Dempster isn't Hamels or Lee, so Rangers rotation remains questionable

NEW YORK -- Remember, Ryan Dempster was never supposed to be the answer.

Cole Hamels was going to be the guy who changed the look of the Rangers rotation, and sent them back to the World Series to finally win it. That's the guy they wanted. That's the guy they dreamed of.

Not Ryan Dempster.

Ryan Dempster was the guy who showed up at the last minute, the guy the Rangers settled for because Hamels re-signed with the Phillies, and Zack Greinke went to the Angels, and James Shields stayed with the Rays, and Cliff Lee stayed with the Phillies.

The Rangers knew what they really needed. They needed this year's version of the 2010 Cliff Lee.

They didn't get it. They knew they didn't get it.

Obviously, they hoped that Dempster would be better than he has been so far, giving up eight runs in two of his first three Ranger starts (including Monday night's 8-2 loss to the Yankees). Obviously, they hoped that the National League to American League transition wouldn't be as challenging for Dempster as it has been so far.

But Dempster wasn't brought in to be Cliff Lee. Dempster was brought in because the Rangers had lost two starting pitchers for the season (Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz), because Roy Oswalt was struggling (6.49 ERA in six starts) and because they couldn't find the quality reliever who would have allowed them to shift Alexi Ogando to the rotation.

They got Dempster, who has an 8.31 ERA in his first three Ranger starts. The same guy who allowed eight runs in just one of his final 52 starts with the Cubs has done it two times in three starts with the Rangers.

It's easy to look at the Rangers rotation now, with Dempster in it, and ask if it's good enough. It's easy to say it isn't, because it doesn't feature that one high-end starter that the Rangers felt they needed.

But a Rangers person made a very good point Monday: If the Ranger rotation isn't good enough, whose is?

Maybe the Angels, but if the playoffs began today, they'd be on the outside looking in.

The Rangers have been playing very well lately. With Josh Hamilton hitting again, they look more like the team that was baseball's best in the early part of the season than like the team that was only so-so in July.

And the rotation?

"I'm very comfortable with it," manager Ron Washington said Monday. "I'm very comfortable, because we don't talk any other way in Texas. That way they're comfortable."

They'd be more comfortable if Cole Hamels was here, or if James Shields was here. But they're not.

They'll be comfortable enough if Derek Holland pitches as well as he can, and if Matt Harrison pitches as well as he can, and if Yu Darvish figures out that in this league, he'd better throw strikes with some regularity.

It's not the way the Rangers planned it. They planned to go get someone else -- and not Ryan Dempster.

It would have been easier that way. It can still work this way.

We'll find out in October.

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