Rangers lefthander Doug Davis watched Texas spend lavishly on free agents this winter and figured he wouldn't be around to meet all his new teammates. "I thought the team would trade me or Ryan [Glynn] and some prospects for a third starter," says Davis, 25, who last week nailed down the fifth spot in the rotation. "So I'm happy to be here."
Davis wasn't alone in his thinking: Most of baseball was waiting for the Rangers to augment their fearsome lineup with a quality starter or two. But they didn't—they made a run at Mike Hampton but lost out to the Rockies, and they thought they had David Cone until he went to Boston. Now Texas's postseason hopes may ride on the unseasoned Davis and righthander Glynn, 26, who will be the No. 4 starter. "If anyone should be excited about this season, it's those two," Rangers manager Johnny Oates says. "They're in an ideal situation for a young pitcher: They're on a team that will score runs and play good defense."
Davis and Glynn together made 29 starts in 2000 and, despite lackluster numbers (12-13 combined, and each had an ERA of more than 5.00), showed glimpses of effectiveness. Davis, who made 17 relief appearances in addition to his 13 starts, threw Texas's only nine-inning complete game; Glynn held the Dodgers hitless in the first five innings of one start.
Their performances this spring have been encouraging too. Davis held the Yankees hit-less in a five-inning stint last Friday, dropping his ERA to 1.35. In three starts against major league clubs Glynn had allowed only one run in nine innings, though he had a disastrous 10-run, four-inning outing in a minor league exhibition.
Neither pitcher has overpowering stuff, and their fastballs only occasionally break 90 mph. Davis, a 10th-round draft pick in 1996, has been a better pitcher since adding a cut fastball midway through last season. Because his four-seam fastball tails over the plate, Davis was pounded by lefthanded hitters when he tried to nip the outside comer. The cutter allows him to stay away from lefties and to bore in on the hands of righties. Glynn, the Rangers' fourth-round pick in '95, survives with a herky-jerky delivery. By slowing his motion this spring, he has improved his command.
"This spring has been a natural progression for both of them," Oates says of the two young starters, who will follow righthander Rick Helling and lefthanders Kenny Rogers and Darren Oliver in the rotation. "It's up to us now to support them and let them develop as major league pitchers."
What's Not To Like?
"The pitching in our division is as strong as any in baseball," says Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros, "which is just great—now that we have the unbalanced schedule." Karros's sarcasm aside, the return to a schedule dominated by intradivisional games for the first time since 1978 in the American League and '92 in the National League has met with near unanimous support from managers and players, including Karros, who says, "Now you'll find out who the best team in your division is, head to head. And we [the Dodgers] get a few more games in Colorado, which is always good for a hitter."
Players, especially on West Coast teams, are happiest that the unbalanced schedule will reduce travel and increase the number of games played in their own time zones. For players and fans, there may be a feast of late-season showdowns between teams fighting for division tides: Seventy-six of the last 94 games on the schedule are intradivisional.
There are drawbacks to the arrangement. Because teams are scheduled for only one trip into some cities, rainouts could create travel headaches if those games need to be made up on off days that require a return trip. In addition, teams in weak divisions may have an advantage in the wild-card race over teams in tough divisions. The Astros in the National League Central, for example, will play the Brewers and Cubs a total of 13 times in September, while the Mets in the East will face the Braves', and Marlins' deep pitching staffs 11 times.