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Two spots in Rangers rotation up for grabs

The SportsXchange

Opening day is just around the corner, and the Texas Rangers' starting rotation remains unsettled.

Right-handers Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando are assured of spots in the rotation along with left-hander Martin Perez. However, five pitchers are vying for the two spots left vacant by injuries to lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison.

Left-hander Joe Saunders and right-hander Tommy Hanson appear to be the slight favorites after being signed to minor-league contracts as free agents. However, right-handers Colby Lewis is also in the running along with two relievers who are trying to become starters: left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Tanner Scheppers.

Hanson has allowed four runs, three earned, in 8 1/3 innings for a 3.24 ERA during Cactus League play. Saunders gave up four runs, three earned, in three innings in one start for a 9.00 ERA after signing late.

Lewis has struggled this spring after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and also right hip surgery. He failed to get past the second inning in two of his three starts. Overall, he had an 18.00 ERA, as he has allowed eight runs in four innings.

Ross has impressed manager Ron Washington with his ability to incorporate his curveball and changeup while going through a lineup more than one time as a starter. Ross has given up two earned runs in 8 2/3 innings for a 2.08 ERA.

Scheppers has also showed he can stay strong in multiple-inning outings and has a 3.12 ERA after surrendering a total of three earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.

NOTES, QUOTES

--2B Jurickson Profar played in the field for the first time this spring on March 17 after being slowed by tendinitis in his right shoulder, which limited him to designated-hitter duty. The injury wasn't affecting Profar at the plate, though, as he went 12-for-40 (.300) in his first 13 games, with three doubles and two home runs.

--3B Adrian Beltre (left quadriceps tightness) is expected to return to the lineup March 20 and should be ready for opening day. He left the March 13 game with the injury. Beltre has hit just .217 (5-for-23) this spring with one extra-base hit, a double.

--RHP Jose Contreras was reassigned to minor-league camp March 17 and offered a spot on the Triple-A Round Rock roster as a reliever to open the season. The 42-year-old did not immediately accept the assignment and was said to be contemplating retirement. Contreras pitched six innings in Cactus League games and gave seven runs and 13 hits for a 10.50 ERA.

--RHP Daniel Bard (neck/shoulder) was assigned to minor-league camp March 17 without appearing in a major-league exhibition game. He will likely begin throwing off a mound sometime during the week of March 24-30. The Rangers signed Bard as a minor-league free agent in the offseason after he had thoracic outlet surgery in early January. Bard made just two relief appearances with the Boston Red Sox last season and is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Round Rock once he becomes healthy enough to see game action.

--LHP Derek Holland is six weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery from microfracture surgery on his left knee Jan. 14 and now expects to be ready to come off the disabled list by the first week of June. After Holland had the surgery, it was announced he would not be able to rejoin the major-league rotation until at least the All-Star break in mid-July.

--OF Michael Choice is getting plenty of chances to prove himself to his new team after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in an offseason trade. Choice played in each of the Rangers' first 17 exhibition games, hitting .389 (14-for-36) with three doubles, one triple and two home runs. The Rangers do not have a starting spot for Choice and must decide whether the rookie is better served seeing part-time duty as a bench player or playing regularly at Triple-A Round Rock.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was an experience for him. I hope it was a humbling experience. This guy is going to play in the big leagues." --- Rangers manager Ron Washington on 3B Joey Gallo, a 20-year prospect who struck out five times March 15 in a Cactus League game against the Oakland Athletics.

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