DeGrom delay shows potential peril for new Rangers pitchers

February 18, 2023 GMT
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Texas Rangers pitcher Jake Odorizzi throws during spring training baseball practice Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Texas Rangers pitcher Jake Odorizzi throws during spring training baseball practice Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The continued delay of Jacob deGrom’s debut at spring training shows the potentially perilous situation the Texas Rangers could have with the veteran starting pitchers they added during the offseason.

Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner deGrom, former All-Star right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Odorizzi, and left-handers Andrew Heaney and Danny Duffy have more than 1,000 combined big league starts among them. Each is in his 30s and going into at least his 10th season in the majors.

Except none of them pitched a full season for their former teams in 2022.

Their biggest offseason acquisition was deGrom, who was limited to 156 1/3 innings over 26 starts the past two seasons for the New York Mets. After throwing off the mound a half-dozen times before getting to Arizona, the right-hander, who signed a $185 million, five-year contract in December, mentioned to Rangers officials before the first scheduled workout Wednesday that he felt some tightness in his left side.

“I did a lot of throwing, more than normal just to get in a good spot,” deGrom said. “And then, you know, I was very aggravated with something little like this too pop up. But I think the bright side is how good my arm feels and where my stuff was at throwing off the mound at home.”

Manager Bruce Bochy said he expected deGrom to throw “real soon,” but not Saturday. The Rangers have described holding out deGrom as precautionary, and not unusual. Especially the day of the first official workout with unseasonably cold temperatures in Arizona and rain-slicked fields that curtailed the planned activities of other pitchers as well.

The Rangers, after their sixth consecutive losing season, started the offseason by acquiring Odorizzi in a trade from Atlanta before retaining All-Star left-hander Martin Pérez on a $19.65 million qualifying offer.

Then came the signing of deGrom even before baseball’s winter meetings, and the additions of Heaney and Eovaldi on multiyear deals later in December. Duffy, who never pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year while recovering from left elbow surgery, is in camp as a non-roster invitee.

“It’s exciting. I think everybody should be excited. I know I am,” catcher Jonah Heim said about the pitching additions before going to spring training. “It’s going to be a great staff. If everybody can stay healthy, we’re going to have a great year.”

That certainly is the key.

“Ultimately we have targets in mind, in terms of opening day being a significant one. And then obviously, wanting these guys healthy in October as well, and finishing strong,” said general manager Chris Young, a former big league pitcher. “We need to have these guys over the duration of the season and if we’re going to get to where we want to go, our hope is to be playing baseball in October.”

There were nearly 13 months between big league appearances for deGrom before he went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 starts after his ’22 season debut on Aug. 2. He had a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021 before missing the final three months with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow, then was shut down late in spring training last year because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

Eovaldi ($34 million, two-year deal with vesting option for 2025) had an AL-high 32 starts for Boston in 2021, and the Texas native was 6-3 with a 3.87 ERA while limited to 20 starts last year because of shoulder and leg injuries. Heaney ($25 million, two-year deal) was 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 16 games for the Dodgers while dealing with a pair of shoulder injuries. Odorizzi had 22 starts combined for Atlanta and Houston in a season interrupted by a leg injury.

Pérez, who rejoined Texas at the start of spring training last year, was 12-8 with a 2.89 ERA in 32 starts. Young right-hander Dane Dunning made 29 starts, but had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip at the end of last season.

Jon Gray got a $56 million, four-year deal from the Rangers at the same time they signed infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to long-term deals worth a combined value of $500 million before the lockout that preceded last season. Gray was 7-7 with a 3.96 ERA, but had three IL stints.

“We have a lot of new faces and hopefully, you know, the bigger thing is stay healthy all year. That’s one of our goals,” Pérez said.


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