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Guardado in doubt for Opening Day

Guardado in doubt for Opening Day

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers know their rotation will be Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Jason Jennings, Kason Gabbard and Luis Mendoza, and they have a pretty good idea of who will be in their bullpen.

The main thing they need to know is whether veteran left-hander Eddie Guardado will be ready for Opening Day. That may be their biggest pitching concern as they enter the final week of Spring Training.

Guardado is 37 and he has made just 15 Major League appearances since coming back last summer from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Those were already tricky hurdles, but he has had two other setbacks this spring, first because of a strained left knee and now because of a flu bug.

Guardado, zapped by the bug the last two days, has not pitched in a game since March 12 and has pitched just 4 2/3 innings in Cactus League games to this point. The Rangers don't know when he'll be able to pitch next.

Guardado does not have one single ailment that would require putting him on the disabled list. But the combined buildup of his issues may force the Rangers to consider that. They took the same approach with C.J. Wilson at the end of Spring Training in 2006 and Eric Gagne last year when they were held back by multiple minor ailments.

"We're not ready to say that yet," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He could still get up to 10 innings by Opening Day. If he gets around that number, we'll be okay."

Wilson (biceps tendinitis) and Joaquin Benoit (sore shoulder) have both had their problems this spring but both will pitch in Saturday's game against the Mariners. It will be the second Cactus League appearance for Wilson and first for Benoit, and Connor said both have enough time to get ready for Opening Day.

Otherwise, the Rangers are feeling good about their pitching staff. Padilla continued his march to starting the second game of the season by throwing 86 pitches in a Minor League game Friday.

Facing Triple-A hitters from the Padres organization, Padilla allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

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"I think he's throwing the ball well," Connor said. "I'm tickled to death the way his spring has gone. He had a good [split-finger fastball] and a good curveball. He threw his split more than normal but that's fine. His fastball velocity was pretty good and he located it well."

Padilla follows Millwood in the rotation and Jennings will be the No. 3 starter. The Rangers will have Gabbard and Mendoza fill out the rotation, but manager Ron Washington said they haven't decided who will be the No. 4 starter and who will be No. 5.

Gabbard is most likely the No. 4 starter, but the Rangers have not finalized that. Both have two more outings this spring before the Rangers have to make a decision. The fifth starter will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma until he is needed on April 12 against the Blue Jays.

The Rangers trimmed their pitching staff Friday by sending down Scott Feldman and Jason Davis. Feldman will be used as a starter and may pitch at Double-A Frisco.

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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