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Baseball

It Seems Like Every Ranger and His Dog Is on the Mend

If you think Josh Jung’s wrist fracture is bad, wait until the injury gods visit one of the many positions where Texas lacks a capable backup.
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The Rangers' IL includes: Lorenzen, Mahle, deGrom, Scherzer, Lowe, and Jung. Lorenzen: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports; All others: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung just hit the injured list with a fractured wrist and is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks. On the shelf, he joins teammates Nathaniel Lowe (strained right oblique), Max Scherzer (herniated disc), Jacob deGrom (Tommy John surgery), Tyler Mahle (Tommy John surgery), and Michael Lorenzen (neck strain). It’s a crowded list. Right now, if the Rangers had to move, they’d need some buddies to help pick up their ping-pong table.

With all those guys hurt, the Rangers’ injury luck may yet turn. Specifically, it could get worse.

For as many stars as this World Series-winning team has, the Rangers’ roster is not especially deep. Its pitching staff is especially thin while Scherzer, deGrom, and Mahle rehab. There are some unsettlingly easy-to-imagine scenarios that involve Jack Leiter standing on the mound in Arlington, typing “strike zone” into Google Maps.

The Rangers’ good fortune is that the injury bug keeps striking guys who have talented backups ready to go. Losing both corners of an infield might hurt most teams, but Ezequiel Duran and Justin Foscue boast lively bats.

But there are a lot of positions on the field where Texas would be less well-prepared for a broken wrist. What if Jonah Heim gets startled by a bull? Backup catcher Andrew Knizner pairs a .289 career on-base percentage with poor defensive metrics (foiling just 21.4 percent of stolen base attempts, and similarly unable to sell borderline pitches as strikes). Third-string catcher Sam Huff has a long injury history of his own.

Between Evan Carter, Adolis Garcia, Leody Taveras, and Wyatt Langford, the Rangers have a loaded outfield, one capable of mostly switching positions and covering for each other as needed. (The exception is Langford, who can probably only handle left.) But what about the middle infield? Josh Smith has already appeared in four games this year, and you have to worry about a guy who hit .185 across 90 games last season. Smith and Jared Walsh (.125 average last year) are backing up Duran, Foscue, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien.

Seager once missed a season to Tommy John surgery. But Marcus Semien never gets hurt, right? Our sexy iron man hasn’t had a serious medical issue since a wrist surgery way back in April 2017, which is so long ago that the NL Player of the Month was Ryan Zimmerman. Let’s hope he holds up, because Semien is so dependable that there’s no real backup plan. This is why sportswriters use the metaphor of insurance. You don’t need insurance—until you need it.

And then we have the pitching staff. Lorenzen is getting into game shape and massaging his sore neck—to act as a replacement for all those other injured pitchers. The bullpen is even more concerning. At time of writing, this year’s Rangers bullpen has issued 11 unintentional walks in 19.1 innings. They were the wobbliest, most heart-rate-raising part of the World Series run, and got few reinforcements over the offseason. Even before the elbow demons come to claim any tribute, this group may not be deep enough to last through the summer. (Another wild man, Jonathan Hernandez, just began a rehab assignment as he recovers from a nagging 2023 injury.) 

Looking at the attrition so far, especially Jung’s longer-than-expected wrist recovery, it’s easy to get complacent. So far, Texas has found a plug for every hole in its lineup and rotation. In that sense, all the team’s many injuries have been lucky. The Rangers can’t keep calling up top prospects at every position forever.

Maybe when the gang gets back together, they’ll all live out a healthy and happy 2024. It’s a nice thought. But there’s also a possibility that the next guy to tweak his hamstring or elbow is a catcher, closer, center fielder, or World Series MVP. If that happens, the bench in Arlington is going to look a lot less crowded, and we’re all going to spend a lot more time on YouTube rewatching the end of World Series Game 1.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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