Texas Rangers mull changes to starting rotation as two veterans continue to struggle

·3 min read

Two veteran members of the Texas Rangers’ starting rotation, right-handers Jordan Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz, have ERA’s above 5.50.

For every step forward they take, they seem to take a couple back in their next outing.

Heck, that can happen within the same start.

And with every iffy start they make, they further position themselves in the way of the team’s progress.

But change is afoot in the starting rotation. When the shuffling will begin remains unknown. It won’t be the next time through the rotation, and it might take a couple more turns.

Enter left-hander John King, who tossed the final three innings Saturday in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. King took the loss despite not allowing a hit, but a walk and back-to-back wild pitches led to the go-ahead run scoring in the seventh.

The Rangers want to see what King can do with a heavier workload. The experiment might be nothing more than pitching him in a tandem with rookies Kolby Allard and Dane Dunning.

Lyles and Foltynewicz, though, appear to be on their shortest leashes yet.

“It’s something we’ve internally discussed,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “We went to see young guys with where we are in the standings. If we want to make a move to that, it’s always something as far as dialogue goes.”

King is getting a crack at it because he has been one of their best relievers this season despite never pitching in that role. He was groomed as a starter in the minors, and has the pitch repertoire of a starting pitcher.

He has also been efficient. On Saturday, he needed only 38 pitches to record nine outs after Allard allowed two runs in six innings.

“I feel good about it,” King said. “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks. I really like the bullpen, but I’ve started my whole life. You just get in the rhythm of starting a game. It’s just more natural.”

The Rangers are short on starting depth, so stretching King out also gives them another option in case of an injury. The options at Triple-A Round Rock either aren’t ready yet or are struggling.

Left-hander Wes Benjamin hasn’t pitched well either in the majors or at Round Rock. Another lefty, Hyeon-Jong Yang, cleared waivers Saturday and was assigned outright to Round Rock.

Right-hander Tyler Phillips was promoted to Round Rock on Thursday but is still building up after being shut down with minor elbow inflammation.

The Rangers do not want to dip into their starters at Double-A Frisco, even though 2018 first-rounder Cole Winn, 2017 fifth-rounder Jake Latz and right-hander A.J. Alexy, part of the Yu Darvish trade in 2017, were at big-league spring training this year and have pitched well this season.

So, King it is.

“He’s pitched really well, and we want to see what that looks like in an extended look,” Woodward said. “We felt like if we’re going to use him in a multi-inning role, we may as well build him up a little bit and kind of go from there.”

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