Rangers line up Cactus League rotation
Left-hander Harrison to start first exhibition game Wednesday
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Matt Harrison will be first up for the Rangers when the exhibition season starts.Harrison will be on the mound Wednesday at 2:05 p.m. CT against the Kansas City Royals for the Rangers' first exhibition game this spring. That's the way pitching coach Mike Maddux has drawn up his rotation in the first half of the Cactus League.
The Rangers start with two intrasquad games on Monday and Tuesday. Harrison and Kevin Millwood will start the first game while Vicente Padilla and Scott Feldman will start on Tuesday. Brandon McCarthy, currently the Rangers' fifth starter, will pitch in relief on Monday.Harrison then goes on Wednesday against the Royals, followed by Millwood against the Royals on Thursday, Feldman against the Cubs on Friday, McCarthy on Saturday against the Diamondbacks and Padilla on Sunday against the Mariners. Maddux wants his starters to throw 20 pitches in the intrasquad game and then go two innings in their first Cactus League start. If all goes well, each starter will get seven outings this spring. The first two starts will go two innings each, then they add an inning in each of their next four starts. The final outing will be four innings, with the goal of around 26 innings for everybody before the camp breaks. That's the goal. "We know how it is," Maddux said. "Sometimes you have a long inning and don't go back out there, sometimes you have a three-pitch inning and you get another frame." Other factors will come into play. Health is one. McCarthy went into last year's camp as a starter and began the season on the disabled list. Another is starters don't always pitch in the A-game, most notably when the game is on the road or against division opponents. In those cases, they sometimes choose to pitch in simulated or Minor League games on the back field. Millwood is big on that. That gives the Rangers chances to look at others, including Jason Jennings, Luis Mendoza, Dustin Nippert or Doug Mathis. Kris Benson also joined the team on Saturday on a Minor League contract with the intention of making the Major League roster. Manager Ron Washington said early in camp that the rotation as of now is Millwood, Padilla, Harrison, Feldman and McCarthy, but he also made it clear that's tentative. He said the competition starts Monday. McCarthy, who had elbow inflammation for much of last year and made just five starts at the big league level, may be the most tentative of the five. "I feel every year I have to earn a spot or show I deserve a spot," McCarthy said. "This year it's the same thing. I want to impress them and leave no doubt that it's my job." Harrison was 9-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie last year, and Feldman was 6-8 with a 5.29 ERA after being converted from a reliever. Both showed enough to get penciled into the rotation, but it's likely that only Millwood and Padilla can afford to struggle this spring and not worry about losing their spot. "I'm not taking anything for granted," Harrison said. "There are a lot of good pitchers in this camp. I'm going to be fighting with the rest of the guys. I want to earn my spot." The biggest question is if they'll get serious competition from left-hander Derek Holland and right-hander Neftali Feliz, the Rangers' prized pitching prospects who are in big league camp for the first time. Both are extremely talented, but have limited experience above Class A. Holland, 22, was 13-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts in the Minors last year. He made just four starts for Double-A Frisco, but was 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA. Feliz, 20, who went 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA on the year, made 10 starts at Double-A and was 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA. "I'm saying long shots," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's unlikely, but it depends on what happens with the guys in front of them. They will come on their own pace. We'll do the right thing with those guys and do the right thing for the team."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.