Texas sticks with Martinez for 'crucial' start

Righty to pitch Saturday, but Banister calling for improvement with rotation struggling

Texas sticks with Martinez for 'crucial' start

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are staying with right-hander Nick Martinez, and he will start on Saturday against the Twins. But manager Jeff Banister made it clear that the Rangers need to see improvement at a time when the rotation has been struggling.

"We need Nick to go out and give us a quality start," Banister said. "Put a foot down. It's time."

The obvious alternative is veteran Kyle Lohse, who has made 10 starts at Triple-A Round Rock and is 3-5 with a 5.06 ERA. He has a 3.46 ERA in his last two starts, but the Rangers are staying with Martinez, who is 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts.

"It's a combination -- he's here, he's ready, he's done it in the past and he's got the stuff,' Banister said. "Put it all together. He's going to pitch. It's crucial he shows up and gives us a good start."

It's crucial because the starters' struggles go beyond the last road trip.

Rangers starters are 6-6 with a 5.32 ERA in their last 23 games, with only six quality starts in that stretch. They were 27-11 with a 3.38 ERA in their first 63 games and had 43 quality starts. But they have been clobbered by injuries, and nobody is coming back soon.

That's why Rangers scouts are focusing hard on available starting pitching options as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. The Rays could be an attractive trade partner if they are willing to talk about right-hander Jake Odorizzi or left-hander Matt Moore.

Yu Darvish, who is on the disabled list because of discomfort in his right shoulder, threw 32 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday. The Rangers will decide on Friday if he'll pitch either Saturday or Sunday for Double-A Frisco.

Darvish on rehab start

It will be his second rehab start. He threw 42 pitches in two-plus innings on Monday for Frisco and will likely need at least two more starts in the Minors before he is ready to return to the rotation.

Darvish is much closer than Derek Holland and Colby Lewis. The chance of Holland returning before August wanes daily. Holland, sidelined with inflammation in his left shoulder, said he is feeling improvement but has not yet resumed throwing since his last start on June 20. The hope of a quick return has evaporated, and Holland will likely need multiple starts in the Minors before he is ready.

Rangers place Lewis on DL

Lewis is sidelined with a strained muscle in the back of his right shoulder and won't resume throwing until the end of July at the earliest. He'll also need multiple starts in the Minors, and his return will likely be closer to September.

"It has been a challenge," Banister said.

Choo back; Moreland out

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was back in the lineup Thursday after missing Wednesday's game with tightness in his lower back. But first baseman Mitch Moreland was down for one more game with tightness in his right calf muscle.

Moreland is hoping to be ready on Friday and is still available as a pinch-hitter.

"I can go today, but I might still have some limitations," Moreland said. "It's more ... do I have to push it? The answer is, if he needs me, yes. If not, maybe one more day."

Choo's solo home run

Rangers beat

• The Rangers have placed left-handed pitcher Eric Surkamp on unconditional release waivers so his rights can be sold to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization. He was claimed on waivers from Oakland on June 29. The Rangers now have 39 on the 40-man roster.

• Reliever Tanner Scheppers, who has been sidelined all season while recovering from left knee surgery, has thrown three times off the mound without any problems. Scheppers is hoping to go to Surprise, Ariz., during the All-Star break to begin throwing live batting practice and simulated games.

• Reliever Jose Leclerc, who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his Major League debut against the Red Sox on Wednesday, is probably down until Saturday after throwing 51 pitches. But Banister said, "Pretty impressive against that ballclub in that environment. A lot different than what I saw in Spring Training. Explosive 97-mile-per-hour fastball with movement, threw two different changeups, swing and miss stuff. It was nice to see."

Leclerc fans four in debut

• Outfielder Lewis Brinson was 1-for-4 with a walk for Frisco on Wednesday. It was the first game for Brinson since June 9, as the Rangers' No. 1 pick from the 2012 MLB Draft and No. 2 prospect had been on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.