Fifth starter competition nearing climax

Pitching coach Brocail: 'Now is the time to win a job'

Fifth starter competition nearing climax

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail said he wouldn't mind an extra three weeks for Spring Training. Instead he has just two weeks left, and Brocail said it's time for somebody to start winning the fifth starter spot.

"I'm not putting the favorite on anybody," Brocail said. "Guys have had good games and poor games. It's a matter of being consistent."

Brocail said all candidates should have three more outings before the Rangers break camp.

"Those next three starts should separate somebody," Brocail said. "If you're using Spring Training to get in shape, now is the time to win a job. Guys know that. We have enough good arms in the organization, we'll be fine."

The race is likely down to right-handers Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin and Jeremy Guthrie and left-hander Cesar Ramos. Gonzalez and Griffin are both scheduled to start on Saturday, against the D-backs (Scottsdale) and Royals (San Antonio), respectively. Ramos also pitches Saturday in San Antonio, and Martinez and Guthrie are down to pitch somewhere on Sunday.

More from Brocail:

• Brocail said that if Yu Darvish returns in mid-May, the Rangers won't have to worry about him running out of innings at the end of the season. Brocail said that timetable would likely mean Darvish would throw 165-180 innings by the end of the season. If the Rangers advance to the postseason, Darvish should be a part of it if all goes well.

Outlook: Darvish, SP, TEX

There shouldn't be any late-season debate about workload coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, as there was with the Nationals and Steven Strasburg in 2012 or the Mets and Matt Harvey last season.

"Right now I just don't want any setbacks, minor or major," Brocail said. "This is a guy we would want on the postseason roster."

Anthony Ranaudo came to camp as a fifth starter candidate, but that role is no longer in play. Ranaudo instead is working with Brocail on a change in his delivery. Brocail wants Ranaudo to lower his arm slot from straight overhand to three-quarters. Brocail is hoping that will give him sinking movement on his fastball and better command of his curveball.

Ranaudo was the 39th overall pick by the Red Sox in 2010 out of LSU and acquired by the Rangers a year ago for Robbie Ross Jr. He was 7-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Round Rock and 0-1 with a 7.63 ERA in four games for the Rangers. The biggest issue was a straight fastball that averaged 91.1 mph last season per FanGraphs.

"This is going to be a process, but we believe it's something he feels he needs, and we feel he needs it," Brocail said. "He believes in the process."

Ranaudo's quality outing

• Brocail said the Rangers need to identify multi-inning relievers. Andrew Faulkner threw two scoreless innings against the Brewers on Thursday night. Brocail said the Rangers would like to test Tony Barnette and Tom Wilhelmsen at that distance as well. Brocail also said one of the fifth starter candidates could end up in the bullpen as a long reliever.

"We can't go into this with six one-inning guys," Brocail said.

• Closer Shawn Tolleson is working on a cut fastball that would break in on left-handed hitters. It would go well with his outstanding changeup, which fades away from left-handed hitters.

• Faulkner has been a big highlight for the Rangers this spring. The rookie left-hander has pitched six scoreless innings in Cactus League games and Brocail said, "He's left-handed, throws hard and pitches inside. He is a pitching coach's dream."

• Right-hander Nick Tepesch, who missed all of last season because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, pitched two scoreless innings against the Brewers on Thursday and then allowed five runs in the third.

"Last night he kind of hit a wall," Brocail said. "He missed all of last year so this is Nick trying to build up, get comfortable on the mound and get comfortable with all his pitches."

• Brocail loves the fact that the heart of his bullpen -- Tolleson, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Wilhelmsen and Keone Kela -- have yet to give up a run this spring.

"That is plus, plus," Brocail said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.