SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Luis Mendoza does on Tuesday what Jason Jennings did on Monday, then the Rangers fifth-starter competition could come to a swift conclusion.
Mendoza is the favorite with two weeks to go and Jennings gave him a blueprint to emulate by pitching four strong innings in a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Jennings velocity isn't quite there yet, but his location was sharp, his sinker was down in the zone and his slider has been one of the best pitches featured by a Rangers pitcher this spring. He allowed one run on two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out two.
Mendoza has a similar repertoire and a similar approach. The Rangers want to see similar results.
"We just want him to finish his innings," manager Ron Washington said. "We know what kind of stuff he has. We just want him to finish his innings like Jennings did today."
Mendoza is the leading candidate to be the Rangers' fifth starter now that Brandon McCarthy is sidelined 4-8 weeks with elbow inflammation. Sidney Ponson remains in the mix and the Rangers may start him on Friday against the Angels. But that's because the Rangers don't want Vicente Padilla facing the Angels this late in spring when he'll have to face them in his second start of the season.
The same holds true on Saturday. The Rangers play the Mariners and it's Jennings turn to pitch. The Rangers would rather have both Padilla and Jennings get their work in a Minor League game rather than face an AL West opponent.
That's why Eric Hurley will get a second start on Saturday against the Mariners. Hurley is also a fifth starter candidate. But right now Mendoza has his hands on the job and Jennings showed him how to win it.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.