SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' Opening Day pitching staff is starting to gain clarity. Jamey Wright is in the rotation. Kameron Loe and Scott Feldman are in the bullpen. Wes Littleton and Frank Francisco will be at Triple-A Oklahoma. The Rangers announced those moves before Wednesday's game with the Seattle Mariners. Loe was hoping to be in the rotation, but the Rangers decided that he would be better suited to helping them in the bullpen.
"When we lined up our 12 best guys, we decided this was the best way to maximize that group," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Kam has pitched his tail off. This is not a negative reflection on him but, one through 12, this is what's best for the team." Loe is 1-0 with a 0.92 ERA and a .186 opponents batting average this spring, while Wright is 0-1 with a 5.82 ERA. Opponents are hitting .271 off Wright, who has made 237 Major League starts with a career record of 68-98 and a 5.14 ERA. "Jamey Wright gives us some experience at the end of our starting rotation," manager Ron Washington said. "He has shown me command of three excellent pitches. Kam Loe gives us strength in the bullpen. He's out-pitched everybody in camp and he's got experience in that role." Loe could be used in long and middle relief. But he could also be used as late as the eighth inning on nights when Eric Gagne is unavailable and Akinori Otsuka must be used as the closer. "Kam Loe can help us out in many different ways," Washington said. Wright, in camp on a Minor League contract, will not be added to the 40-man roster right away. Because the Rangers do not need a fifth starter before April 10, Wright has agreed to make one start on April 5 for the Double-A Frisco Roughriders before being called up to the Majors. Padilla struggles, Wood shines: Vicente Padilla, who had some elbow discomfort earlier this spring, allowed 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 11-8 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday. Padilla and Kevin Millwood, the Rangers' top two starters, gave up a combined 20 runs in their last starts in Arizona. "Everything is good," Washington said. "Once we get out of here, attitudes change, focus changes. I'm not going to let a couple of days destroy what we've accomplished out here." Padilla also hit a batter, plunking catcher Kenji Johjima in the third. In the seventh, Mariners pitcher Justin Lehr threw behind Marlon Byrd and home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor warned both teams. Washington said Padilla was not throwing at anybody. "If the other team takes offense, that's their problem," Washington said. "If it festers, we'll see what happens." Meanwhile, right-hander Mike Wood continues to bolster his bullpen candidacy, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He has a 1.29 ERA this spring ERA. "He's still here," Washington said. "He's not gone yet." Bruce Chen isn't either, and he pitched six innings in a Triple-A game in Surprise, Ariz., allowing one run on three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Feldman added to bullpen: Washington told Feldman on Wednesday that he had made the team. At the same time, the Rangers optioned Francisco and Littleton to Triple-A Oklahoma and released Rick Bauer. Feldman has a 2.84 ERA this spring and opponents are hitting .217 off him.
"He sinks the ball, he throws the ball in the strike zone and he can get both righties and lefties out," Washington said.Francisco was 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA but walked six in 7 1/3 innings. Washington said Francisco needs to work on his secondary offspeed pitches as well as get better at holding runners on base and fielding his position. Francisco agreed with the manager during their meeting. "I was surprised how well he took it," Washington said. "He has that tough-guy look, but he was a class act in there. Really a class act." Littleton never got on a roll in camp and was sent down with a 15.00 ERA and opponents hitting .370 off him. "He needs to work on his command," Washington said. "He was in and out. There were times when he showed the stuff people saw last year, but he wasn't consistent." Bauer was placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of giving him his release. Eight relievers: Wood or Chen will make the Opening Day roster as an eighth reliever. It will be a temporary assignment until Wright is ready to be activated. Chen has to be put on the 40-man roster by Sunday or he can take his free agency. One scenario is using him in the bullpen until April 10. He would have to clear waivers before being sent to the Minors and could take his free agency then, but it would also be tougher to find a job at the Major League level at that point. Cruz may sit against Lackey: Right-hander John Lackey pitches for the Angels on Opening Day against the Rangers, and that may mean Sammy Sosa over Nelson Cruz in the lineup. Washington said he's concerned about Lackey's tough overhand curveball being a problem for Cruz. "If I were to go with Sammy, I think he could make an adjustment faster than Cruz," Washington said. "But I haven't decided that yet." Sosa returned to the workouts after missing two days because of the stomach flu. He did not play against the Mariners but is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals. He said it: "You know when he's in there fighting for something, you learn to shut up because he's got something to back it up." -- Washington, on Oakland general manager Billy Beane Briefly: Washington admitted that it's likely that shortstop Joaquin Arias (shoulder) and pitcher John Rheinecker (back) will start the season on the disabled list. ... The Angels starters for the opening three-game series against the Rangers will be Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana. All are right-handers. ... The Rangers still have two spots on the bench to fill: a backup catcher and a utility player. ... The Rangers went into Wednesday's game leading the Majors with a .331 batting average, .389 on-base percentage and a .516 slugging percentage in Spring Training. Up next: The Rangers play their final spring game in Arizona at 2:05 p.m. CT on Thursday at Surprise Stadium. Brandon McCarthy pitches against Odalis Perez and the Royals.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.