SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Luis Mendoza has left no doubt that he belongs in the Rangers' rotation.
He'll just have to wait a few more weeks before he gets to enjoy the full benefits and privileges that go with that honor. Right now, it looks like he'll have to spend two weeks with Triple-A Oklahoma before he can get to Texas.
Mendoza, in his last start in Arizona, celebrated Easter Sunday with five scoreless innings in pitching the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Giants at Surprise Stadium. Mendoza allowed six hits, walked one and struck out two, and has now allowed just one run in his last 10 innings.
That has been more than enough to win the fifth starter spot, but it hasn't been enough to displace Kason Gabbard as the Rangers' fourth starter. Manager Ron Washington said after Mendoza's performance that Gabbard still has that job.
"I think Gabby deserves it," Washington said.
The distinction is important. The Rangers, because of two off-days, don't need their fifth starter until April 12, so the plan is to send Mendoza to Triple-A Oklahoma for the first two weeks of the season.
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"He's going to pitch in the big leagues," Washington said. "He just needs to continue to pitch until his turn comes up. He's showing me the same thing he showed me last year. He's not afraid, he's got great stuff, he throws it in the strike zone and he's durable."
The spot came open when Brandon McCarthy came down with severe elbow inflammation. McCarthy still hasn't resumed throwing yet and is unlikely to be ready before May 1.
Mendoza was scheduled to go more than five innings Sunday but he was starting to develop a blister and the Rangers took him out. His spring has gone too well to mess it up at the end.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Mendoza said. "I'm throwing strikes and every start I feel stronger and the command of my pitches is better. My breaking ball has improved. I don't know what the decision is of the manager, but I feel confident if I get the opportunity I'm going to do my best."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.