Steve Busby: Rangers Still Have To Solve Pitching Problem

The Texas Rangers (62-44) were apparently not satisfied with the best record in the American League. They added Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran, among others, before Monday’s trade deadline – moves that figure to pay dividends in the postseason.

“I think people were really looking forward to the trade deadline,” former MLB pitcher and current Rangers television broadcaster Steve Busby said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They felt like they needed a shot in the arm, and certainly Jon Daniels and his front-office group gave the Rangers a shot in the arm. Maybe it wasn’t the kind of shot that folks were looking at. They were expecting Chris Sale or Chris Archer or a starting pitcher of note. What they did is they upgraded the offense, and certainly Jonathan Lucroy is going to be a help to the pitching staff in how he manipulates the pitching staff. (So Lucroy) and Jeremy Jeffress and Carlos Beltran (are) three guys that are going to make a tremendous difference in the ball club.”

The Rangers lead the Astros (56-49) by five-and-a-half games in the AL West. Based on the franchise’s deadline moves, it’s clear the front office believes in its team.

“I think that’s the way the Rangers feel,” Busby said. “The Rangers had that kind of feeling last year when the club acquired Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. I told Cole when he got to Texas that the impact he has had on the club took place before he ever threw a pitch for the Rangers. The guys in the clubhouse said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a legitimate shot now. We’ve got an ace. Now let’s go out and put it together on the field.’ I think they feel the same way about Beltran and Lucroy and Jeffress.”

The Rangers, however, failed to address their pitching woes. Texas has allowed 496 runs this season – third-most in the American League. The only teams that have allowed more are the Athletics (510) and Twins (545), who are in last place in the AL West and AL Central, respectively.

“I think you can win it with offense through the regular season; I don’t think you can in the playoffs,” Busby said. “The Rangers are going to have to solve the pitching problem before they get to the playoffs or if they get to the playoffs. That’s where you have to shut other teams down. You may play a lot of 1-0, 2-1 games, and you’ve got to be able to shut other teams down. You’ve also got to be able to play fundamental baseball and not make critical mistakes. In a close ball game, critical mistakes are the difference-makers, and the Rangers have to shore those two areas up: the starting rotation and their defense, which has kind of fallen on hard times.”

The Rangers will need Yu Darvish to return to form as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery, especially with Prince Fielder (neck) out for the season. Fielder, 32, hit just .212 with eight homers in 89 games this season.

It’ll be interesting to see what his future holds in Texas.

“That’s going to be a question that’s answered sometime this offseason,” Busby said. “There’s a lot of concern about Prince. Anytime you have two neck surgeries – I don’t care what sport you’re playing, if your neck’s bad, you’re going to be hurting. And Prince was doing that. The question that nobody is able to answer was when did this start bothering Prince, and did the first surgery ever clear it up completely? Same kind of surgery two times, and the discs were a couple apart. Same area of the neck, though. Fielder is not the kind of guy that’s going to say, ‘Hey, I can’t go.’ He’s going to go out there if he can walk. It’s just hard to say his neck was good. I don’t know if you can say that. The last three years, Prince might have been hurting the whole time and just never let anybody find out.”

For now, though, the Rangers were happy to improve their offense without having to give up Joey Gallo in the process.

“I thought definitely in a deal like that (for Lucroy and Jeffress) they’d have to give up Gallo and maybe even Jurickson Profar, who is playing at the major league level and playing well right now,” Busby said. “They didn’t, and I think the Rangers have to really feel fortunate. They have to feel they have the deck pretty well stacked in their favor as they look to maybe do something over the winter. But yeah, I was surprised.”

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