(actually published on 3/24 BTW)
Couple of items.
Evan Grant confirmed that Rupe has no remaining options. So any idle roster speculation that depended on Lucas' option breakdown chart was, well, idle. His spot on the 2009 roster was essentially guaranteed after the end of last season. In addition, we learned a couple of weeks ago that Eyre does indeed have options, which increases the likelihood that he will begin the season in AAA. He needs innings after his injury, but has been pitching well enough to earn a roster spot if it came to that.
The FWST reported that Moscoso would likely be groomed for a relief role after he was reassigned to Frisco in the first cuts of Rangers' camp. If true - and I am not convinced that we won't see him begin the season in the AA rotation - I fail to see how this move would maximize his benefit to the Rangers long-term rotation needs.
I have to think that such a decision, if true, has to be based on factors external to Moscoso's projection as a starter. It may very well be based on the performance of the bullpen during spring training, especially some of the vets that were brought in. Donnelly, Guardado, and Turnbow have not been very impressive, with the former two dealing with injuries, and Turnbow still showing control problems, though, admittedly, he didn't seem to come to camp at 100%. Also, a couple of longshots proved noncompetitive for bullpen roles, namely, Diamond, Torres and Bannister. All three exhibited severe command issues and will start the season in the minors and none of the three have pitched above AA.
In addition, if you look at the minor leaguers who might be called up, say, by midseason, to help the bullpen in case of injuries, there are still more questions. Garr, Laughter, and Strop have yet to pitch in AAA and Strop might begin the first month of the season in extended building up arm strength after his summer elbow surgery. Laughter is my "kometani" candidate for 2009 (along with Lueke) to flame out, having one of the worst 2nd halves of any Rangers' pitcher in 2008. Garr was slowed by shoulder issues but had a dominating final month and has appeared in a cactus league game so s/b 100% to start the season but you never know.
If you look at the bullpen on these three levels -struggling vets, near-ready prospects, and mid-season callups - Strop and Moscoso emerge as the only candidates who have the capacity to impact the bullpen with the dominant, swing-and-miss stuff of future set-up men or closers (in Strop's case). So if you look at it on a more general level in terms of mid-season bullpen needs, this move makes sense. Most of the prospects to fulfill future roles in the bullpen, say in 2010, will not have even pitched above AA to begin the season: Diamond, Strop, Moscoso, Bannister, Torres, Laughter, Garr. All of them have the talent to progress quickly, but all have some issues that they must overcome to make it to the Majors by season's end, much less at mid-season when the Rangers will likely have spots to fill. Strop and Moscoso are not only the most likely to help the soonest but the most likely to excel as elite bullpen arms among this group.
OK, so, this makes sense in general as a justification to convert Moscoso to a bullpen role now. However, the injury calculus could also have been the primary reason for the decision (if true). I tend to discount this as I don't believe TX would have traded laird for a AA reliever and DSL starter. I think their scouts believed that Moscoso could, should and would be considered a starting pitching prospect first and foremost; Moscoso was the centerpiece of the trade, Moscoso the starting pitcher. I have to think that TX scouts believed he could be a starter, but it is always possible that they changed their assessment of him after seeing him pitch over the last month. I doubt it but it is possible.
During camp, it was revealed that Moscoso was reintegrating his split finger into his repertoire. Before his sugery (he has a slight undersurface tear in his rotator cuff) towards the end of his 2005 season in short season ball, he used this pitch but stopped using it when he came back at the end of the 2006 season. The split might make him a better candidate for the bullpen, I don't know. All the speculation aside, I think he should be given every chance to prove he cannot be a starter. When and if that time comes, well, move him to the pen and promote him to AAA. If this kid has the stuff to become a better starting prospect than Diamond, Mendoza, Gabbard, Hunter and Feldman then this is just a no-brainer.