Texas Rangers: Matt Harrison
Harrison's tightness is also a reminder that after three surgeries last year, there are no guarantees for the left-handed pitcher.
* LHP Derek Holland continues to rehab and progress, but as of now, the timeline is still about midseason. Holland could be a nice boost at that point for the rotation, but that's assuming he's healthy and ready. That won't be known for a few months.
* RHP Neftali Feliz, who was the favorite to close coming into camp, hasn't wrapped his hands firmly around the job yet. The velocity that reports showed he had in winter ball haven't shown up on any radar guns in Arizona. Feliz doesn't seem concerned and says he's building up arm strength and focused on secondary pitches, but he doesn't look like the guy that the Rangers were so excited about when spring started.
"We want Colby to be here all year," Washington said. "We'll ramp him up how feel he should be ramped up."
And that's cautiously. The Rangers don't want to take any chances with Lewis, who has been throwing well and feeling good this camp.
Other injury updates:
* RF Shin-Soo Choo is in the lineup today after dealing with what the club described as "spring training arm."
* SS Elvis Andrus (flexor tendinitis) is playing catch.
* LHP Matt Harrison (back) is scheduled to throw off a half-mound today.
* RHP Rafael Perez (hamstring strain) is expected to pitch an inning in Tuesday's Cactus League game.
* RHP Nick Tepesch (back) is scheduled to pitch two innings today.
* RHP Miles Mikolas (sore elbow) is progressing in throwing program
* RHP Shawn Tolleson (sore back) is progressing in throwing program.
There's no set timetable for that at this point.
* LF Shin-Soo Choo is not in the lineup because of what assistant GM Thad Levine called "spring training arm." Choo's triceps muscle is a little sore, so he's listed as day-to-day. The club does not believe it's serious. Read more here.
* RHP Rafael Perez (hamstring strain) is expected to throw a live batting practice Sunday.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back tightness) is scheduled to throw two innings in Sunday's Cactus League game against the White Sox.
* RHP Nick Tepesch (back tightness) is scheduled to throw Monday in a Cactus League game.
* OF Leonys Martin (back tightness) was cleared for baseball activities, but is not in the lineup Sunday.
* 2B Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis) threw to bases Saturday and has not had any setbacks as he continues to progress. He isn't quite ready to play second base in games yet.
Profar threw out to 70 feet Thursday and Friday morning, he added underhand flips and short throws to second as if he were starting double plays and said his shoulder felt fine.
The plan is to continue to progress and throw more each day.
* CF Leonys Martin is listed as day-to-day with back tightness, something that several Rangers players have dealt with this spring.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back tightness) reported no issues after his live batting practice session Thursday.
* RHP Nick Tepesch (back tightness) had no issues after his live batting practice session Friday.
* LHP Matt Harrison (back) threw Thursday and felt fine. He'll continue to slowly ramp up.
"I didn't overdo it," Harrison said. "But I did let it go a little bit and gave it some oomph to test the back out."
Harrison isn't sure what is next on his rehab plan but said his back felt "great" and he hopes to continue to ramp up.
Other injury notes:
* SS Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis) said he felt fine after his throwing session (he's playing catch and was throwing from 70 feet) Wednesday and will continue to throw.
* RHP Shawn Tolleson (shoulder soreness) and RHP Miles Mikolas (elbow soreness) will see Dr. Shane Seroyer, who works with Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session.
* Media relations guru Rich Rice sprained his ankle in a pickup basketball game. He's limping, but still working. Listed as day-to-day.
Of course, that's just Harrison's opinion. He'll seek professional advice from Dr. Dossett, the guy that handled both of Harrison's back surgeries last year, in an evaluation on Monday. But the fact that Harrison isn't feeling the tightness any more has him encouraged.
It also has him realistic. The left-hander conceded on Sunday that he isn't likely to be ready for the opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rangers haven't formed a plan for Harrison and won't until (and if) they get a green light from Dossett. But Harrison is now a week behind and that will inch toward 10 days before he can start throwing again, if Dossett gives his OK. Harrison will still need to start throwing again and pitch in live batting practice sessions before he could toe the rubber in a Cactus League game.
"This little setback set them on high alert and they’re probably going to slow it down a little bit, which I hate, because going through a healthy offseason and being ready to go it’s tough to get shut down," Harrison said. "But it’s early."
And it's smart. The Rangers need Harrison to make as many starts as he can in 2014. Rushing him so that he's ready when the season starts isn't the most prudent way to do that. Perhaps instead of making two starts and missing the rest -- like he did in 2013 -- Harrison can miss the first start or two and make 30 more.
"We want these guys to be strong at the end of the season," assistant GM Thad Levine said. "Starts in September and October are definitely more valued in our minds than starts in April. We want to make sure they’re healthy for the stretch drive."
Now, he's at least a week behind. Back stiffness -- which Harrison hopes is all it is -- has him shut down from baseball activities until he can get an MRI. That will happen today. He'll see Dr. Drew Dossett, who handled both of Harrison's back surgeries in April and May of last year, on Sunday or Monday to get completely checked out.
Harrison doesn't know yet how serious it may or may not be.
“There's obviously some concern there from what happened last year,” Harrison said. “I just hope that it's not a serious issue and something I can take a few days down and stay on top of my core program and get right back out there, and hopefully that's the case. But it's not fair to say that I'm not worried about it, because I've had a lot of issues recently.”
A stiff neck kept Harrison from throwing a scheduled live batting practice session Tuesday. He fought the decision and still wanted to throw, but the Rangers wanted to be cautious. Harrison isn't complaining about that now.
"I'm not going to argue with them this time, especially because I know how it ended up last year," Harrison said. "I may have pushed it too far last year. So we're still in spring training and get it taken care of now."
Harrison was asked if there was a "big alarm" going off in his head.
"Not a big alarm, but a little bit concerned," Harrison said. "The issues I had last year and it being some stiffness in my back, they want to try to nip it in the bud as soon as possible and get it checked out by Dossett and make sure it's nothing serious going on.
"I felt 100 percent coming in here, but it's a little bit different -- the offseason program as it is when you get out there and you start doing everything 100 percent," Harrison said. "(That's when) your adrenaline is going, and so I really don't know what happened."
* C Geovany Soto has left Achilles soreness. He can do everything but run and could still be ready for intrasquad games next week.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back stiffness) is tossing today but won't throw a live BP session.
Scheppers said he hurt his back doing squats Tuesday morning, which forced him to miss his scheduled live batting practice session with the rest of the pitchers.
"We'll just give it a couple of days and I should be out there," Scheppers said.
The 27-year-old right-hander has been stretched out to start this spring. The last time he was arrived in Surprise attempting to start, back trouble kept it from happening. But Scheppers doesn't see any similarities.
"If it happened while I was pitching, that would be one thing," Scheppers said. "But this was just lifting weights."
Scheppers said he did spend more time this offseason strengthening his legs knowing that he was coming into camp attempting to start. Of course, being stretched out to start doesn't mean much when the spring ends. Scheppers was one of the club's setup relievers last season and could wind up in that role -- or maybe even as the closer depending on how things develop. So his top job right now is getting healthy.
Team physician Dr. Keith Meister returns to camp Thursday and will take a look at Scheppers.
* SS Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis): The youngster said he isn't too concerned about his shoulder, which gave him enough discomfort this week that he won't throw for another week, and will use the time to work on all of the other aspects of second base.
* LHP Matt Harrison (neck): He said he felt better today, but will just do conditioning and PFP on the field. Dr. Meister will evaluate Harrison as well.
* RHP Ben Rowen (biceps tendinitis): Will see Dr. Meister this week, but is not throwing. MRI was clear.
* RHP Roman Mendez (olecranon stress fracture): Threw bullpen Tuesday and had no issues.
"We're going to be cautious," Daniels said. "He wants to throw and says it doesn't bother him on the mound, but we'll take it easy anyway."
Harrison is listed as day-to-day.
Other injury news:
* The big injury news of the day is Jurickson Profar's shoulder, which bothered him throwing Monday to the point that he is now going to take it easy for another week. The setback means he likely won't play second base in Cactus League games until the second or third week of March. You can read all about that here.
* RHP Daniel Bard: His back feels better and he's doing conditioning, but still isn't throwing because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in January.
* RHP Roman Mendez (olecranon stress fracture): Scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday.
* RHP Ben Rowen (biceps tendinitis): Played catch Monday and had continued discomfort. He had an MRI that was clear, but won't throw until team physician Dr. Keith Meister clears him to throw.
* RHP Shawn Tolleson (ankle): Came out of Monday's session feeling good and is scheduled to do everything Tuesday. Assuming he's OK, he wouldn't be on the injury report after today.
But for a guy who hasn't pitched since April and someone who knows a big part of the rotation is still on crutches right now, that won't be easy.
That's not going to be easy to do. The reality is that this rotation needs the Harrison who was so consistent in 2011 and 2012. They need the guy who pitched nearly 400 innings in those two seasons, sporting a 3.34 ERA in that span. Harrison had 18 wins in 2012 and after putting together two solid seasons, earned a contract extension. But injuries -- first his back, then Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery (the second of his career) -- prevented him from doing anything after making two starts last year.
But with Holland's time line right now as midseason and the fifth spot in the rotation up for grabs, there's urgency for Harrison to step up and perform. He knows it. But he's busy trying to put that out of his mind and focus on continuing to build strength and get fully healthy for the season. That's the smart thing to do.
And that means staying patient.
"It's been kind of boring," Harrison said. "I started working out in October. It was a long offseason working out and getting back healthy, but it's what I needed to do to get right."
Yet even as Harrison tries to block out everything but his preparation, the pressure is there. The Rangers need Harrison to perform. And they need that even more now with Holland hurt.
"At this point, I don't want to put any pressure on myself. But I know I need to step up and be out there every five days and do my job," Harrison said. "Hopefully, I'm off the injury wagon."
That includes left-handed pitcher Matt Harrison, who threw 44 pitches in a bullpen session on Sunday and was pleased with how he's feeling.
Yu Darvish, who had an injection in his back at the end of last season, threw 34 pitches on Sunday and is listed as fully healthy.
Colby Lewis likely throws his first bullpen on Monday, but will do so on schedule. After coming off hip surgery, Lewis has been throwing at his home and the club lists him as "full go." The hip resurfacing was a rare procedure on a pitcher (in fact, there's no record of an active pitcher having it), so everyone will be paying close attention to Lewis' progress.
Other injury notes:
The Rangers are in the process of adding an external option to the rotation race, agreeing to terms on a minor-league deal with Tommy Hanson, pending a physical, according to sources. One source said it's likely that Hanson would make one salary at the big-league level and another at the minor league level, depending on whether he makes the club. You can read more about Hanson here.
But the club also has some internal options already set to compete for the rotation, which currently consists of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando. Not only does the club need to find that final starter, but also see what kind of depth options exist if another injury pops up (and it inevitably will). Let's take a brief look at some of the internal possibilities for the rotation:
Nick Tepesch: The right-handed hurler has worked on a changeup this offseason that he hopes to incorporate more into his repertoire, which includes a sinker and slider. He was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts and two relief appearances. But if Tepesch, who doesn't throw particularly hard, can add the changeup and mix his pitches, he believes he can show quick and marked improvement.
Michael Kirkman: He went from spring training star to struggling starter in a span of a month. It was an odd 2013. The 27-year-old was dominant in spring training and looked poised for a solid season in the bullpen. But he was 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA in 22 innings and a 2.318 WHIP. No reliever with at least eight innings pitched had a worse WHIP.
Kirkman looked at video and worked with his coaches and quickly discovered it was all mental. He is confident he's in a better place, thanks to hard work and some tweaks in his mechanics that he him feeling more comfortable.
Robbie Ross: He went to winter ball knowing that he needed some more work to be in the best position to compete for a starting job, something he really wants to do. The lefty struggled against left-handed batters last year, something he'll have to improve upon to be a viable starter. He's now had a couple of spring trainings and knows what to expect, not to mention some important experience over the past two seasons in the bullpen. It will be interesting to see how much winter ball helped him and how he does this spring.
Tanner Scheppers: The youngster is realistic about his desires for the 2014 season: He wants to start or close. Those are his goals. But he comes into spring training stretched out to start and that's his focus. Scheppers did well as a setup man last year and could end up in that role again. He was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, bouncing back in September after a rough August. Scheppers has started before in his career, making seven starts at Triple-A in 2010. But he's been a primarily a reliever since then.
Colby Lewis: Remember him? The veteran is hoping to make a comeback and the Rangers are excited by what they've seen on video of Lewis throwing at his home. He'll be on a different schedule from the other pitchers as he comes back from hip surgery, but we'll see how far he can come in one spring training. Lewis, of course, has vastly more experience than the other candidates and was the club's top postseason pitcher in 2010 and 2011 as the team went to two consecutive World Series. Lewis hoped to return last year and it just didn't happen. But he's ready to put two years of injuries behind him. He's a wild card in that it's unclear how soon he'll be ready.
Others will likely emerge and we'll see if the Rangers bring any additional arms to camp in addition to Hanson. But that final rotation spot should be one of the biggest storylines of the spring.
Martin Perez was going to face some pressure to validate his 2013 campaign anyway, but thanks to a boxer named Wrigley, the pressure just went up.
Wrigley is Derek Holland's dog and his sprint up the stairs and a clipping of Holland's legs resulted in knee surgery. The timetable for Holland's return is midseason. But that's all dependent on how well he recovers.
There's plenty of talk about who will take his place and that's another question we'll get to next week. But part of that is how Perez performs.
For years, Perez was considered one of the club's top pitching prospects. He worked his way up, only to run into command issues and lack of consistency. But when the call came for him to earn a rotation spot for good in June, he was ready. Perez was 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts. He pitched 124 innings and said he learned a lot about what it takes to be successful.
Perez was a nice surprise for the Rangers in 2013. They need him to be a consistent performer for the entire 2014 season. Last year earned him a permanent spot in the rotation and a long-term contract.
Perez showed he could pitch with more consistent command, dropping his walk total to 37 in 124 1/3 innings. Last year, he walked 15 in just 38 big league innings. He pitched with confidence and kept his team in games.
Now he has to do it in 2013, especially with Holland out for half the year. In a sense, Perez moves up to the No. 3 spot now behind Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison. And with Harrison having to come back from a season in which surgeries limited him to just two starts, Perez is critical to the rotation's success, coming in without any health issues.
Perez won't come to spring training trying to earn a job. He'll come knowing it's all about preparing for a big 2014.
The Texas Rangers left-handed pitcher hasn’t been hit in the head while on the mound, but he knows it’s something that could happen at any time. So if there is a cap that is comfortable that will help protect him, he’ll wear it. But Harrison and teammates Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman want to see if the new product makes sense to wear before committing to it.
“I’m not a fashion person, so I don’t care how it looks as long as it’s protecting me,” Harrison said.
Pitchers will have a chance to try the new caps -- designed to provide some protection for balls coming at pitcher’s at 83 mph, the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the mound, according to an MLB study -- in spring training. They are optional.
“I read a little bit about it, and my biggest thought was the weight and size of it,” said Kirkman, who will go to spring training to try to earn a spot on the staff. “I think it’s something you have to try out and see how it feels. But it seems like a good idea.”
Holland, who is rehabbing after knee surgery and could return to the rotation around midseason, said he’s seen some prototypes and is encouraged that MLB is working so hard to do something.
“If it’s going to save people, it’s definitely worth it,” Holland said. “It may take some time to find something real good, but it’s a start and hopefully it will help eliminate the major injuries. Anything that’s going to keep me safe, I’ll wear it. To see friends and other teammates that have been affected by it, like Brandon McCarthy, I’m going to be with them on it.”
McCarthy said today that he won't wear the new cap, saying "the technology is there" but that he doesn't think it's "a major league-ready product" yet.
Holland, Kirkman and Harrison said they’ve never been hit in the head by a line drive. But Harrison remembers watching Dustin Nippert, who pitched with the Rangers in 2010, get hit by a line drive that contacted his head hard enough that the ball went out to left field. Nippert never lost consciousness, but he was out for six weeks with concussion symptoms and headaches.
Rangers pitcher Eric Hurley was hit by a ground ball in the head and suffered a concussion and small fracture during a minor league game in 2011.
“It’s a very serious thing when you’ve got an object coming at you that hard,” Kirkman said. “I’m glad they are doing something."
Here are some highlights that the Rangers announced in a release today:
* Q&A sessions with Rangers executives, current and former players and announcers in the Rangers Hall of Fame (1st floor)
* On-field events to include running the bases, wiffle ball area, bullpen toss and catching pop-ups (weather permitting)
* Pitching, hitting, and fielding clinics conducted by Rangers coaches and alumni
* Free tours of the Rangers clubhouse and dugout
* Free play in the Rangers Kids Zone
* Photo stage with current and former Rangers players
* Rangers Baseball Foundation Sale
* Food and beverages on sale at The Short Stop Grill, Captain Morgan Club, and other Ballpark concession stands
* Merchandise on sale at Ballpark Gift Shop locations (NOTE: Majestic Grand Slam Shop is closed for renovations).
The Fan Fests will include, as always, autograph sessions. There are more than 50 current Rangers players and coaches who will be signing all over the park, including the Capital One Club, Captain Morgan Club, Batters Eye Club, and Texas Rangers Hall of Fame (3rd floor). Autograph sessions are scheduled at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., Noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.
2014 FAN FEST AUTOGRAPH GUIDELINES
* There will be five designated autograph sessions on Saturday where the first 5,000 fans in attendance at Fan Fest are eligible up until 1 hour prior to the start to participate. Participants will be selected randomly to participate by receiving numbered cards. The schedule for those sessions:
9:30 a.m.: Adrian Beltre
11 a.m.: Shin-Soo Choo
Noon: Prince Fielder
1 p.m.: Elvis Andrus
3 p.m.: Ivan Rodriguez
* All other Fan Fest autograph schedules will not be announced in advance. The main Ballpark video board, and television monitors throughout Rangers Ballpark will post who is signing during each session 1 hour prior to the start of that session.
* Entrance to the designated line will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals who use wheelchairs must adhere to the same first-come, first-served process as all other fans.
* When lines are at the designated capacity, an “END OF LINE” sign will be posted and no further guests will be allowed to enter the line.
* Players will sign approximately 235 autographs per session. Players will not sign beyond their allotted time.
* Prior to the 2014 Fan Fest, Fast Passes were sold online at texasrangers.com. Sixty guests will have the opportunity to skip to the front of each autograph session on each day of the event.
The schedule of individuals appearing on Saturday is as follows. PLEASE NOTE THE SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Any updates to this schedule can be found at texasrangers.com/fanfest.
Rangers Signing Autographs: Elvis Andrus, J.P. Arencibia, Adrian Beltre, Michael Choice, Shin-Soo Choo, Alexander Claudio, Prince Fielder, Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Luke Jackson, Rougned Odor, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar, Ivan Rodriguez, Adam Rosales, Robbie Ross, Jr., Tanner Scheppers, Jake Skole, Luis Sardinas, Nick Tepesch, Shawn Tolleson, Ron Washington.
Individuals Participating in Question and Answer Sessions: Elvis Andrus, Jon Daniels, Fergie Jenkins, Ivan Rodriguez, Ron Washington, Rangers TV/Radio Announcers, Women’s Baseball 101 with Emily Jones and Meghan Harrison.
Individuals Participating in Clinics: Bobby Jones/Steve Buechele (hitting); Andy Hawkins/Mike Maddux (pitching); Jim Sundberg/Ken Suarez (catching).
Fergie Jenkins Foundation Booth: Fergie Jenkins, Bert Campaneris.
Rangers Alumni Signing Autographs: Mike Bascik, Sr., Kevin Belcher, Rich Billings, Steve Buechele, Ray Burris, Mark Brandenburg, Dave Chalk, Tim Crabtree, Danny Darwin, Cecil Espy, Benji Gil, Rusty Greer, Jose Guzman, Donald Harris, Rick Henninger, Dave Hostetler, David Hulse, Mike Jeffcoat, Mark McLemore, Kevin Mench, Mike Munoz, Luis Ortiz, Claude Osteen, Jeff Russell, Donnie Sadler, Mike Simms, Dan Smith, Don Stanhouse, Ken Suarez, Ellis Valentine, Curtis Wilkerson.
FAN FEST TICKET SPECIAL: Fans can save more than 50% and purchase $8 Upper Reserved tickets or $15 Lexus Club Terrace tickets for select August home games during Texas Rangers Fan Fest. Offer is available online January 25 at 9:00 am through midnight at texasrangers.com/fanfest, or at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington box office during Fan Fest hours.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.