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Max Scherzer undergoes surgery for herniated disc, out until June or July

A Rangers rotation already filled with question marks just had another one tossed onto the pile.

Max Scherzer of the Texas Rangers pitches in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Three of the World Series at Chase Field on October 30, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

A rotation that was already full of question marks for the defending World Series champs just had another big one tossed onto the pile. Per multiple reports, Rangers righty Max Scherzer underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a herniated disc in his back, an operation expected to keep him out for most if not all of the first half of 2024.

While certainly a blow to the Rangers’ pitching situation, this news can hardly come as much of a surprise. Scherzer is pushing 40, after all, and we last saw him getting pulled from a World Series start due to a reaggravation of the back pain that had been nagging him all year long. Apparently that pain stemmed from a more systemic issue, and it makes sense that Scherzer would want to address it in the offseason and hopefully put it behind him rather than try to pitch through it and risk having it derail things again.

Still, it leaves Texas’ rotation in a tough spot. Scherzer pitched to a 3.20 ERA after coming to Texas at last year’s deadline, and his resume needs no introduction. We touched on this earlier in response to the team’s signing of former Twins righty Tyler Mahle, but the Rangers entered this offseason with precious few known quantities — and that was before we knew that Scherzer would be out of commission for at least three or four months. With the future Hall of Famer out of commission — and with Mahle and Jacob deGrom both recovering from Tommy John surgery — here’s a complete list of Texas’ healthy starting pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney and Jon Gray. That’s less than ideal, especially considering that Eovaldi is coming off a forearm strain of his own this past September and has a long list of injuries in his recent past.

The Rangers have some internal options to turn to, including top high Minors prospects like Jack Leiter and Owen White. But expect this news to amp up the urgency for GM Chris Young on the market, with a reunion with postseason hero Jordan Montgomery making a ton of sense. If Texas misses out on the veteran lefty — or, honestly, even if they do resign him — names like Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman and Hyun-Jin Ryu could be good fits. The Rangers have also been rumored in connection with hometown hero Clayton Kershaw, but Kershaw is coming off a shoulder operation himself that’s expected to keep him out until the second half of next season.