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02/05/09 7:20 PM EST
Rangers to stand pat on rotation
Team won't look elsewhere for starter after Sheets deal falls through
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Ben Sheets was the one free-agent pitcher who really caught the Rangers' attention.
He is a No. 1 starter when he is healthy, he is from Louisiana and he has a home in Dallas. Club president Nolan Ryan clearly thought highly of him. Rangers owner Tom Hicks was willing to step out financially when the club had a chance to sign him.
But the Rangers are not going to look elsewhere now that a two-year deal with Sheets has fallen through because of his physical situation.
"Even if some of the other guys were still out there, we weren't going to spend the money," general manager Jon Daniels said. "This was the one guy that Tom was willing to spend on and rightfully so. He's a different guy. We were not going to go out and just spend money. Ben Sheets was in a different category."
The Rangers reached an agreement with Sheets on a two-year deal last week, pending a physical. But the results of the physical were not good. It was determined that Sheets had a torn right flexor tendon, and he will undergo surgery, according to a report at SI.com. That pretty much put an end to an agreement, much to the Rangers' disappointment.
"Ben is a guy that, in the right situation, we would like to add to our rotation," Daniels said. "But there are some things that are out of your control."
Sheets was 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts for the Brewers last year but ended the season with a flexor tendon injury that kept him from pitching in the playoffs. The decision was made at the end of the season to address the injury with treatment and rehabilitation rather than surgery.
The Brewers offered him arbitration in December and the Rangers met with Sheets at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. At the time, the Rangers felt comfortable enough with Sheets' physical situation to proceed with their interest. Sheets and agent Casey Close met with the Rangers again two weeks ago. Hicks was at the dinner, and that seemed to push the negotiations toward a successful conclusion.
Then came the news of the tear in the flexor tendon and everything came to a halt. If Sheets has surgery, it could force him to miss the entire season.
Now, the Rangers' rotation remains where it was before the agreement. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla are at the head of the rotation and Matt Harrison, a nine-game winner last season, has the inside track on the third spot.
Scott Feldman, Brandon McCarthy and Dustin Nippert will compete for the final two spots, although top Minor League prospects Thomas Diamond, Tommy Hunter, Omar Poveda, Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland are also in camp. Kason Gabbard and Luis Mendoza, who were in the rotation last year, could also get a look although they are both more likely to work out of the bullpen.
"I think if our veterans stay healthy and our young guys improve, we will be all right," Daniels said.
The Rangers may add one or two veterans on a non-roster contract. Jason Jennings, who is coming off flexor tendon surgery, is likely to be one of them.