BOSTON -- Help could soon be on the way for the Texas Rangers pitching staff.
With his team posting a 5.02 ERA through their first six games of the season, general manager Jon Daniels met with reporters at Fenway Park Monday afternoon to provide updates on several key arms that could return to the team in the coming weeks.
Most notable of the bunch is starting pitchers Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison. Lewis made a start for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday, pitching five innings and allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits. The right-hander is the team’s prime candidate to replace left-hander Joe Saunders, who was placed on the disabled list Monday afternoon, in the rotation.
“Reports on Colby have been pretty positive,” Daniels said. “He definitely appears to be making strides, and there’s a good chance that we go there once we see how Colby bounces back from it.”
Meanwhile, Harrison started his rehab assignment last Thursday, throwing 41 pitches in two-plus innings of work before the game was rained out. The 28-year-old had allowed two runs during the outing as he recovers from multiple back surgeries that limited him to only two starts last season. Daniels said that the team won’t rush Harrison back as the team has until May 2 to call him back up to the majors.
“We’ve said he should be built up by April 23, but that’s not a deadline,” Daniels said. “We want to make sure he’s 100 percent and able to compete. Really, when he’s 100 percent he should be able to dominate before he comes back.”
As for the bullpen, Daniels said that right-hander Neftali Feliz has continued to make progress since being sent down to Triple-A Round Rock following spring training.
“We knew it was going to be a process, I don’t know when we’ll bring him back,” he said. “I think he could come up and be able to get guys out now but he’s got a chance to be a pretty dynamic back-end piece. We want to do what we can to get him there.”
The former closer and 2010 American League Rookie of the Year has fared well in two minor league appearances so far, striking out three and only allowing one hit in two innings pitched. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2012, Feliz was limited to only six appearances in the major leagues last season.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence with the work he’s doing and he’s healthy, that’s the most important thing,” Daniels said.
Ogando changes delivery: Although the results were less than optimal during reliever Alexi Ogando's appearance Sunday afternoon, manager Ron Washington was encouraged by the changes he saw in the 30-year-old’s delivery during the outing.
“He was over-the-top, getting more downhill, which got more velocity on his fastball and more run,” Washington said. “When you’re not as effective as you’re capable of being, you go back into the archives. You start looking at things, you start trusting stuff that people have already told you and find out that you can’t embarrass yourself anymore.”
Ogando allowed a walk and a hit in 2/3 of an inning Sunday, topping out at 94 mph on his fastball. Although it’s not the upper-nineties velocity that the team was used to seeing from Ogando in previous years, Washington feels that the right-hander still has a chance to get back to that speed this season.
“It’s going to happen. As soon as he continues to build arm strength I think it’s going to happen,” Washington said. “Once he gets about six, seven, eight or nine appearances out of that bullpen things will start to fall into place as far as velocity goes.”
Second base shakeup: For the first time this season a Rangers second baseman will play back-to-back games as Washington penciled Donnie Murphy into the lineup on Monday following a 2-for-4 performance Sunday.
According to Washington, the decision came as part of a plan to get both Murphy and Josh Wilson consistency at the position.
“I’m going to use both of those guys equally, nobody is going to get more than the other,” Washington said.
Washington said that Wilson will start at second both Tuesday and Wednesday.