The Rangers’s rotation depth has been dealt another blow, as right-hander Glenn Otto, who was scratched from his start yesterday with “right lat tightness”, tells reporters (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that he is set to undergo an MRI on the muscle after feeling more soreness this morning.
Otto, who celebrated his 27th birthday last week, made 27 starts for the Rangers last year, pitching to a 4.64 ERA that was 15% below league average by ERA+. Underlying metrics further underscore Otto’s struggles last year, as he posted a strikeout rate of just 18.2% against a 10.6% walk rate, with a whopping 8.9% of his batted balls allowed resulting in barrels. All that added up to a 5.21 FIP, more than half a run higher than his ERA. Given that performance, its no surprise that Texas’s offseason spending spree on starters that saw them acquire Jake Odorizzi, Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney, and Nathan Eovaldi while re-signing Martin Perez pushed Otto out of the rotation picture. Still, Otto figured to compete for a roster spot with Cole Ragans and Dane Dunning following the announcement that Odorizzi would begin the season on the injured list.
Though Otto was far from the favorite to secure that roster spot, it’s worth noting that virtually every team needs depth starters throughout the regular season, and Otto was sure to make appearances in the big leagues at some point this year even if he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. That’s especially true for the Rangers, who have a starting five featuring a handful of players who have missed significant time in recent years: deGrom and Heaney both failed to clear 75 innings of work last year, while Eovaldi has pitched more than 111 innings just once since the end of the 2016 season.
Should Otto join Odorizzi on the injured list to open the season and miss significant time, that lines Ragans and Dunning up for a battle to be the long man out of the Rangers’s bullpen to open the season, with the other likely headed to Triple-A to serve as a depth starter alongside Spencer Howard. That being said, it’s worth noting that both Eovaldi and deGrom are expected to open the season on limited pitch counts, meaning it could behoove the Rangers to carry both Ragans and Dunning into the season in order to have more long relief options available to shoulder the additional workload while Eovaldi and deGrom ramp up.
While few details regarding Otto’s injury are available, MLB.com notes that lat strains come in three grades, with the mildest ones requiring a recovery time of just a few weeks while the most severe ones can require surgery and a lengthy rehab afterward. With such a wide range of possible outcomes, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of Otto’s MRI, the severity of his injury, or the timetable for his return to action.