When the Texas Rangers publicly committed to having multiple tandem spots in the starting rotation, it was all skeptics needed to hammer Texas pitching. In fact, there were at least two road broadcasts during spring training that mentioned the tandem roles in a negative light, with one claiming that usually teams only do that if they don't have pitching.
On the contrary, the Rangers have too many arms they want to get long looks at this season. Even guys like Kyle Cody and John King are currently relegated to the bullpen because there simply aren't enough spots in the rotation.
Seven pitchers are currently assigned to the rotation, either as a traditional starter or in a tandem role. Similarly with Isiah Kiner-Falefa and his quest for a Gold Glove at shortstop, 12 games is hardly a big enough sample size to draw any finalities about how the rotation/tandem set ups are paying off. But the early returns are very positive.
To give you an idea of how good a 3.61 ERA from the rotation is, the Houston Astros had the same rotation ERA in 2019 — the last full 162-game season. That mark was third in all of baseball.
In addition, if you take away what could be an outlier with Kyle Gibson's Opening Day start, the rotation/tandem ERA drops all the way down to 2.96.
Again, this is an incredibly small sample size. We're not going to force any hot takes, stating the Rangers have one of the best rotations in baseball. Realistically, we could look back at this story in a month or two and say, "What happened?!"
As Texas rolls through the season, the tandem situations will be tested. Several of these younger pitchers like Dane Dunning, Kyle Cody, and Taylor Hearn will be limited in some fashion due to injuries and severe lack of innings over 2019 and 2020. That challenges the Rangers to get innings from a multitude of younger arms. Some of them may be ready for the big leagues. Some of them may not.
But we shouldn't ignore the fact that this group has gotten off to a great start. Kyle Gibson has looked very sharp since his Opening Day debacle. Kohei Arihara has improved over each start. Mike Foltynewicz has thrown the ball very well. Jordan Lyles looks more like the Milwaukee version of himself rather than the Pittsburgh version. And the trio of Dane Dunning, Wes Benjamin, and Taylor Hearn have flashed plenty of their potential, especially Dunning (nine innings, one earned run in two starts).
It should be interesting to see how this setup evolves over the next few weeks and the rest of the season. Regardless of where the Rangers finish in team ERA or the standings, this season is crucial for the development of their younger pitchers. And it's encouraging to see positive results from the start.