ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister went right to the point about his starting pitching after a 10-1 loss to the Twins on Thursday.
"It all starts with starting pitching," Banister said. "We're going to evaluate every situation. We'll find a way. We'll figure out just how we are going to get better off the mound in a starting role."
Chi Chi Gonzalez, who may have to go back to Triple-A on Friday, took his turn on Thursday and once again couldn't get through five innings. He went 4 2/3 innings, throwing a staggering 124 pitches.
Since pitch counts became official in 1988, that's the most pitches thrown by a Rangers pitcher in one game without completing at least five innings. Gonzalez bested Bobby Witt, who threw 122 pitches in 4 2/3 innings back in 1988.
"It was just a grind from the first pitch to the last," Gonzalez said. "I had a lot of guys 3-2 -- walked a few of them -- and a ton of foul balls on 3-2. If I could have minimized those at-bats and all those foul balls, I could have kept my pitch count down."
The question now as the Rangers sort through their rotation is if Gonzalez will throw another pitch for them anytime soon, or if they can get Yu Darvish back from the disabled list by the time they need a fifth starter after the All-Star break.
The Rangers will decide on Friday if Darvish will make his next start on medical rehabilitation assignment either on Saturday or Sunday with Double-A Frisco. If it's Saturday, then it would put him in line to return to the rotation on July 19 against the Angels in Anaheim. That's the Rangers' fifth game after the break.
Darvish threw 42 pitches over two-plus innings in his first rehab start on Monday and is hoping to throw 60 in the next outing. If he does that on Saturday, it would set him up five days later for a 75-pitch rehab start next Thursday with Triple-A Round Rock.
If the Rangers wait for Sunday to get Darvish back on the mound, they would need another fifth starter after the break, whether it's Gonzalez or somebody else.
Gonzalez could end up back in the Minor Leagues on Friday no matter what since the Rangers won't need the fifth starter until July 19. By sending him down now, the Rangers could bring up an extra reliever to reinforce their highly taxed bullpen.
The bullpen could use help, because Thursday was the sixth straight game a Rangers starting pitcher was unable to complete at least five innings. Gonzalez started the streak by lasting two-thirds of an inning in a 17-5 loss to the Twins.
Over the past five games, Rangers starters have combined to pitch just 21 innings while throwing 507 pitches. That's just over 101 pitches per game or 24 pitches per inning.
"If you look at this stretch, that's where we are at," Banister said. "You look at the number of innings we've gotten out of the starting rotation, it has not been good."
The Rangers have had to use a position player on the mound twice in the last six games. After the Twins scored five in the eighth off Shawn Tolleson to take a 9-0 lead, outfielder Jared Hoying pitched the ninth.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.