Veteran right-hander Lance Lynn has been named the Texas Rangers’ starter on opening day, a game that will be played more than four months after manager Chris Woodward actually made that decision.
Woodward revealed his choice Thursday. The hard-throwing Lynn got the nod ahead of All-Star lefty Mike Minor and Corey Kluber, the two-time AL Cy Young winner Texas acquired in a December trade from Cleveland.
The manager had planned to make the announcement March 13, but that ended up being the day after MLB abruptly shut down spring training because of the coronavirus. The season opener will be July 23 or 24, but the Rangers don’t know where or who they will play since baseball hasn’t released the 60-game schedule for the pandemic-delayed and shortened season.
“I can announce it now,” Woodward said when discussing the upcoming resumption of spring training, which will take place at the team’s new home ballpark instead of Arizona. “I’ve talked to all of them before this thing. I was actually going to announce it the next day. Unfortunately, we got shut down. They’re very aware of it.”
Lynn led Texas in wins last season, going 16-11, with he and Minor (14-10) both pitching 208 1/3 innings. Lynn’s career-high 246 strikeouts were the third-most in a season for the Rangers, behind MLB strikeout king Nolan Ryan (301 in 1989) and Yu Darvish (277 in 2013).
Minor got his first opening-day start last season for Texas, which factored into Woodward’s decision.
“They both deserve it, but at the end I felt like since I gave it to Mike last year, I’ll give it to Lance this year,” Woodward said.
Lynn and Minor joined Ryan and Bobby Witt in 1990 as the only Rangers duos to both pitch more than 200 innings and have at least 200 strikeouts.
Kluber made only seven starts last season for Cleveland, including his fifth consecutive opening day start for the Indians, because of a broken right forearm and an oblique injury during rehab. He won 20 games in 2018, the end of a five-year span with at least 203 innings and 222 strikeouts or more each season.
“I know Corey is a tremendous pitcher and a two-time Cy Young winner. But what Lance and Mike have done for our ball club … especially last year, they deserve that start,” Woodward said. “I went back and forth with Lance and Mike. I know I gave it to Mike last year and I talked to Mike about this. He did nothing to not deserve this start this year.”
Woodward said Minor was “very understanding” of that decision.
Lynn pitched the final game for the Rangers at Globe Life Field last September. They had originally been scheduled to open this season at Seattle, but the revised schedule could have Lynn starting the first game in Texas’ new ballpark.