PHOENIX -- The Rangers are setting up a simulated game for pitchers Kevin Millwood and Joaquin Benoit rather than try to rush them back into an exhibition game. The two right-handers will throw to Rangers hitters on Monday morning instead in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres later that night. Millwood, the Rangers' scheduled Opening Day starter on March 31 against the Mariners, is still recovering from a strained right hamstring and the Rangers aren't ready to push him into a Cactus League game yet. His arm is fine, but the Rangers are concerned about him having to field his position and re-injuring the hamstring.
"We don't feel it's 100 percent or going to be 100 percent by Sunday," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "Our goal is March 31. As long as he's able to keep his arm going he'll be fine." Benoit has been sidelined with inflammation in his shoulder and threw in the bullpen on Friday. Again, the Rangers don't think he's ready to make his first appearance in a Cactus League game either and would rather pitch him under controlled conditions. "It's better than it has been but it's still not 95-100 percent," Connor said. "In a simulated game I can control his effort and control his pitches. We'll see how he comes out of that. Jennings passes a test: Jason Jennings on Friday passed one of those little tests that pitchers need to go through when recovering from surgery. Jennings, the starter in the Rangers' 9-8 loss to the Brewers, had to sit around while his teammates scored six runs in the top of the third inning and then had to go back out to pitch. He did so without problem and that was a relief to him. "In those instances last year that was bad news," Jennings said. "It would be pretty painful when I had to sit out that long. Today it was fine." Jennings, who underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon on Aug. 30, ended up throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings before hitting his 45-pitch limit. He and Vicente Padilla have been the clear bright spots in the Rangers rotation this spring, combining for 9 1/3 scoreless innings to this point. Hamilton cleans up: Rangers manager Ron Washington, missing Milton Bradley and Hank Blalock from his lineup, put Josh Hamilton into the cleanup spot on Friday against the Brewers. Hamilton responded with his first home run of the spring, a grand slam that soared over the berm beyond the right-field fence and landed on a walkway. Hamilton clearly has cleanup power, but Washington's original plan was not to thrust him into that role right away. Washington's plan is to use Bradley at cleanup and use Hamilton in the No. 2 spot. "That doesn't mean we won't use him there now and then," Washington said. "He seems to be all right there." The home run came off left-hander Chris Capuano. Hamilton had just one home run in 72 at-bats off left-handers last year.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.