SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Round One is over. Now the competition for the vacancy in the Rangers' rotation can really begin. Call it Six For Five. And the battle among the half-dozen pitchers vying for the open No. 5 spot has heated up way before the desert climate. "The competition starts for real after their first time out. That's when we start judging them," Rangers manager Ron Washington was saying prior to Tuesday afternoon's exhibition against Seattle.
A little later then, Jamey Wright raised the gate on this derby with the last pitch of his two-inning start. Everyone has had one exposure now, and it has only made Washington eager for more. Wright allowed a hit and two runs, both unearned, reflecting the uncommon sharpness of most of his competitors. Among them, Bruce Chen, Kameron Loe, Josh Rupe, Edinson Volquez and Wright have combined for 10 2/3 innings, four hits and zero earned runs. The only bump in that road has been lefty John Koronka, who was reeled for six runs in 1 1/3 innings of his debut and gets his rebuttal shot in Wednesday afternoon's game against Arizona. Washington and pitching coach Mark Connor have pumped up the pitchers' confidence in their stuff, and all have responded as hoped. The staff has been pounding the strike zone -- Texas entered Tuesday's schedule with the fewest walks among American League clubs -- and the rotation candidates have mirrored that with three walks among them. "They have the ability to do what they've been doing," Washington reaffirmed after the misleading 10-3 loss to the Mariners. "They have the stuff to not run away from the strike zone." Wright, a 32-year-old right-hander, is typical of the six. He has tasted some success during his career and aims to take it to the next level by trying to join Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Robinson Tejeda and Brandon McCarthy in the Texas rotation. "I was excited to get out there and do the job," said Wright, who thus brought up the rear of the contenders' rotation. "I can't worry about what everyone else is doing. The only thing I can control is when I have the ball in my hand. "There's a lot of talent in this camp, something the Rangers should be excited about. Everyone is up for the challenge."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.