Rangers general manager Chris Young provided some updates on injured pitchers to members of the media today, including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News and Jeff Wilson of Rangers Today (Twitter links). Right-hander Glenn Otto, who recently underwent an MRI for right lat tightness, will be shut down for three weeks and be re-examined by Dr. Keith Meister on Monday. As for right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who is dealing with arm fatigue and expected to start the season on the injured list, Young says he will likely be out “longer than shorter.” Elsewhere on the club’s pitching front, Kennedi Landry of MLB.com reports that righty Joe Barlow has been optioned to Triple-A, while righty Dominic Leone has been released from his minor league deal, according to the transactions tracker at MLB.com.
Otto, 27, made 27 starts for the Rangers last year, posting a 4.64 ERA. He might have actually been lucky to keep runs off the board at that pace, as his 18.2% strikeout rate and 10.6% walk rate were both subpar, while his .255 batting average on balls in play was well below the .289 league average. The club pushed him down the depth chart with a busy offseason, acquiring Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney and Odorizzi.
Although Otto wasn’t likely to make the club’s roster on Opening Day, it’s still a notable subtraction from their starting depth. No team goes through an entire major league season using just five starters, meaning depth options will be used at some point. Otto still has a full slate of options, allowing the club to keep a guy with notable major league experience in Triple-A. Now he seems ticketed for an extended absence. Even if a three-week shutdown period helps him recover from his injury, he would then have to ramp back up at that point, which is why a trip to the 60-day IL seems to be on the table.
Compounding the issue is the fact that Odorizzi seems to slated for a significant absence as well. He was the club’s #6 starter behind deGrom, Eovaldi, Heaney, Martín Pérez and Jon Gray, and likely would have opened the season as a long man in the major league bullpen. It was already known that he was going to begin the season on the injured list due to arm fatigue, but it’s possible he’s a facing a meaningful absence. Young’s “longer than shorter” comment is incredibly vague but is obviously not encouraging.
Odorizzi split last year between Houston and Atlanta, making 22 starts between the two clubs. He posted a 4.40 ERA with a 19% strikeout rate, 7.7% walk rate and 31.7% ground ball rate. He exercised a $12.5MM player option in his contract but Atlanta flipped him to the Rangers, paying down $10MM of the deal while getting lefty Kolby Allard in return. Though Odorizzi’s 2022 numbers aren’t incredibly exciting, he’s better than the #6 starter on many clubs around the league.
Though the Rangers still have a healthy front five, they are now without two of their better depth options. That’s a notable development, given the injury histories of guys like deGrom, Eovaldi and Heaney. They have some other starters on the 40-man, such as Spencer Howard, Cole Winn, Zak Kent, Owen White and Ricky Vanasco, though Howard is the only one with any major league experience. He has a 7.09 ERA in his 111 2/3 MLB innings thus far. Cole Ragans and Dane Dunning are probably first in line for a rotation spot if one opens up, though they seem ticketed to start the season in the major league bullpen.
Turning to the relievers, Barlow has a 2.81 ERA in 64 major league innings over the past two seasons. It’s somewhat surprising to see him optioned after that performance, but Landry relays that both Young and Barlow mentioned that his velocity is down. He underwent wrist surgery in November and could be still building up his strength or perhaps his mechanics have been altered post-surgery. Either way, he’ll head to the minors to try to get into a good groove.
Leone, 31, is a veteran who has appeared in each of the past nine seasons. He made 55 appearances for the Giants last year with a 4.01 ERA, 23.4% strikeout rate, 10.8% walk rate and 38.9% ground ball rate. He tossed 8 1/3 innings here in spring with a 2.16 ERA, but he walked eight batters while striking out five. It seems the Rangers didn’t have a spot for him and will let him return to the open market to look for his next opportunity.