TODAY: The Rangers may hold off on acquiring a starter due to Cashner’s relative progress, Sullivan writes. While the righty still may be a longshot to make Opening Day, Cashner might not be out of action for too long, so Texas could get by with internal options. Griffin, for instance, improved his stock with a good four-inning outing on Saturday.
FRIDAY: Cashner’s outlook seems reasonably positive, per an update from MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan tweets. The righty will have an injection before beginning a new throwing program this weekend, says Sullivan. Notably, follow-up visits to the doctor have not revealed any “major” problems with his arm.
YESTERDAY, 1:00pm: Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail now says, more definitively, that Cashner will not be ready for the start of the season, tweets Wilson.
10:07am: Right-hander Andrew Cashner has suffered a setback in his recovery from biceps tendinitis and will be shut down for another few days, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The latest injury troubles for Cashner now have his readiness to open the season in doubt, and Cashner is likely to undergo an MRI to give the Rangers more information on the issue.
Beyond that, the Rangers saw their catching depth take a hit, as Brett Nicholas will require surgery to repair a torn meniscus and be sidelined into April (Twitter link via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan). Furthermore, Sullivan tweets that Jurickson Profar jammed his left middle finger while playing in the World Baseball Classic, though there’s no indication that the issue is serious.
Certainly, the larger issue for the Rangers is Cashner’s timeline. Signed to a one-year, $10MM contract this winter, the oft-injured Cashner was penciled in as a likely fourth starter behind Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. Tyson Ross was signed this winter to serve as a fifth starter as well, but it was known at the time his deal was finalized that he wouldn’t be ready come Opening Day.
Cashner been dealing with biceps tendinitis since at least last week but was at least playing catch from a distance of 120 feet on Tuesday, Wilson notes. Even that level of activity, it seems, will be halted for the time being, however.
Texas does have a number of alternative options for the final two spots in the rotation, though none is without his question marks. A.J. Griffin is once again in the mix, though he posted an ERA north of 5.00 in 119 innings with the Rangers last season. Former first-rounder Chi Chi Gonzalez is another option, but the 25-year-old had an unimpressive season in Triple-A last year. Nick Martinez, Eddie Gamboa, Tyler Wagner and Yohander Mendez are all also on the 40-man roster, though Mendez has already been optioned out of big league camp. Veteran righty Dillon Gee is also in camp on a non-roster deal and has been healthy to this point.
While pulling one starter (or a combination of starters) from that mix to fill one spot in the rotation seems doable, it may be asking a lot of that group to ably fill two slots in the rotation of an expected contender in the American League West. It’s not yet known exactly how long Cashner will miss, but if he’s deemed to require a significant absence, then certainly one can imagine the Rangers looking to the remaining free agents or to some lower-profile trades to help fill out the rotation. Longtime Rangers fixture Colby Lewis remains unsigned, as do righties Doug Fister and Edwin Jackson (though Texas reportedly decided against making an offer to Jackson after watching him throw last month). Any talk of Texas adding an arm is, of course, speculative in nature to this point, however.
As for Nicholas, his injury thins out the Rangers’ catching depth but isn’t likely to have a significant impact on the team’s big league roster. Jonathan Lucroy and Robinson Chirinos are the clear top two catchers in the organization, although with each playing in the WBC, Nicholas’ injury does leave Texas a bit thin on catching options in camp while that tournament is in progress.