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Monday
Mar242014

The Art of Breaking

First, the good news. Spring Training is almost over, and the Rangers are a week away from Opening Day.

The bad news? The Rangers will head into the regular season with significant questions due to injuries.

Derek Holland was ruled out until the All-Star break well before pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, so his injury was merely the beginning of what has been a worrisome camp. It would seem that the Texas Rangers have studied the art of breaking.

Both Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar have dealt with arm sorness in various capacities since reporting to Arizona, which means that the entire middle of the infield has left us questioning what we'll see when the season begins. Things took a turn for the worst, however, when news broke on Sunday that Profar will miss 10-12 weeks with a tear in the Teres Major muscle in his right shoulder.

While many of us were expecting a breakout season of sorts from Profar after the organization traded away Ian Kinsler to make room for him, it appears that, at the very least, that goal will have to be halted until at least 2015. While expected to return this season, missing 3 months of the season will certainly hurt his progress right now.

If the news on Profar wasn't bad enough, the growing concern over Yu Darvish is something that is building up as the Rangers are apparently exploring contingency plans in case a stiff neck keeps him from being ready to pitch on Opening Day. As it stands now, it would appear that any further game action Darvish might get before the regular season would push his earliest start back to the second or third game of the season.

Darvish's battery-mate, Geovany Soto, now also has a question mark by his name after a sore knee left Soto even unable to stand up from his crouch during the 2nd inning on Sunday. While we won't know more until MRI results surface, if Soto is unable to start the season, it would leave the Rangers short at catcher. J.P. Arencibia would slide up into a starting role and Robinson Chirinos would likely be the backup. It has to be a least a bit encouraging to the organization that Chirinos has performed well during Spring Training action.

Out of all the question marks, Profar's absence will possibly create the most uncertainty, as the Rangers will need someone to play every day as opposed to being a part-time utility player. Adam Rosales and Josh Wilson aren't exactly names that exude confidence, and I'm not inclined to believe either one will provide much of a quality answer for anything other that part-time duty.

Rougned Odor would seem to be the obvious choice. Odor is one of the organization's top prospects, and while he has no experience above the AA level, there's an argument to be made that he might produce at least as consistently as Rosales or Wilson, but with a higher ceiling.

Of course, throwing Odor into Major League action could potential stunt his growth or, in a worst case scenario, rob him of any sort of confidence moving forward. The Rangers would definitely need to weigh the risks of that possibility with the potential reward of staying afloat until Profar is ready to return to action.

There's always the possibility that the Rangers could look for an external candidate to fill the role, but at this point, it's highly unlikely that anyone on the market -- and within a reasonable price range -- could be acquired.

And before anyone says it, I'll just say that, no, Michael Young isn't walking through that door. Kevin Sherrington has already asked and was apparently told that Young is happily retired, as he should be.

I'm not entirely sure what happens next, and I'm almost afraid to ask. At some point, the injuries need to end, lest the Rangers fall apart at the seams. It will be vitally important that Ron Washington be able to find ways to get his regulars rest throughout the season in order to prevent strains and the like.

One of the popular growing narratives out there right now considers how much responsibility for the rash of injuries falls on the Rangers medical staff. While it does seem like an easy target, and I'm sure there are things that the staff could do to improve the quality of medical diagnosis and treatment, most of the injuries suffered recently have been more along the lines of "freak accident" as opposed to "someone should have prevented this".

Furthermore, it's hard to fully get on board with that kind of thinking without having any sort of medical expertise. In other words, I have no idea how to feel about the role the medical staff may have played in all of this. Medical knowledge -- especially as it relates to sports injuries -- seems to be constantly and rapidly evolving, leaving much of our speculation to be a moot point in the end.

As far as what happens next? The only certainty seems to be that Profar will be out. The status of players like Yu Darvish, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Geovany Soto, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland will all be in question for varying lengths of time moving forward. The organizational depth that Jon Daniels has long been praised for will be tested, possibly like never before.

Honestly, the fate of the 2014 Rangers could hinge heavily on that depth. Not all problems can be solved by trading assets and spending money. Besides, making rash moves from outside the organization cost assets, especially prospects and cash.

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