ARLINGTON, Texas -- Closer-turned-starter C.J. Wilson is ready for his first regular-season start since his rookie season five years ago.
Wilson threw five hitless innings to help the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Friday night."I felt it was a pretty good tuneup," said Wilson, scheduled to start the Rangers' third game Thursday against Toronto. "The weirdest part about starting is warming up before the game, it's like no one's there. ... The music they're playing is like some mix or something. When you're on the mound, it's the same thing. You're facing the hitters, the distance is the same."David Murphy hit a two-run homer off Kansas City closer Joakim Soria in the seventh, three innings after knocking Royals starter Luke Hochevar out of the game with a hard hit up the middle.Hochevar didn't return for the start of the fifth after a ball hit by Murphy ricocheted off his left ankle and right hamstring, then rolled toward first base. Billy Butler picked it up and tagged Murphy for the third out.Manager Trey Hillman said Hochevar was OK and would make his first regular-season start as scheduled Wednesday at home against Detroit."It's fine. I could have gone back out," said Hochevar, who was only 12 pitches shy of his 60-pitch limit. "We decided to stay on the safe side, come in and get some ice. ... No problems, no pain at all."Kansas City didn't have a hit until Jose Guillen's two-out double in the seventh off Willie Eyre. Mitch Maier followed with an RBI triple into the left-field corner for a 1-0 lead.The only hit Hochevar allowed was an infield single to leadoff hitter Julio Borbon in the first. The right-hander struck out one and walked one five days after giving up six runs and nine hits over five innings in his previous start.Wilson finished the spring with a 4.18 ERA in six appearances, including four starts."One thing we knew, C.J. could get outs," manager Ron Washington said. "Even though in that bullpen sometimes it took a few pitches, but he always got the outs. In his mind, this is what he wanted to do. ... He's using his pitches, attacking the strike zone, keeping it simple."As a Rangers rookie in 2005, after missing all of the previous year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Wilson made six starts among his 24 appearances during his four major league stints.The left-hander became a full-time reliever after that, and was the primary closer in 2008 until he missed the final two months of the season after arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He made a career-high 74 appearances with a 2.81 ERA last season, mainly as a setup man.Darren Oliver, the 39-year-old left-hander beginning his third stint for Texas, pitched a perfect sixth before Eyre took over.Murphy, who will be the Rangers' fourth outfielder, started after All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz was scratched because of a bruised right thumb. Cruz felt discomfort during batting practice, a day after he hit a ball off the end of his bat.Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was second in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting last season, wasn't in the lineup after getting a cortisone shot Friday to alleviate inflammation in his left wrist. The Rangers said he won't play in the final exhibition game Saturday either.Cruz and Andrus are expected to in the lineup for the season opener Monday at home against Toronto."I have no level of concern," Washington said.
Murphy's second homer of the spring came after Vladimir Guerrero led off the seventh with a single. Guerrero is hitting .333 this spring, but still doesn't have a homer in his 60 at-bats over 20 games. ... Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who has been switched from center field to left, made a diving catch to end the fourth. He went to the ground while catching Guillen's sinking liner. ... The Royals and Rangers, who share a complex in Surprise, Ariz., close out their spring training schedules Saturday with a game in Frisco, home of the Rangers' Double-A team.