Texas Rangers: Matt Harrison

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The big inning bit Tanner Scheppers again Thursday. The question now is whether Scheppers will start another inning in the rotation.

Scheppers said he isn't worried about whether he'll hang onto his job, and manager Ron Washington indicated the plan -- at least right now -- is for Scheppers to make his next start in Oakland next week.

[+] EnlargeScheppers
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTanner Scheppers fell victim to the big inning once again Thursday.
"It's nothing that's crossed my mind," Washington said when asked if he was considering moving Scheppers out of the rotation. "We know it's a work in progress. "

The Rangers staked Scheppers to a 4-0 lead and he couldn't hold it. Back-to-back home runs by Robinson Cano (his first with the Mariners) and Corey Hart tied the score in what ended up as a six-run third inning in the Rangers' 8-6 victory. Scheppers retired just one of the seven batters he faced in the third inning. Hector Noesi gave up a double to score the final two runs on Scheppers' ledger. Scheppers was finished after 66 pitches, but the Rangers' bats and the bullpen bailed him out.

"Those were not good pitches," Scheppers said. "They capitalized on it. They are good hitters and they are going to hit mistakes. Sometimes you get beat and you've got to tip your cap and focus on the next one and continuing working."

In three of Scheppers' four starts, one inning has cost him. He allowed a six-run inning on Opening Day, the five-run fourth against Houston in his last start and a six-run third Thursday. So 17 of the 20 runs that Scheppers has allowed this season have come in three innings.

Scheppers' next turn in the rotation comes Tuesday in Oakland, the middle game of that three-game series. It's likely the Rangers will look at their options, and if they decide to make a change, Nick Martinez is the logical choice. He pitches tonight for Double-A Frisco, and assuming he has no issues, he'd be on schedule to pitch in Scheppers' spot Tuesday. Martinez made his big league debut in Tampa Bay and allowed three runs on four hits in six innings with three strikeouts, three walks and two homers. It was a solid debut with family watching, though the Rangers lost the game, 5-4. Nick Tepesch and Scott Baker are in Triple-A as possible options.

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers starter Matt Harrison is scheduled to throw six innings or 95 pitches Saturday in a rehab start, and that likely won't be his last. General manager Jon Daniels said Harrison will probably need another one or two starts before returning to the Rangers. The club has a 30-day window for Harrison to rehab before they have to make a decision on activating him in early May.

Harrison and the Rangers had originally targeted April 23 or 24 for a return, but weather issues hampered Harrison's progress. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his last rehab start and is looking for better results this time.

"I've got to get more than 3 1/3 innings," Harrison said. "It's been rainouts and delays and more rain. I know you're supposed to ignore that stuff, but it's difficult when you're sat around a hotel for two days and haven't been able to go outside and then you pitch. I've got to stay healthy and be more aggressive."

Soto still recovering: Catcher Geovany Soto was in the clubhouse Wednesday wearing a brace on his right knee as he continues to heal from surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Soto said he expects to have the brace on until mid-May and isn't sure what the rehab process is after that, but he believes that he likely won't return to the big leagues until July. Daniels said there isn't a firm timetable for Soto's return but that he's still hopeful for some point in July.

"Basically, I'm just being patient," Soto said. "Mentally, it's tough. You come to the park and cheer on your teammates, but it's tough because I can't be out there helping them win."

Briefly: Derek Holland continues to progress and Daniels said he's probably even ahead of schedule. But he's yet to take any PFP or work on his lateral movement. He continues to build up arm strength with bullpen sessions.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Mariners 2

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
9:59
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Leonys Martin's single ended a wild ninth inning as the Texas Rangers earned their fourth walk-off win at home this season, 3-2 over the Seattle Mariners. Texas did all the damage with two outs. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, Mitch Moreland walked and then the Rangers got some help. Donnie Murphy's ground ball to short should have ended the inning, but the flip to second was high. The error kept the inning going and loaded the bases for Martin. A wild pitch scored the tying run, and then, Martin's single to left ended it. A few quick thoughts:

Pitch counts: It seems to be a topic of conversation every time Yu Darvish pitches, but the 27-year-old ace threw 107 pitches in seven innings Wednesday -- an average of 15.2 per inning. He came into the game No. 2 in the AL in pitches per inning at 12.7, nearly four fewer pitches per inning than his average last season. Darvish had two full counts in a 19-pitch first inning and didn't get much more efficient from there. Darvish adjusted by throwing more breaking pitches earlier in the count for strikes, but his command of his fastball and slider was not as good as it was in his first two starts.

Ambushing the fastball: Knowing that Darvish was getting ahead on hitters with first-pitch strikes in his first two starts, the Mariners came in with the idea of swinging at first-pitch fastballs and got a triple off one from Nick Franklin with one out in the second inning to get Seattle in position to score. A single by Mike Zunino plated Franklin. Darvish also walked Dustin Ackley with two outs, and that proved costly, as Abraham Almonte's single brought home Ackley to make it 2-0.

Where's the run support?: Darvish has pitched 22 innings this season, and his offense has yet to score a run for him. Not one. Blame Felix Hernandez for that Wednesday, but it's been like that all season. Darvish has no margin for error. On Wednesday, the Rangers managed just four hits and were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position while Darvish was on the mound.

Defensive issues: In the two-run second for the Mariners, Shin-Soo Choo charged Almonte's single but seemed to hesitate before throwing home. His throw home was off target and went to the backstop, allowing a runner to advance. A few innings later, Martin and Choo had a communication issue, and what should have been a routine fly-ball out glanced off Martin's glove and hit the ground. It was scored a hit but was another mistake by the defense. Texas has 15 errors in 15 games this season, which leads the AL, but the Rangers have made other miscues that haven't been called errors.

Hernandez dazzles: It sure looked like the Cy Young version of Hernandez on the mound Wednesday. He allowed one run (in the eighth) on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. He was lifted after just 96 pitches following Martin's leadoff triple in the eighth. Martin scored on Michael Choice's sacrifice fly. Hernandez threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. In three career meetings against Darvish (the other two in 2012), Hernandez is 3-0 and has a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts and three walks. Darvish didn't have his best stuff but hung in for seven innings, allowing two runs.

Briefly: Kouzmanoff's ninth-inning single kept his hitting streak alive. He's hit in all seven games he's played for the Rangers. ... Moreland's first walk of the season came against Hernandez in the fourth. He also walked with two outs in the ninth off Fernando Rodney.

Up next: Right-handed pitcher Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88 ERA) goes up against righty Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It happens a handful of times throughout the year, so you learn to cherish it: ace versus ace at Globe Life Park tonight.

Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez have pitched against each other before, doing so twice in 2012.

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Back then, Darvish was a big league rookie still trying to find his way. And it showed in both of their matchups. Darvish's numbers: 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA (11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings), nine strikeouts and 10 walks. Meanwhile, Hernandez allowed one run in 17 innings, with 19 strikeouts, two walks and a complete game.

But that's ancient history when talking about Darvish's progression. He pitched better late in 2012, even putting up a solid effort in the AL wild-card game, a loss to Joe Saunders and the Baltimore Orioles. Darvish carried that over into 2013 and was the Cy Young runner-up with a 2.83 ERA, a league-leading 277 strikeouts and a 1.073 WHIP. Darvish cut down on his walks and became an even better pitcher.

He's taking yet another step so far in 2014.

Darvish hasn't allowed a run in his first two starts (15 innings), while tallying 15 strikeouts and two walks. He went eight shutout innings against the Houston Astros, but got a no-decision as the Rangers scored the game's only run in the 12th inning for the walk-off win.

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Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
4:25
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- That's 15 straight series wins over the Houston Astros for the Texas Rangers as they secure their second 1-0 win in the past three days. It was the first time in club history that Texas had two 1-0 wins in the same series and the first time for two 1-0 games in the same series since 1982 vs. Boston Red Sox. Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings and Alexi Ogando got the save in the ninth. Texas now has three shutout wins in the first 12 games of the season and they move to .500 on the season. Some quick thoughts:

Perez loves double plays: Young Martin Perez found a nice pace in Sunday's game, pitching quickly and with confidence. He allowed four hits, but no runs and the double play was very helpful for him. He induced four ground-ball double plays, including one to end the eighth inning, his final frame of the game. Perez was leading the AL with five ground-ball double plays before the game started.

Long start: For just the second time in his career, Perez got through at least eight innings. The only other time he did it was Aug. 11, 2013 against the same Astros. In that one, he got a complete-game victory, allowing just one run on four hits.

Don't steal from me: Catcher Robinson Chirinos' arm was impressive on Sunday as he threw out two Houston runners attempting to steal. He nailed Jonathan Villar in the third and Matt Dominguez in the fifth. He has thrown out four baserunners this season.

Andrus ejected: Elvis Andrus argued a called third strike to end the third inning and was quickly ejected by home plate umpire Alan Porter. It was a low strike call and Andrus didn't like it. The ejection also brought an end to Andrus' streak of hitting safely in every game this season. He was at 11 games prior to Sunday, so he won't catch Al Oliver's club-record 13 in 1979.

Solid substitutes: Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy made their presences felt in Sunday's game. Wilson moved over to shortstop and Murphy came in to play second when Andrus was ejected. They played solid defense, and provided some offensive help in the sixth. Wilson led off the inning with a single, went from first to third on a single by Shin-Soo Choo and scored on Murphy's sacrifice fly, which game in the spot that Andrus would have batted in had not been asked to depart early.

Ogando in for the save: With Joakim Soria having pitched for two straight games, Alexi Ogando got the opportunity to save Sunday's game and came through. It was his fourth career save, his last one coming in 2012 as he pitched when Joe Nathan needed rest that season, grabbing three saves.

Defensive gems: Prince Fielder made a nice diving stop toward the first-base line to take an extra-base hit away from Jesus Guzman with one out in the fourth. Fielder worked earlier this homestand on his footwork and short-hops at first base with manager Ron Washington and will get some more work on other aspects of his defense before the homestand ends. But that was a very nice play for Fielder to keep the Astros off the bases. ... Josh Wilson, playing shortstop after Andrus' ejection, ranged to his left and snagged a line drive from L.J. Hoes, preventing a hit in the fifth.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Texas Rangers comeback fell short on Saturday, as the Houston Astros scored in the 10th inning and held on for a 6-5 win.

Texas tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but a triple by Jason Castro, aided by a strange bounce off the wall in right, put him in position to score on Jose Altuve's sac fly to right. A few thoughts:

Great stop: Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar made a terrific diving play, backhanding a ball to his right and throwing to first to get Alex Rios with Elvis Andrus at second and no outs in the bottom of the 10th. The Astros wiggled out of the jam and preserved the win. The game could still be going on if not for Villar's play.

Baserunning blunder: After Rios hit a double off the wall in left-center to score Andrus and make it a one-run game, the outfielder tried to steal third. He was caught stealing for the first out of the inning, preempting the rally. The next two Rangers batters got out quickly, and any hope of tying the game at that point was lost. Rios also had trouble with a throw back to the infield in the 10th, missing the cutoff man, though it didn't allow the Astros an extra base (that happened on the odd bounce off the wedge wall).

Right Choice: Michael Choice didn't start the game, but he came in to pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and belted his first career home run 412 feet into the Rangers bullpen to tie the score. It was only the 13th at-bat of the season for Choice, who hits mainly against left-handed pitchers. That included lefty Kevin Chapman in the ninth on Saturday, and Choice took advantage.

Two-out runs: Through three starts for Tanner Scheppers, he's had trouble finishing off innings with runners on base. That was the case again on Saturday as the Astros came back from a 2-0 deficit to score five runs -- four with two outs -- in the fourth inning to take the lead. Scheppers didn't allow a hit in the game until that frame but gave up three singles, a walk and a three-run home run to alter the game early.

Velocity up: When Scheppers was in the bullpen, he was regularly able to dial up his fastball to 95 or 96 mph. That didn't happen this season until Saturday. Scheppers touched 97 at one point and had that fastball in the 93-95 range consistently. That was an improvement.

Better finish: The fourth inning -- and Robbie Grossman's three-run homer specifically (with some help from the Globe Life Park jetstream) -- ruined any bid for a quality start, but Scheppers did bear down in the next three innings to get through seven. He needed 29 pitches as he retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced to finish off his start.

Hard-hit balls: Prince Fielder hit a few balls hard on Saturday, perhaps a sign that his timing is coming around. Fielder's single in the first was a one-hopper through the shift and probably the hardest ball he's hit all season. He also hit a long fly ball in the third. It's a small thing, but with Fielder struggling to do anything, it was noticeable.

Leadoff strikeouts: Neither leadoff hitter had a good night on Saturday. Shin-Soo Choo, who came in with seven strikeouts the whole season, had five in five at-bats, including four off Jarred Cosart (two of them looking). It was the first time he had five strikeouts in his career. The last time he had four strikeouts in a game was in July 2012 while with Cleveland. Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn't much better, striking out in his first three at-bats against Scheppers (one of those looking).

Did it hit him?: Carlos Corporan was given first base in the sixth on a hit-by-pitch that plate umpire Rob Drake said hit the jersey. But it sure looked on the replay like it didn't hit him. That is a call the manager can challenge, but the Rangers chose not to do that. The HBP came with two outs, and Scheppers retired the next batter to end the inning.

Briefly: Donnie Murphy got a chance to play second base and took advantage with a double, a walk and two runs scored. … Andrus has now hit safely in 11 games to start the season. The club record is 13 by Al Oliver in 1979.

Up next: Left-hander Martin Perez (1-0, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers in the final game of this series against Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91) in a 2:05 p.m. game.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have played four games in Arlington. They've won three of them in walk-off fashion. And Robinson Chirinos was the hero in the 12th inning. His single to right scored Kevin Kouzmanoff from second -- who got there by staying aggressive and getting to second on a ball in the dirt -- to give the Rangers a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.

It was the longest game (by innings) to go scoreless in Arlington since Sept. 22, 1992, when the Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in 13 innings. Nolan Ryan started the game for the Rangers with Pudge Rodriguez catching. Both Ryan and Rodriguez were at the game Friday.

Darvish dazzles: The Rangers' ace loves pitching against the Astros. Last season, he was one out away from a perfect game in Houston in April. On Friday, he had a perfect game through five innings before Matt Dominguez -- hitting .129 when the game started -- hit an 0-2 breaking pitch for a looping hit to left-center. Darvish retired the next three batters to end the inning with no damage done, but it ended his perfect game and no-hit hopes. In that at-bat, Dominguez hit a foul ball down the right-field line that Alex Rios nearly caught but wasn't able to (and it would have required he dive against the wall, which would have been risky). Shortly thereafter, Darvish gave up the hit.

Still, Darvish went eight innings and gave up that lone hit with one walk and nine strikeouts. It was a terrific performance. He now has pitched 15 innings of scoreless baseball.

Darvish established his fastball the first time through the order, then utilized the slider more the second time through. Once again, he was efficient, throwing 101 pitches in his eight innings of work. Darvish was in command and in control out there, not even getting to a three-ball count until he walked Jose Altuve with two outs in the seventh. It didn't hurt that the Astros rolled out a lineup that featured six batters hitting under .200 and another hitting .226.

Baserunning problems: Shin-Soo Choo did a terrific job of getting on base Friday, drawing three walks and a single in six plate appearances. But after a single in the 11th, Choo stole second base with one out and Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Choo froze rather than moving to third. With Andrus' speed, it would have put even more pressure on the Astros, never mind possibly putting the winning run at third base with two outs, should a wild pitch or something have happened. Instead, Choo stayed at second and the Astros retired Alex Rios to end the inning.

10th-inning issues: Texas had a great chance to win the game in the 10th inning, loading the bases with no outs. Houston brought in Marwin Gonzalez and inserted him as part of a five-man infield with no left fielder. The Rangers needed a fly ball and couldn't get it. Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder's choice with the Astros throwing out Rios at home. Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin grounded out to second.

Not quite in ninth: The Rangers rallied with two outs in the inning as Martin singled and Josh Wilson also singled, with Martin going to third. Choo had a typically solid at-bat, getting behind in the count but still drawing a walk. Andrus came up with the bases loaded and grounded out to end the inning.

Is that blood?: At one point in the sixth inning, TV cameras showed the top of Darvish's thumb was cut and he was bleeding a bit. It didn't seem to bother him as he continued to pitch.

Nice arm: Astros catcher Jason Castro threw out two Rangers runners Friday. He got Andrus trying to steal after Andrus didn't get a good jump to end the third, and he nailed Martin on a pitch-out call to end the fifth.

Nice catch: Martin had the highlight of the night, making a diving catch to end the seventh inning.

Offensive issues: The Rangers couldn't do much with the bats, though they had some chances. The best might have been in the seventh, when the Rangers put two on with one out and had the bases loaded with two outs and couldn't score anything. Houston opted to intentionally walk Martin -- the first time that has happened in his young career -- to pitch to Wilson and Scott Feldman struck him out to end the frame. Give Feldman some credit. His curveball was working and he pitched very well only two days after his father died.

Hesitancy hurts: With Kouzmanoff at first, Moreland laced a ball to the gap in right-center in the second inning, but Kouzmanoff didn't get a good read on the ball and hesitated. He ended up at third base but might have had a chance to score had he been running right away. That put runners and second and third with one out, but J.P. Arencibia struck out, and Martin grounded out to end the threat.

Big hand for Nolan: Ryan, a Hall of Famer and former Rangers CEO, was at the ballpark on Friday night and sat next to former president George W. Bush in the owner's box (his usual place from the past handful of seasons). He was shown on the video board between innings early in the game and received a standing ovation (while "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" played as background music).

Colby Lewis could join Rangers this week

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
4:29
PM CT
BOSTON -- The train is coming – even if it’s a slow-moving one.

With Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison still on the mend, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said Tuesday he's trying to to keep the ship afloat in the early going while hoping the starting staff he envisioned during spring training might soon come to being.

[+] EnlargeColby Lewis
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezWith Joe Saunders going on the DL, Colby Lewis could soon be joining the Rangers' rotation.
Lewis will throw a bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday and Washington maintained it’s the team’s intent to bring the 34-year told back to the major league club at some point during the week.

“Our intention is to bring him into Texas, and we’ll see how it goes,” Washington said before Game 2 of the Rangers’ series with the Boston Red Sox.

For now, Washington said the plan is have Yu Darvish start Friday against Houston, but Saturday’s probable starter remained a mystery. With Joe Saunders going on the disabled list Monday (retroactive to April 5), the possibility remains open for Lewis to return to the team at the end of the week.

Lewis has not pitched in a major league game since 2012 while recovering from elbow and hip injuries.

Meanwhile, Harrison completed 4 2/3 innings while throwing 62 pitches in Double-A Frisco.

Replay debate: During Monday night’s loss to the Red Sox, Washington unsuccessfully challenged a safe call by second base umpire Jordan Baker, asserting shortstop Elvis Andrus was in control of the ball during a force play.

Upon follow-up on Tuesday, Washington mused that he’ll place a suggestion in Major League Baseball’s comments and concerns box due to the umpire’s instruction to first call runners safe in such situations.

While snatching the ball, Andrus dropped the ball straight down after transferring to his throwing hand with Daniel Nava bearing down on the bag. Had Andrus dropped the ball behind his plant foot, perhaps the burden of proof would have headed in the other direction. But, things being what they are, Washington suffered his first instant replay loss and headed to the dutout dejected.

The Rangers emerged no worse for the wear, as Mike Napoli followed by grounding into a double play, yet Washington believes it’s an example of an area MLB officials can fine-tune in the new system.

“It was clearly an out; it’s not like he was bobbling it around,” Washington said. “The guy who gets the advantage on that is the guy that’s running down to first base because he can’t get doubled up, so the inning continues.”

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FRISCO, Texas -- Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was clearly more pleased with how his rehab start went Tuesday as opposed to last week’s rain-shortened affair. He hopes it puts him on track to return to the big leagues later this month.

The left-hander threw 62 pitches Tuesday for Double-A Frisco and lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run. His fastball, clocked between 89 and 91 mph, had good life and he had movement on his pitches. Harrison was able to change speeds well, recording a swinging strikeout on a changeup.

The lone run came near the end of his outing, as he gave up two doubles in the fifth inning.

“My timing was there for the most part,” Harrison said. “I got a little bit tired at the end there. I had to make some plays and was able to do that without any issues. It’s a step in the right direction. I just need to keep building off of this.”

Harrison is referring to several weakly hit ground balls where he had to charge off the mound and throw to first. He was able to record the outs without any trouble.

Harrison will throw a bullpen session in a few days and then pitch Sunday in Little Rock with Double-A Frisco.

Colby Lewis inching closer to return

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
5:57
PM CT
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.
FRISCO, Texas -- Mother Nature wrecked the plan for Matt Harrison to throw 65 pitches or four innings in Double-A Frisco's season opener on Thursday.

Still, Harrison did throw 41 pitches in two-plus innings of work. He went to the mound to start the third in a 2-2 game and gave up a double before the rain washed out the rest of his start and the game.

But Harrison did throw a bunch of warm-up pitches, so he figured he got more than 65 in all together for the outing. And it hasn't changed his goal of returning to the rotation April 23.

Harrison gave up two runs in a 31-pitch first inning that included three extra-base hits and a walk after the lefty got the first two batters of the game.

"I don't know if I relaxed or what after those first two outs," Harrison said. "But I lost the strike zone for a few batters. But I got my tempo back."

He had a perfect second inning, needing just nine pitches (eight of them strikes). But once the rain came, that was it.

It's unclear now if the Rangers will keep Harrison on his same schedule. But since the plan was for him to throw 65 pitches and four innings again, he could just continue as scheduled and pitch in Frisco on Tuesday.

Harrison admitted disappointment in his velocity, which was 88-92 mph, though mainly in the 89-90 mph range. That was down from the 90-93 mph he was throwing before leaving Arizona. Part of that could be simply his mechanics were a bit off in windy conditions Thursday.

"Nothing I can do about Mother Nature," Harrison said. "Every start, in between, everything has felt great."

Harrison fell behind the other pitchers after sleeping on a soft mattress in spring training and experiencing some back tightness. He was checked out by Dr. Drew Dossett, who handled both of Harrison's back surgeries last year, and there was no major issues. Harrison hasn't had any physical problems since that point and continues to work toward building arm strength.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's early, and yet the Texas Rangers already have a penchant for comebacks in 2014.

For the second consecutive game, the Rangers found a way to score the runs they needed in the ninth and took the series from the Philadelphia Phillies with a 4-3 win.

Some quick thoughts:

Comeback kids: Down two runs in the ninth, Adrian Beltre started the comeback with a single. Jim Adduci's pinch-hit single scored Beltre to make it a one-run game. Leonys Martin scored Mitch Moreland, who hit a double earlier in the inning, to tie the score. Then Shin-Soo Choo ended up delivering with a patient walk with the bases loaded to win the game. It was the Rangers' first walk=off walk since 1999.

Early chance goes awry: The Rangers had a terrific opportunity to score early runs and grab the lead on Wednesday and couldn't get the job done. Singles by Choo and Elvis Andrus and an errant throw by right fielder Marlon Byrd put them at second and third with no outs. The key at-bat was Prince Fielder's. He got the count to 3-2, then took a swing at a pitch out of the zone and struck out. Beltre's ground ball back to the mound wasn't fielded well by Kyle Kendrick, but Choo's hesitation got him caught in a rundown. Choo stayed in it long enough to allow both runners to move up, but with two outs, Alex Rios' ball to deep center was caught. Just like that, the Rangers got nothing.

Ross vs. lefties: One of the big questions going into the game was whether Robbie Ross could retire left-handed hitters consistently -- something he didn't do last year. He left a slider in the middle of the plate to Ryan Howard, who crushed it 411 feet to right-center for a two-run shot to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the third. And of his seven hits allowed, three of them came off the five left-handers that Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had in the lineup.

Decent debut: No, Ross didn't dominate the Phillies and he wasn't efficient, throwing 96 pitches in five innings. But Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted Ross to keep his team in the game. He did that; he just couldn't get any help from his offense. Ross pitched out of some jams and ended up with a career-high seven strikeouts. Ross had at least two men on base in every inning, yet limited the damage. All in all, not a bad first start.

Two-out RBI: Martin had a two-out RBI single to right in the seventh inning, scoring the Rangers' first run. It scored Moreland, who hit the third triple of his career, diving into third base ahead of the throw on a ball hit to the right-center gap.

Velocity up, control down: Pedro Figueroa's first four pitches on to Chase Utley were in the mid-to-high 90s. They also were all balls. But with one out and a runner at first, Howard smoked a Figueroa fastball right into the Fielder's glove for a double play.

Solid Seth: Rangers reliever Seth Rosin came in for the eighth and ninth and pitched well, allowing one hit and no runs in both frames. Rosin has tossed three scoreless frames so far this season.

More for Moreland: After a rough start to the season, Moreland found his stroke late in Wednesday's game. He had a triple in the seventh and a double in the ninth.

Up next: The Rangers are off on Thursday before heading to Florida for a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The pitching matchups:

Friday, 6:10 p.m. CT: LHP Joe Saunders vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CT: RHP Nick Martinez vs. LHP David Price
Sunday, 12:40 p.m. CT: RHP Yu Darvish vs. RHP Alex Cobb
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Slowly, the Texas Rangers' injured pitching staff is getting healthy. Yu Darvish's neck isn't bothering him anymore and he's pitching Sunday in Tampa. Colby Lewis is getting his arm strength up, crossing the 90-pitch barrier in Tuesday's minor league start. And Derek Holland, who insists that June is still realistic for his return from knee surgery, threw a bullpen for the first time Wednesday. Oh, and Matt Harrison will get up to 65 pitches, which the club hopes is four innings, on Thursday at Double-A Frisco.

At first glance, Lewis' numbers don't seem encouraging. He gave up 10 hits and allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings pitching for Double-A Frisco against Triple-A Round Rock. But the fact that he threw 92 pitches, walked just one batter and got through the outing with no physical issues is what pleased manager Ron Washington. And he was happy with the report he got on Lewis.

"He had a sharp breaking ball," Washington said. "He left some fastballs up in the zone a little bit, but that's expected. The thing is he's constantly getting his stamina up. His stroke was good. We're not so worried about the results with Colby."

Washington said the club hasn't discussed the plan now for Lewis, but will do so shortly.

For Holland, Wednesday was the first step in a building full of winding stairs. But he threw a bullpen session for the first time since his January knee surgery. It's too early to determine a definitive timetable, though Holland has always pointed toward June. The club is only saying "midseason." Holland will go to Surprise, Ariz., and throw again Saturday.

Harrison will be the Opening Day starter for Frisco on Thursday. It's the first of two outings of 65 pitches or four innings for him.

Rosales takes outright assignment: Infielder Adam Rosales has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Round Rock. He was left off the Opening Day roster in favor of Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy.

Engel Beltre has surgery: Outfielder Engel Beltre had a rod inserted in his right leg to stabilize the tibia. He's likely out two months or so.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre's walk-off single to right scored Shin-Soo Choo with the winning run as the Texas Rangers got their first victory of 2014, 3-2 over the Philadelphia Phillies. Some quick thoughts on the game:

Clutch: Beltre delivered in big moments twice on Monday, something he did with regularity last season. With two outs and a runner at third in the seventh, Beltre doubled the other way to score the tying run. Beltre was tops in the league last year with a .416 average in the "close and late" stat, which is how a batter fares when his team is leading by one, tied or has the tying run on base. He had two hits and two RBIs in those situations on Monday, including the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth.

Bullpen lineup: With a close game, manager Ron Washington lined up the bullpen the way he wanted to in the later stages. That was Jason Frasor to finish off the sixth and pitch the seventh, lefty Neal Cotts in the eighth and closer Joakim Soria in the ninth. They all did the job, allowing no runs on one hit with one walk and four strikeouts in 3 ⅓ innings.

Choo vs. lefty: The Phillies sent a steady diet of left-handed pitchers out against Choo on Monday and it worked. On Tuesday, they opted to take righty A.J. Burnett out and put lefty Jake Diekman in with Choo leading off the seventh and Choo punched a ground ball single to left. He ended up scoring on Beltre's two-out double to right. Choo had just a .215 average against lefties last season.

Perez solid: Martin Perez left with a deficit, but that doesn't change the fact that he pitched well overall in his first start of 2014. The lefty allowed two runs -- both in the sixth -- on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He was locked in a scoreless contest with Burnett until the sixth, when he allowed a leadoff double to Cesar Hernandez and then surrendered hits to three of the next five batters he faced. Perez's slider and changeup were excellent and he attacked the strike zone, something he talked about before the start.

Getting in replay flow: The Rangers challenged one play in the sixth inning on Tuesday and won it, getting the call overturned. You can read more about that here. But to me, what was more interesting was watching how the mechanics worked as the club decided whether or not to challenge. Earlier in the sixth, Washington showed how slowly he can walk to chat with an umpire so that Joey Prebynski could look at the replays. They showed the umpires got it right, so Washington looked in the dugout and got a sign from someone (likely bench coach Tim Bogar) not to challenge, and didn't. Later in the inning, walking slowly yet again, Washington got the go sign and the Rangers won the challenge. That's how you do it.

Missed opportunities: Prince Fielder came up with runners at first and second and no outs in the third inning and wasn't able to convert, popping up in foul territory near the Phillies' dugout. Beltre then hit into a fielder's choice and Alex Rios lined out to second base to end the frame. ... Fielder smoked a two-out double in the fifth -- the bat speed was extremely fast -- and Beltre hit a ball to one of the deepest parts of the stadium, but it was caught against the wall to end the frame.

Briefly: Former president George W. Bush was on hand, sitting in the owner's box. It was odd not seeing Nolan Ryan down there with him as the two have watched a fair number of games together at Globe Life Park since Bush left office. ... Catcher Robinson Chirinos, playing in his first game of the season, showed off his arm in the second, getting Jayson Nix trying to get to second base. It appeared to be a botched hit-and-run attempt, but Chirinos made a terrific throw that had Nix out by a lot.

Up next: LHP Robbie Ross is on the mound for the Rangers as they take on the Phillies and RHP Kyle Kendrick in the final game of a three-game series, which starts at 7:05 p.m. at Globe Life Park. Ross has been in the bullpen the past two seasons and now will get a shot to start for the first time since making six starts for Double-A Frisco in 2011. Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Rangers Rule 5 draft pick Russell Wilson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Texas Rangers left-handed pitcher Matt Harrison will start for Double-A Frisco on Opening Day, which is Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. The RoughRiders face the Northwest Araknsas Naturals.

Harrison, who fell behind the other pitchers at spring training after sleeping on a soft mattress and experiencing back and neck tightness in February, will continue his rehab assignment with the start. He is scheduled to go four innings after pitching three innings in an exhibition against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Harrison likely needs a few more starts, every five days, before he could join the rotation. But that could mean sometime in the final week of the month, if he has no setbacks. The 28-year-old made just two starts early last season before needing two back surgeries and missing the rest of the season. He had a third surgery to alleviate Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Harrison had an MRI on his back in spring and there were no issues and he hasn’t had any difficulty throughout the spring since that point.

Thursday is the first of a six-game homestand for the RoughRiders to open the 2014 season.

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Galloway & Company: Nolan Ryan

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Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Fire Wash?

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Martin Perez
WINS ERA SO IP
3 1.86 20 29
OTHER LEADERS
BAL. Martin .315
HRR. Chirinos 2
RBIL. Martin 9
RE. Andrus 11
OPSS. Choo .827
ERAY. Darvish 0.82
SOY. Darvish 23