Rangers consider adding depth to uncertain rotation
Yoon, Hanson emerge as club's top targets available in free-agent market
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have 32 pitchers coming to Spring Training, with 28 expected to be ready to throw on the first day.
The question is if they will add more before pitchers and catchers report on Sunday.
"We'll find out," pitching coach Mike Maddux said.
Do they need more?
"You can never have enough pitching," Maddux said.
That's why the Rangers are considering right-handers Suk-Min Yoon and Tommy Hanson. With the uncertainty surrounding their rotation, the Rangers have been looking to add more starting pitching candidates before Spring Training. Yoon and Hanson appear to be their top targets.
Hanson was 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 starts and two relief appearances for the Angels last season while being sidelined from June 21 to July 23 with a strained right forearm. He was a prominent member of the Braves rotation from 2009-12 and was 45-32 with a 3.61 ERA in 108 starts.
Yoon, who threw a bullpen session for the Rangers this week, pitched for the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization and missed much of the first half of the season with a shoulder injury. When he returned, the Tigers did not rely on him as much as they did in previous years. He appeared in 30 games, including 19 in relief, and was 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA and seven saves.
His best season was in 2011, when he went 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA while striking out 178 in 172 innings. He was also one of the top pitchers on a Korean team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and finished second in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The Rangers go into Spring Training with a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando. Another spot opened after Derek Holland underwent surgery last month to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. He is expected to be sidelined until midseason.
Right-hander Nick Tepesch is the leading candidate, but the Rangers are also going to look at left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman. Both were in the bullpen last season.
Right-hander Colby Lewis could re-emerge as a strong candidate. He has not pitched in the Major Leagues since July 2012 while recovering from major surgery on his right elbow and hip. But the Rangers continue to get good reports on his progress and expect him at full strength when Spring Training starts.
"He's feeling good," Maddux said. "I've seen video of him throwing, and he looks free and easy. He's able to get off his back side, that's something he hasn't been able to do (because of the hip) in a while. Now he can push off the mound. Before, he was falling down hill."
Lewis was 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA in 80 starts for the Rangers in 2010-12. He was also 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in eight postseason starts.
Harrison made just two starts last season before undergoing two surgeries to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. But he is throwing again and expects to throw his first bullpen on Sunday after he gets to Arizona.
"Right now I feel 100 percent," Harrison said. "I'm looking forward to getting out on the field with the guys."
Holland is one of four pitchers not expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training, according to Maddux. The others are Joseph Ortiz (fractured ankle), Daniel Bard (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Roman Mendez, who missed most of last season with a stress fracture in the right elbow.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.