With the Texas Rangers advancing to the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, the club gets the opportunity to make any changes that may be deemed appropriate from their Wild Card Series roster.
The roster for the Wild Card Series for the Rangers was largely in line with what I had projected earlier in the week, with the two differences being Matt Bush being on the roster instead of Cody Bradford, and Jonathan Hernandez’s shoulder resulting in him being inactive, with Grant Anderson on the roster instead.
For the ALDS, I suspect that the same 13 position players who were on the Wild Card roster will return. I guess it is possible that Austin Hedges could be replaced by someone — Ezequiel Duran, as a backup infielder and righthanded bench bat, or Jonathan Ornelas, if they wanted to go more with speed and defensive versatility — but I think that the Rangers value Hedges’ defense enough that they’d probably prefer to use him behind the plate right now if something happened to Jonah Heim, instead of tapping Mitch Garver.
The real question is with the pitching staff. With three potential games in three days, Texas would have utilized, at the most, just three starting pitchers, and there was less need for length out of the pen than there was enough arms in the pen to avoid having to throw too many relievers two or three days in a row. The ALDS is a potential five games in seven days, however, with off days after Game Two and (if necessary) Game Four. Texas will need four starting pitchers, and your key short relievers will have more opportunities for rest.
The expectation is that Dane Dunning would pitch Game One, with Jordan Montgomery going in Game Two and, if necessary, Game Five (which, given the off days, he could pitch on normal rest). Nathan Eovaldi would get Game Three.
Which leaves Game Four’s starter To Be Determined. Jon Gray is on the injured list and wouldn’t be eligible to be activated until a Game Five, so he isn’t an option. The choices would seem to be Martin Perez, Andrew Heaney and Cody Bradford. Perez and Heaney were active for the Wild Card Series, while Bradford was not, so one would think that Perez or Heaney would get the nod.
Another possibility would be having Dane Dunning go on short rest in Game Four. Texas opted to go with Dunning on short rest in Game 162, going 3.1 innings and 54 pitches, with Martin Perez coming in behind him. Depending on how Game One goes, the Rangers could look to have Dunning start on short rest, then bring in Perez or Heaney behind him, forcing the Orioles to make a decision if they are platooning at first base and second base, as they have much of the season.
Either way, the structure of the series could work to Bradford’s advantage, with the Rangers potentially viewing his ability to give the team length — particularly if Heaney or Perez are expected to either start or throw multiple innings in a potential Game Four — as providing more potential utility than the possibility of using Grant Anderson as a situational righty. My guess is that we see Bradford replace Anderson on the roster, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they stood pat.
Which leads us, finally, to the Wild Card. No, not the Wild Card Series, the Wild Card in the Rangers’ playoff roster construction decision. Max Scherzer has been on the shelf since straining his lower teres muscle in his September 12 start against the Toronto Blue Jays. The expectation was that the injury, which normally has a two month recovery time, would sideline Scherzer for both the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
Max Scherzer doesn’t care about your expectations, though. Scherzer resumed throwing a couple of weeks ago, then threw off a mound last week, only to find it more difficult than expected. Hopes for a Scherzer return, already faint, were dashed.
On Wednesday of this week, however, prior to the Rangers’ finishing off the Rays, Scherzer had a bullpen session that he felt good about. The team said he could pitch to live hitters today. While Bruce Bochy said this morning that it was a “longshot” for Scherzer to start in the ALDS, he didn’t rule it out completely.
So it is possible Scherzer could be on the ALDS roster. If so, one would think that the plan would be for him to start Game Four. It would be, no doubt, with him being limited in how deep he could go, and would likely be a tag-team scenario, with Heaney or Perez coming in behind him.
It is unlikely. But not impossible.
Personally, my guess is that, if Scherzer is able to come back, it wouldn’t be before the ALCS (if the Rangers get that far). Having Scherzer available in a potential seven game series, with two off days, allowing Montgomery, Eovaldi and Dunning to all get two starts apiece on normal rest, would be much more useful than him making a short outing in a potential Game Four in a five game series. It would also give him additional time to build up his strength and his endurance, and have him healthier, and able to go deeper, if he did take the mound.
So I don’t think Scherzer will be on the ALDS roster when it is announced tomorrow. But if the Rangers are able to advance, it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up on the ALCS roster.