With the signing of Kohei Arihara
, who profiles as an inning-eating #4, the Rangers have a rotation of Arihara, Dane Dunning, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, and a fifth spot to be fought over by Kolby Allard, Wes Benjamin, Brock Burke, Kyle Cody, John King, Joe Palumbo, and maybe others. Although the rotation lacks last year's potential to carry the squad (which didn't go to plan, obviously), it does have stability and depth.
Back with the Rangers after brief flirtations with free agency are pitchers Tim Dillard, Collin Wiles, Sal Mendez, and Jesus Linarez. 2021 will be Dillard's 19th pro season and third with Texas. Wiles was the 53rd-overall pick in 2012 and will commence his 10th season in the organization. Mendez was a 40th-round pick in 2013 and pitched well in high-A during 2018-2019. Linarez holds the distinction of starting the last official minor league game played by the Rangers. In an elimination game during the 2019 Sally League finals, he replaced an injured Abdiel Mendoza at the last minute and lasted 4.1 scoreless innings. (Hickory eventually lost in extras.)
Joining them on minor league deals are utility man Charlie Culberson and Ex-Royals OF Elier Hernandez. The 31-year-old Culberson mostly recently worked for Atlanta and has played every position but catcher professionally. In the Majors, he's started at least 30 games at second, third, short and left field. He's a career .249/.293/.391 hitter in 427 games. Hernandez, 26, has yet to reach the Majors and has batted .261/.307/.371 across eight pro seasons.
What a year. Even with the vaccine roll-out, 2021 promises more of the same for a little while. I'm not optimistic about visiting Surprise in mid-March, or of watching an official minor league game on April 8, but maybe I'll get to visit Round Rock in May or June, and some of you will be there too, or in Frisco, Kinston or Hickory. I'm very much looking forward to writing an ordinary game recap.
If you've gotten through 2020 relatively unscathed, I hope you stay that course. If the year has harmed you physically, emotionally or financially, I hope you're first in line for better days.