Texas Rangers fans saw just how impactful young top-of-the-rotation talent can be when Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in his MLB debut a week ago. Now they're wondering if they have Strasburg-lite down on their AAA team in 23-yr-old righty Tanner Scheppers. Scheppers made his first affiliate start as a pro Sunday afternoon, shutting out the Albuquerque Isotopes over 4 innings and LOWERING his minors ERA down to 1.32 over 34 IP, with 48 Ks to boot. For as good as Scheppers already has been in 2010, what OKC pitching coach Terry Clark saw Sunday made him remark, "he's definitely getting better."
The plan, according to Clark, is for Scheppers to make four-inning starts over the next month, take one-week off to rest his arm, and then return to make five-inning starts the month thereafter before things are re-evaluated. OKCRedhawks.com's Bob Hersom writes ...
"They're going to control his innings and try to keep them right around 100 for the season," said RedHawks pitching coach Terry Clark. "If he goes another three games at four innings, that'll put him at 46 innings this year. And if he goes another four starts at five innings, that'll put him at 66 innings."
At that point, on that schedule, it will be mid-July. The all-star break is from July 12-14. So, Scheppers may work his final 30-some innings of this season with the Rangers.
"Whatever they want to do with those 35 innings, that's up to them," Clark said. "If the need comes up where he needs to go up there and help them before that, that's their goal."
The Rangers want Scheppers, who sits 95-98 mph, to be a major league starting pitcher. To accomplish that by 2011 they would expect him to be able to deliver 150-200 IP next season. Putting 100+ innings on his arm in 2010 while settling into a starting role at AAA puts him on track to tickle the lower end of those innings totals as soon as 2011. And if they so desire, the Rangers could add Scheppers' impact arm to the major league bullpen sometime during the 2nd half of this season, perhaps duplicating the sizzle Neftali Feliz brought to the mound during last year's stretch drive. Go read the Bob Hersom write-up and dream your little Ranger dreams.