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Rangers lose Martin Perez and Matt Harrison to potential long-term injuries

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 19: Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees walks through the dugout following the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The elbow injury epidemic in professional baseball has claimed another promising young arm.

The Texas Rangers' Martin Perez has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL, the team announced on Wednesday. The 23-year-old could soon join the growing list of major and minor league pitchers who will require or have had Tommy John surgery since the beginning of spring training. 

Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez became the 34th known player to require the operation earlier this week. Perez would be the 35th if he goes that route. The Rangers will undoubtedly seek a second opinion, and Perez may be given the option to rehab with an eye toward returning in 10-12 weeks, but we've often seen that decision only delays the inevitable and pushes back the timeline.

It's rough news for a Rangers team that is still awaiting the return of left-hander Derek Holland, who suffered a knee injury tripping over his dog over the winter. They were hoping Perez would require only a short stay on the DL with inflammation around the elbow. However, once the inflammation went down, an MRI revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament.

Tommy John surgery would be a 12-15 month recovery, so it would be a huge setback for a kid the Rangers were relying on to carry a big load along with Yu Darvish. 

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Unfortunately, the bad news didn't end there on Wednesday. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News is also reporting that left-handed starter Matt Harrison has a displacement of a verterba in his back, along with significant nerve irritation, and as a result will soon have to make a potentially career-altering decision. Harrison can either face "living” with the condition and dealing with constant pain, or have spinal fusion surgery that could possibly end his career. 

Harrison returned from the disabled list on April 27 after undergoing two separate back operations during the 2013 season. He fared well in his season debut, holding the Seattle Mariners to two earned runs over six innings, but struggled to work deep in his three starts since. The discomfort had returned and became overwhelming during his Tuesday night start in Houston. He was removed after allowing three runs in 1 1/3 innings. 

For now, he'll be placed on the 15-day DL until he can collect more information and decide on his future.  

"The sheer number of injuries we’ve had is startling,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “But we’ve got to weather the storm. We’re not the only club going through it. You don’t change your expectations. The number of innings we’ve lost due to injuries are significant and it makes things more challenging, but I’m not going to sell our club short.”

For now, the Rangers will put Tepesch, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, and RHP Nick Martinez into the rotation. Daniels said LHP Joe Saunders, scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday, and LHP Derek Holland, who will throw in front of pitching coaches Mike Maddux and Andy Hawkins, could also become options for the staff over the next month. Holland, coming back from knee surgery, still has yet to begin a rehab assignment.

Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest summed the day up best: 

This has to rank right up there as one of darkest days in Rangers history.

— Anthony Andro (@aandro) May 14, 2014

At 20-20, the Rangers are struggling to keep their heads above water in a competitive AL West. It won't get any easier with a rotation that's basically Darvish and then pray for rain.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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