Surprise position outlook: No. 5 starter

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
11:30
PM CT
Editor's Note: We finish off the starting rotation this week before heading to the bullpen as part of our spring training preview series.

Today's position: No. 5 starter

We've been able to assign specific names to each of the first four spots in the rotation -- Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando -- but that's not the case for the final spot.

[+] EnlargeKyle Lohse
Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports/US PresswireInternal candidates will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation unless the Rangers acquire a pitcher such as Kyle Lohse.
A lot of things could happen there. First, an outside option could still end up in the rotation. The Rangers have kept in contact with Scott Boras, the agent for Kyle Lohse, and if a deal for the veteran pitcher is reached, Lohse would slide in at that spot and there wouldn't be any open competition in the rotation.

But an internal fight is shaping up if Lohse isn't a Ranger. Texas has some pitchers that have either recently made their major league debut and want to get back for good or have pitched in another role and are looking to start or have come in as extra arms hoping to impress coaches and earn the job.

The main internal candidates: Justin Grimm, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross.

Grimm, 24, appeared in five games (two of them starts) for the Rangers in 2012, going 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in 14 innings. He had a solid first big league start, struggled in his second and didn't get another chance after that as he was filling in while the club worked around some injuries.

Grimm spent the rest of the season in Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock and was 9-3 with a 1.72 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 14 walks at Frisco, helping him earn Texas League South Division All-Star team honors. He had a 25-inning scoreless streak as part of his stint in Double-A. At Round Rock, Grimm was 2-3 with a 4.59 ERA in 51 innings (nine starts). He had 30 strikeouts and 16 walks as he tried to adjust to Triple-A hitters.

Perez, who turns 22 in April, made six starts for the Rangers in 2012 and was 1-4 with a 5.88 ERA in those outings. He was recalled from Triple-A when Colby Lewis went on the disabled list on June 26 and made his big league debut the next night. He went back and forth, being used when needed based on depth and injury. He spent the rest of 2012 in Round Rock at 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) in 127 innings with 69 strikeouts and 56 walks. He was inconsistent, but the club has shown plenty of faith in him and he's considered a top prospect.

Ross, 23, is the most experienced big leaguer of the group, having been one of the surprises of spring training last year. Ross came in to fight for a left-handed relief spot and pitched well enough to earn promotion to the big leagues despite just 38 innings in Double-A Frisco. Ross was 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 65 innings (58 appearances) for the Rangers in 2012. All of his action was out of the bullpen. He was 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA at the All-Star break. He ended up with 47 strikeouts and 23 walks.

Ross wants to start and has started in the minors. He was 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 21 games (20 of them starts) for Class A Myrtle Beach in 2011.

Others could wiggle their way into the discussion. The club has invited Kyle McClellan to camp as a starter, though he could end up in the bullpen. Perhaps Michael Kirkman surprises some folks. And others could be added to the mix between now and when spring training opens.

Who do you think will win the fifth starter competition? Will the Rangers sign someone else or do you think it's going to be an internal competition?

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182