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Notes: Mendoza moving on up

Notes: Mendoza moving on up

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rookie right-hander Luis Mendoza is moving into the Rangers Spring Training rotation, a first step toward being in the Opening Day rotation.

Mendoza is scheduled to start on Thursday against the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz. That's Brandon McCarthy's spot in the rotation and A.J. Murray started the last time in came up on Saturday against the San Diego Padres. Murray will instead start the scheduled "B" game against the Royals.

Right now Mendoza, who had a 2.25 ERA in six games for the Rangers last September, is the leading candidate to replace McCarthy in the starting rotation.

"He's a strong contender," pitching coach Mark Connor. "Just because of what I've seen last September and this spring: his stuff, his work ethic, his aptitude. The kid picks up things well."

Mendoza is far from a certainty. His best pitch is a power sinker but Connor said he needs to work on his changeup as a second pitch.

"With McCarthy out, we're going to spend much time with him on his breaking ball," Connor said.

Hurley still in running: Eric Hurley is also a contender for the Rangers starting rotation. Just how much, the Rangers aren't sure. It's something they will talk about, but Hurley didn't help his chances in a 6-4 loss to the Angels on Sunday. Hurley took the loss by giving up three runs in the seventh inning.

"It looked like he was trying to overthrow a little bit and [he] put some guys on," manager Ron Washington said. "It looks like he has a pretty good arm and he tries to use all his pitches. The more he pitches, the better he's going to get."

Hurley, who pitched three scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks on Monday, got through the first inning despite walking the leadoff hitter because Gerald Laird was able to complete a strike out/throw out double play. But Hurley walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, and this time the Angels made him pay with three runs. Juan Rivera had a two-run single with the bases loaded and one out.

Hurley recovered from that and retired the side in order in the eighth.

"He was all charged up and couldn't control himself," Connor said. "The last inning was better. He got control of himself. He's got to make adjustments quicker. His fastball has life but he's got to keep it in the zone."

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Rangers pleased with Gabbard: Kason Gabbard allowed three runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Angels on Sunday. He now has a 9.39 ERA after three outings and opponents are hitting .429 off him.

The Rangers are not alarmed. Connor has Gabbard working mainly with his fastball to build up strength and endurance.

"In a normal game, you would have seen him mix in his curveball a little more," Connor said. "Each outing we'd just like to see his consistency of pitches get better."

Connor said Gabbard is also "over the hump" as far as worrying about the forearm injury that cut short his season last September.

"He's healthy," Connor said. "He's not worried about his arm hurting."

Mathis rewarded: The Rangers have officially added starting pitcher Doug Mathis to the Spring Training roster and moved his locker into the Major League clubhouse. Mathis was 11-7 with a 3.76 ERA at Double-A Frisco last year and 0-3 with a 10.66 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma, but is not likely to be in the starting rotation competition.

This is more of a reward for what he's done while being used as an extra pitcher in the early part of the Cactus League schedule. He has made three appearances and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits but not walking a batter.

"We talk in the organization about our starters working quickly, controlling the game, throwing strikes and executing pitches," GM Jon Daniels said. "Doug has come into the game two or three times and done just that. This is a good reward for him and a message for everybody else."

He said it: "It gets embarrassing talking about injuries. It's embarrassing that I can't be out there. For us to succeed, I need to be out there. It doesn't do us any good for me to be on the training table." -- McCarthy

Briefly: C.J. Wilson (elbow) is planning to throw in the bullpen on Monday. He'll have one more session there, then possibly pitch in a game next weekend. ... Hank Blalock (back, shoulder) could play third base on Monday night after two straight games at designated hitter. German Duran started the last two games at third base because Travis Metcalf is sidelined with a strained hamstring. ... The Rangers lost to the Royals, 7-0, in a "B" game Sunday morning. Bill White, Warner Madrigal, Zach Phillips and Michael Schlact pitched for the Rangers. ... The Rangers have lost five of their last six games. ... Michael Young has six hits in his last 12 at-bats.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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