It's nice to have you back again

It's nice to have you back again

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington called it a very significant day.

A manager is bound to feel that way when his top two relievers pitch in the same game for the first time this spring. Getting Eddie Guardado back soon will only make Washington feel that much better.

Left-handed closer C.J. Wilson, in his first Cactus League appearance since Feb. 29, and right-hander Joaquin Benoit, pitching for the first time this spring, both pitched a scoreless inning in the Rangers' 8-5 victory over the Mariners on Saturday.

Wilson had been sidelined with biceps tendinitis and Benoit has been dealing with a sore shoulder, but both appear healthy going into the final week of Spring Training.

"They'll get two more times out there before we leave here, maybe three," Washington said. "But I certainly like what they did today."

Guardado, who hasn't pitched in an "A" game since March 12, was able to get back on the mound on Saturday and throw in the bullpen. He was held back by a strained left knee and a two-day bout with the flu, but he could throw in a game as early as Monday. Despite having pitched just 4 2/3 innings this spring, Guardado said there's no doubt he'll be ready for Opening Day.

"I've been doing this a long time," Guardado said. "I've been in Spring Trainings where I've pitched just two innings. I'll be all right. I'm not ready to panic."

Guardado's issues won't keep him off the Opening Day roster, but it did keep him from mounting a serious challenge to Wilson's job as closer. Wilson still has that role, although Washington seems to want to make sure he's healthy before making any formal declaration.

"As long as we get him out of here healthy, we'll give him the ball," Washington said. "We just want to make sure that injury doesn't flare up and it's over. It looks like his velocity is back, now he needs to hone in on putting the ball where he wants it."

Wilson, who had 12 saves last year, said he's "on schedule" to be ready for Opening Day.

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"My body feels good," Wilson said. "It's not how hard you're throwing, it's how you feel and I feel good. I don't really need that many innings. I stay in good enough shape in the offseason where I don't need that many innings. It's just a matter of getting through the same arm stuff I go through every year. I just tried to impress too early. That's my fault. It's something I'll learn."

Wilson and Benoit followed rookie right-hander Eric Hurley, who made his second start of the spring and allowed five runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Four of the five runs came across in the first inning before Hurley finally got things under control.

Hurley and Sidney Ponson were candidates for the fifth spot in the Rangers' rotation, but that issue was settled last week. Ponson returned to Minor League camp on Friday, and Hurley will also start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma.

Hurley was starting on Saturday for Jason Jennings, the Rangers' No. 3 starter who was doing his work in Minor League camp. Jennings' first start of the regular season is against the Mariners, so the Rangers didn't want him facing them so late in the spring.

Instead, Jennings pitched for Class A Bakersfield against the Brewers' Class A team, and he did not allow a run in five innings. He allowed two hits, walked five and struck out seven. He'll make his last start of the spring on Thursday against the Royals.

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