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One of the most critical elements for the Texas Rangers’ rebuild this season is for players to stay healthy, not just those on the MLB roster but also the legion of players trying to develop into major-leaguers.
On that front, the news delivered Monday by president of baseball operations Jon Daniels was a mixed bag.
Yes, most of the injured players are getting healthier and will play at some point this season. But the worst news, as always, trumped the good.
Right-hander Jonathan Hernandez, the Rangers Rookie of the Year in 2020, underwent Tommy John surgery Monday morning on his right elbow and won’t pitch again until next May or June.
Matt Bush doesn’t need a third Tommy John, nor is he a young prospect, but he will be out at least until the All-Star break with a strained flexor tendon near his elbow.
Jose Leclerc underwent Tommy John last month. The back of the bullpen was thought to be a Rangers strength, but now is in shambles because of ongoing elbow issues.
“It’s a significant issue for us and a significant issue for the industry,” Daniels said. “The arm injury risk is significant, especially in guys who are harder throwers. In general your harder throwers are your more successful guys.”
The list of Rangers pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery is a long one, with the worst rash coming early in 2019 as prospects Cole Ragans (2016 first-rounder), Owen White (2018 second-rounder) and Mason Englert (2018 fourth-rounder) were lost for the season and didn’t pitch again until instructs last fall.
For Ragans, it was his second Tommy John.
Ryan Garcia, the Rangers’ 2019 second-rounder, underwent Tommy John last spring and is currently in a throwing program that should have him in games later this season. Ricky Vanasco, considered one of the Rangers’ top pitching prospect, had Tommy John toward the end of last season.
Kyle Cody, who could be a solution to the Rangers’ bullpen woes, underwent Tommy John in 2018 and didn’t pitch against until making his MLB debut in 2020. He was a sixth-round pick in 2016.
The Rangers will choose which relievers work ahead of closer Ian Kennedy and lefty-hander Brett Martin based on performance.
A more proven arm should be back soon, perhaps this week, when lefty Joely Rodriguez completes his rehab from an offseason ankle injury. Demarcus Evans, a right-hander who made his MLB debut in 2020, could be ready by mid-May after an early-camp lat injury.
“We’re going to have to try it with certain guys and put guys in certain spots,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I don’t mind it. It’s going to put these guys in tough spots and see what they’ve got.”
While the news was good on third baseman Josh Jung, the team’s top prospect, Daniels said that Jung is likely to begin his season in late May or early June rather than early May or mid-May.
Jung is walking in a supportive boot without pain after having surgery late last month for a stress fracture in his left foot. He will have one more week in the boot before beginning light baseball activities.
While many thought he would be the Rangers’ starting third baseman by July 1, Jung’s MLB debut might be on hold until August assuming he doesn’t struggle in the minors.
Catcher Sam Huff, the team’s No. 2 prospect, is on track to open the minor-league season on time May 6 after an early-spring hamstring strain.
Outfielder Willie Calhoun will begin playing at the alternate site this week to continue getting game-ready after being slowed by a groin injury, and outfielder Khris Davis (quad) is two weeks away from playing in games.