After making 123 relief appearances over the last two seasons for the Texas Rangers, left-hander Robbie Ross is trying to win a spot in the starting rotation this spring.
"I'd love to get a starter spot and that's what I'm going to battle for until they tell me I'm back in the bullpen," Ross said.
Ross, the Rangers' second-round pick in the 2008 draft, was a starting pitcher throughout his professional career until he reached the major leagues at the start of the 2012 season. He compiled a 2.62 ERA in 127 1/3 major league innings.
Rangers manager Ron Washington believes Ross will have to step up his conditioning to become a starting pitcher.
"Starting pitchers have a different work ethic and he has to develop a work ethic so he can sustain," Washington said. "That's what it comes down to. He can pitch. It's a matter of whether he can pitch six or seven innings instead of one inning at a time."
The Rangers have two spots open in the rotation with left-handers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison being out.
Holland will likely be out until at least the All-Star break after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in January. Harrison will start the season on the disabled list as he has been slowed by stiffness in his back after needing two surgeries last year to repair a herniated disk.
Ross believes he can start in the majors, especially after going 26-20 with a 2.88 ERA in 68 minor league starts. He made his spring debut March 2 and allowed one run and two hits in two innings against the Chicago White Sox with one walk and no strikeouts.
"You're just expected to throw longer innings, more pitches, facing batters more than once and trying to keep your team in the game," Ross said. "You're in control."
--LHP Joe Saunders finalized a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Rangers on March 5. The Rangers were in need of pitching depth with LHPs Derek Holland and Matt Harrison battling injuries, so Saunders, 32, could compete for one of the final spots in the Texas rotation.
In 32 starts last year for the Mariners, Saunders posted an 11-16 record with a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings. Opponents batted .311 against Saunders, who signed a $6.5 million contract with Seattle before the 2013 season.
A 2008 All-Star, Saunders has an 89-81 career record and a 4.31 ERA with the Angels, Diamondbacks, Orioles and Mariners.
--UT Alex Castellanos was designated for assignment by the Rangers on March 5 to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly signed LHP Joe Saunders. Castellanos, 27, hit a combined .171 in 24 games for the Dodgers in 2012 and 2013. He was traded by Los Angeles to Boston in October, then was acquired by Texas off waivers in December.
--RHP Colby Lewis made his first appearance of the spring March 3, starting against the Cleveland Indians and needing 32 pitches to get just two outs before being lifted. He gave up two runs, two hits and two walks and struck out one. Lewis sat out last season as he underwent right hip surgery in August while recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.
--LF Shin-Soo Choo returned to the lineup March 3 after sitting out March 2 with mild soreness in his left arm. Choo said he would have played if it were a regular-season game and the Rangers had him miss the game solely as a precaution.
--SS Elvis Andrus began playing catch March 3, the first time he had thrown since being diagnosed with mild tendinitis in the flexor tendon of his right arm. Andrus was shut down for two days after feeling pain in his arm while making a throw across the diamond on Feb. 28.
--INF Andy Parrino was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on March 3 and will compete with INF Adam Rosales for the utility infielder's job. Parrino, 28, played in 14 games with the Athletics last season and batted just .118. In 108 games with Triple-A Sacramento, he had a .210 batting average and four home runs.
--LHP Derek Holland was placed on the 60-day disabled list on March 3 to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for INF Andy Parrino. Holland underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in January and is expected to be out until at the least the All-Star break.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never say never. I've always had the dream of playing two sports. If somehow it was a miracle that it could work out, I'd consider it. At the same time, my focus is winning the championship with the Seattle Seahawks and hope to be playing for a long time." -- 2B Russell Wilson, while spending March 3 with the Rangers. In December, Texas selected the Super Bowl-bound quarterback from the Colorado Rockies in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Yu Darvish
RHP Alexi Ogando
LHP Martin Perez
RHP Tommy Hanson
RHP Colby Lewis
Darvish led the major leagues with 277 strikeouts in 209 2/3 innings last season. Harrison was limited to two starts last year because of back trouble after winning a combined 32 games during the previous two seasons. Staying healthy has been a problem for Ogando, who was on the disabled list three times last season.
Perez needs to do a better job limiting baserunners after allowing 129 hits and 37 walks in 124 1/3 innings last season. Hanson had a career-worst 5.42 ERA in 73 innings for the Los Angeles Angels last season while bothered by a sore forearm. Lewis is looking to return after missing last season because of Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and hip surgery. LHP Joe Saunders, who signed in early March, also could be in the mix.
RHP Neftali Feliz (closer)
RHP Joakim Soria
RHP Tanner Scheppers
LHP Neal Cotts
RHP Jason Frasor
LHP Robbie Ross
LHP Michael Kirkman
Feliz must prove he is healthy after being limited to 14 games over the last two seasons because of Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. Soria walked 14 in 23 2/3 innings last season in his return from a second Tommy John operation. Scheppers had an outstanding 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings last year.
After being away from the major leagues for four years because of injury, Cotts struck out 65 in 57 innings last season while giving up just 36 hits. Frasor was quickly re-signed by the Rangers as a free agent after he notched a 2.57 ERA in 49 innings in 2013.
Ross and Kirkman will both be stretched out as starters in Cactus League games but will likely serve as long men out of the bullpen if they fail to make the rotation.
1. LF Shin-Soo Choo
2. SS Elvis Andrus
3. 1B Prince Fielder
4. 3B Adrian Beltre
5. RF Alex Rios
6. DH Mitch Moreland
7. C Geovany Soto
8. 2B Jurickson Profar
9. CF Leonys Martin
Choo had a .423 on-base percentage last season with the Cincinnati Reds but his batting average against left-handed pitchers was just .215. Andrus stole a career-high 42 stolen bases last season, which helped offset a .328 OBP. Fielder's on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) dropped to .818 last season from .940 in 2012, part of the reason why the Detroit Tigers were willing to trade him.
Beltre has hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last four seasons. Rios had a career-high 42 steals last season, including 16 in 47 games after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in an August trade. While Moreland's 23 homers last season were a career best, he hit just .183 in the second half in 191 at-bats.
Soto showed enough last season with a .466 slugging percentage and nine home runs in 54 games that he was promoted to No. 1 catcher and A.J. Pierzynski was allowed to leave and sign with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent. Profar hit just .234 with 63 strikeouts in 286 at-bats as a rookie last season. Martin hit .283 in the first half of last season as a rookie but .238 following the All-Star break.
TOP ROOKIES: OF Michael Choice, who starred just down the road from Globe Life Ballpark at the University of Texas-Arlington, was acquired by the Rangers from the Oakland Athletics in an offseason trade. He figures to be Texas' designated hitter against left-handed pitchers. Choice hit .302 with 14 home runs and a .390 on-base percentage last season in 132 games with Triple-A Sacramento.
OF Engel Beltre, 24, will have a chance to win a job as a left-handed-hitting reserve. He posted a .292 batting average, seven homers and 15 stolen bases in 94 games with Triple-A Round Rock last season. In 24 games with Texas, he batted .250/.268/.275 with two RBIs.
--LF Shin-Soo Choo (mild left arm soreness) returned to the lineup March 3 after sitting out March 2. Choo said he would have played if it were a regular-season game, and the Rangers had him miss the game solely as a precaution.
--SS Elvis Andrus (mild tendinitis in right flexor tendon) began playing catch March 3. Andrus was shut down for two days after feeling pain in his arm while making a throw across the diamond Feb. 28.
--LHP Matt Harrison (stiff back) returned to Dallas on Feb. 24 to be examined by a spine specialist, Dr. Drew Dossett, who performed both of Harrison's back procedures last year. Dossett gave Harrison the go ahead to return to his throwing program Feb. 27. Harrison is expected to begin the season on the disabled list so he can continue to build arm strength. Harrison, 28, had back issues last April after just two starts and ended up having a herniated disc repaired at the end of the month. He missed the remainder of the season and subsequently had a rib surgically removed in September in an effort to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.
--INF Jurickson Profar (right shoulder tendinitis) had yet to be cleared to throw as of March 3 but was serving as a designated hitter in Cactus League games.
--C Geovany Soto (arthroscopic left foot surgery in February 2014) could be back in game action in mid-March. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
--RHP Tanner Scheppers (back spasms) received a scare while lifting weights in mid-February. The spasms subsided after a day of treatment and he made his spring debut March 2.
--LHP Derek Holland (microfracture left knee surgery in January 2014) went on the 60-day disabled list March 3. He is likely to be sidelined until midseason.
--LHP Joseph Ortiz (broken left foot) went on the 60-day disabled list Feb. 14. He will be out at least until late May.
--RHP Colby Lewis (Tommy John surgery in July 2012, right hip surgery in August 2013) made his spring debut March 3.
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- Derek Holland
- Joe Saunders
- Matt Harrison
- Robbie Ross
- Elvis Andrus