Rangers, please don’t do this to your best arm

Credit: Paul Moseley

Credit: Paul Moseley

As a starting pitcher Matt Bush remains the Texas Rangers’ most powerful reliever. Naturally, Bush is in the rotation.

The Rangers, a franchise that has assembled a quality five-man rotation once or twice in their history, now suddenly have six capable starting arms.

The Rangers will be selling crazy pills in their official team store this season.

A six-man rotation is the equivalent of having two quarterbacks: If you have two you don’t have one.

Bush has electric stuff that belongs in the back end of a bullpen, not as a starter every fifth day. Sorry, sixth day. He is willing, and he has the talent, but he is not built for the role.

Asking a power arm on a 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame is asking for an injury. He generates most of that power from his large trunk, but this is a guy who battled through shoulder and knee injuries last season when he pitched 52 1/3 innings.

But desperate teams do desperate things (see Colon, Bartolo).

Both Bush as a starter and a “Five-plus-one” rotation are terrible ideas partly fueled by the analytics crew that continues to usher baseball into a war of calculators, and this team’s need for a decent arm in a rotation.

Bush’s efforts to convert himself into a starter began on Sunday, as he made his first career pro start.

As a starter, he looks like a great reliever. Bush threw 28 pitches in two innings and allowed but one hit — a leadoff triple that deflected off the top of the right field wall in the second inning.

“I pretty much feel like everyone forgot about me when I was away from baseball,” Bush said Sunday after he registered six outs — five groundouts and one strikeout. “No one expected much, if anything, when I was fortunate enough to get signed by the Rangers. … For anyone who doesn’t believe in it, just wait and see.”

The only other time Bush has ever made a start as a pro was July 2010 in the Gulf Coast League as a member of the Rays organization, on an injury rehab appearance.

Actually, That’s a lie.

He counts his last designated start in high school. That was 2004.

“I made a start my senior year and we won the championship,” he said. “I got to hit at as well. We blew out the team we played and I went 5-for-5. In high school, I threw a complete game every time. I’m capable of it.”

In high school, he was 9-1 with a 0.42 ERA in 66 innings.

“In the course of history there has been many guys to make this transition,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He was trained to be a starter early in his career. We feel like he has the ability and the aptitude to do it. You should feel comfortable about him making this type of transition.”

The other recent times the Rangers tried this was Neftali Feliz, who was too lazy to put in the work. Tanner Scheppers’ move from the bullpen to the rotation was a bust after four starts.

Alex Ogando gave it a shot, but his arm refused to cooperate.

The great example of moving a guy from the back end of the bullpen was Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.

If you can tell me Bush is going to come close to Wainwright, do this move all day. In Wainwright’s first two big league seasons, he was a reliever in ’05 and ’06.

The Cardinals moved him to the rotation in ‘07 and he flourished in that role. He’s been a consistent starter ever since, with multiple All-Star appearances, and three times he finished in the top three of Cy Young voting.

The difference: Wainwright is 6-foot-7, 235 pounds. He was also a starting pitcher before he was promoted to the Cardinals in ’05.

Sports come easier for bigger people. Bush is blessed with countless physical gifts, except size.

The only reason the Rangers are contemplating trying Bush in the rotation is the desperate need for a quality arm up front. With all due respect to Cole Hamels’ career, and Keone Kela’s fastball, Bush has the best arm on the staff.

He says he can throw five pitches for strikes, which given his God-given ability sounds plausible. What is a concern is he can make 25-plus to 33 starts and approach 200 innings. In his two big league seasons, he’s thrown a total of 114 innings.

The Rangers would not be trying Bush as a starter if they liked five other candidates; they don’t.

So the five man rotation is now a “Five plus one.”

“We are headed towards that until we’re not,” Banister said. “It’s something we think as an organization that given the set of pitchers, it’s a real viable option for teams, and one that we’re going to continue to explore. I wouldn’t say that it is, as I stand now, it’s not etched in stone.”

Fantastic news. Don’t do it.

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