12 walks against 17 Ks and a whopping seven home runs.

The Rangers will have to make a 40 man roster decision when Arihara returns from the 60 day injured list. They will have to make a similar decision when Willie Calhoun returns, and hopefully John King will be activated at some point in September, as well. That means up to three 40 man roster spots will have to be opened up. Eli White, currently on the injured list with an elbow problem, could end up moving to the 60 day injured list if, as is starting to appear likely, he won’t be returning in 2021. Joe Palumbo, who is out for the season, could be recalled and placed on the 60 day injured list. Texas could also opt to move on from Jordan Lyles once Arihara returns, or from Jason Martin when Calhoun is ready to be activated.

But in September, Arihara will join the guys like Jharel Cotton and Drew Anderson who are essentially auditioning for potential roles in 2022. Hopefully, the Arihara we see in September is better than the one we saw earlier in the year.