Rangers' rotation shouldn't be overlooked

Rangers' rotation shouldn't be overlooked

ARLINGTON -- Want a fearless prediction for the Texas Rangers this season? The Rangers are going to have the best starting rotation in the American League.

Really? Better than the Indians? Red Sox? Rays? Mariners?

Sure. Why not.

It is highly doubtful that the Rangers will produce their first AL Cy Young Award winner, but they will open the season with four starters who have won at least 14 games in a season in their careers: Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and A.J. Griffin.

The exception is Martin Perez, who won 10 games as a rookie in 2013 before being derailed by Tommy John surgery.

The wild card in all this is Yu Darvish, who is also recovering from Tommy John surgery and is due back somewhere around the end of May or the beginning of June.

Outlook: Darvish, SP, TEX

Oh yeah, about those injuries. That is the caveat in all this. Griffin also had Tommy John surgery two years ago, and Holland has missed most of the past two seasons because of injury. Plus, Lewis is coming off right knee surgery.

Given all that, it may be folly to predict the Rangers will have a decent rotation, let alone the best in the AL. But …

The talent is there. The fearlessness is suggesting they will all stay healthy and that Darvish will be at his best when he returns.

"I think we have as good a rotation as anybody," Holland said. "We have to stay healthy and get the job done, but on paper, this rotation looks pretty good."

The last time Texas had one of the best rotations in the AL was 2011, when the club was first with 74 wins and third with a 3.65 ERA. That rotation of Lewis, Holland, C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando stayed intact all year, combining for 157 of 162 starts.

"We've all got to stay healthy, but if we do that, it could be like 2011, that type of year when we won a lot of games and kept the team in the ballgame," Lewis said. "If we all do our jobs and give us six or seven innings, that will keep the bullpen from getting taxed and they can have a great year."

The Rangers are excited about their bullpen with all the additions they made last season. They are expecting their offense to be powerful and their defense to be solid.

The rotation seemed to be a point of concern in Spring Training, especially since the fifth-starter spot went unclaimed until the end and the other four weren't exactly overwhelming anybody.

But everybody made it through healthy, and that's all the Rangers wanted. Now that the season is almost here and the games mean something, a healthy rotation could be something special for Texas.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.