The Rangers open their Cactus League schedule on Friday against the Royals, and that's the slot for the Opening Day pitcher. Instead, Kameron Loe or Edinson Volquez likely will get that spot, according to pitching coach Mark Connor.
Vicente Padilla is scheduled to start Saturday against the Royals, followed by Brandon McCarthy on Sunday against the Royals and Robinson Tejeda on Monday against the Colorado Rockies. That's the order in which they are also expected to start the season.
The fifth starter spot comes up on Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners. Jamey Wright or John Koronka could get that first start. But Connor said different pitchers will be used in that slot as the Rangers try to get a good look at all their fifth-starter candidates.
"You've got to make it fair," Connor said.
The Rangers have four "B" games, which are played at 10 a.m. on the back fields rather than the main stadium. But they would like to have those who are competing for a job to pitch in the "A" games as much as possible.
"It's a little different environment at 10 o'clock than it is in the main stadium at 1 o'clock," Connor said. "But they have to rise to the occasion and do the job no matter where they pitch. Early on you're not concerned about results as much as looking at stuff and location. You evaluate that until you get to the middle of the month."
All Rangers pitchers took a day off from throwing on Saturday. They will face hitters for the first time on Sunday, but the hitters will not be swinging at pitches. Instead they will just stand in the box, get a good look at pitches and start getting their timing down.
They'll do that for the next six days. The Rangers will not hold any intrasquad games because of the number of "B" games they are playing.
Contract talks progressing:
The Rangers continue to discuss a long-term extension with shortstop Michael Young's agent, Dan Lozano.
The extension could be at least five years in length, which would keep Young with the Rangers through at least 2013 and make him the "face of the franchise" in the same manner as Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.
The most obvious comparison is the seven-year, $85 million contract that Phillies second baseman Chase Utley agreed to this offseason. He'll average $15 million per season over the final four years of the contract.
The Rangers also met with Ian Kinsler's agents, Mike McCann and Jay Franklin, again on Saturday.
Of pepper and batting practice:
Manager Ron Washington has incorporated the game of "pepper" into workouts.
That's the old game of five players, one with a bat and four tossing him the ball to him from a few feet away. The batter shortens up on the bat and taps the ball back to the four fielders.
The game has gone out of vogue, but Washington thinks it serves a valuable purpose.
"When we're not swinging the bats the way we are capable, I want to be able to scratch out some runs," Washington said. "Playing pepper helps you handle the bat in those situations. I just want to do things that I know can be successful. I do things for a reason."
The Rangers were fourth in the league in strikeouts in 2006 and are third in the league in strikeouts since the start of the 2000 season.
He said it:
"He knows what he's doing. Eric Chavez won five Gold Gloves in Oakland for a reason." -- third baseman Hank Blalock, on Washington's infield instruction.
Running the bases:
The Rangers went through a series of baserunning drills on Saturday. Washington wants his team to be more aggressive on the basepaths, and the Rangers plan to do more running. How much will depend on the situation, but the Rangers' 53 stolen bases were the second fewest in the American League last year.
Frank Catalanotto will work out some at first base this spring just to be ready to back up Mark Teixeira. That doesn't happen often. Teixeira started 159 of 162 games at first base last year. ... The Rangers will take batting practice in the main stadium this year before home exhibition games. In past years they took it on the back field to help preserve the turf, but Washington wants them to get used to playing in the main stadium. ...The Rangers took batting practice in the main stadium on Saturday as part of a two-day FanFest. ... Rangers Minor Leaguers Nate Gold, John Mayberry Jr. and Jim Fasano will compete in a home run contest at 1 p.m. MT on Sunday against Royals Minor Leaguers Billy Butler, Mitch Maier and Graham Koonze in Surprise Stadium.