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Feldman delivers as Rangers pop off

Feldman delivers as Rangers pop off

BALTIMORE -- Scott Feldman presented Exhibit A on why he feels he should be in the Rangers' rotation. Derek Holland presented more evidence on why he will one day be in the Rangers' rotation.

Coming out of the bullpen to replace Kris Benson, Feldman delivered an impressive five-inning spot-start performance in a 6-5 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards. Holland followed with three strong innings in relief as the Rangers won for the second successive night over the Orioles.

"[Feldman] did a great job," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who is the ultimate authority on who is in and who is out of the rotation. "Really he did. And the kid came in behind him and did a great job too."

Feldman benefited by four home runs hit in the first three innings. Ian Kinsler hit two and Chris Davis and Andruw Jones each hit one, giving the Rangers 35 on the season. That's the most they've hit after the first 17 games of a season in club history.

Josh Hamilton left the game in the sixth inning after re-aggravating a bruised ribcage while running the bases but said he expects to play on Sunday.

The Rangers needed every home run because they had to stave off a ninth-inning rally by the Orioles. The Rangers led 6-2 in the ninth before the Orioles scored three off C.J. Wilson. Frank Francisco, who gave up a two-run single to Adam Jones, struck out Nick Makarkis and got Aubrey Huff on a fly to left to end the threat.

"That's all it's about," Washington said. "When the ninth inning is over, you're supposed to have more runs than the opponent, and we did that."

They did mainly because of the strong pitching of the two guys who came before Wilson. One wants badly to be in the rotation, but isn't sure he will remain there. The other is eventually going to be in the rotation, only nobody is quite sure when.

After Feldman held the Orioles to four hits and a walk through five innings, Holland came in and allowed just a solo home run to Ty Wigginton over three frames in his second Major League appearance. Holland was also able to overcome issuing a leadoff walk to start both the seventh and eighth innings.

"I just stayed calm and kept going after people," Holland said. "You don't want to show any intimidation, you want to keep coming right after them."

Washington said the original plan was for Holland to go four innings. But that changed after the leadoff walks and because he threw 48 pitches.

"In the last inning he started laboring, walking people and getting the ball up," Washington said. "We didn't want to push him. Being young, sometimes his energy takes over and he overthrows. But he's mature enough to take a step back and calm himself."

If Holland could have made it through one more inning, he would have had his first Major League save. But he was ready to come out.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I was a little fatigued," Holland said. "I'm not used to coming out of the bullpen, it's all new to me."

Feldman is used to coming out of the bullpen, but prefers to start and appeared to be a totally different pitcher on Saturday. For one, he was using a full windmill windup rather that the compact delivery he used before. Pitching coach Mike Maddux suggested it to help keep Feldman's mechanics in sync.

But this performance was a 180-degree turn from Feldman's three relief appearances that netted a 12.15 ERA and probably can't be explained simply because of a change in delivery.

"I love being in the rotation," Feldman said. "It was a lot of fun tonight. I got an opportunity to start a ballgame, and that's something I really enjoy doing. It's definitely different starting a game than pitching in a blowout. A lot of the stuff is out of my control. I know I improved on a lot of things I needed to improve on in Spring Training, like my offspeed stuff."

Feldman will get at least one more start. Benson is on the disabled list and isn't eligible to come off until Friday. He'll likely get at least one rehabilitation start in the Minor Leagues anyway.

So Feldman is expected to start on Thursday against the Athletics. Washington said it will not be Holland. He remains in the bullpen ... for now.

"He's certainly a good guy to have in case something happens and he can do what he did tonight," Washington said. "We're fortunate to have him."

Feldman might think the Rangers should feel fortunate to have him in the rotation for 30 starts.

"He's a good guy to have down in the bullpen and replace a starter when we need him," Washington repeated.

Of course, Feldman may have gone only five innings, but he is the only starter besides Kevin Millwood to hold an opponent to one run or fewer in a start this season. Maybe the Rangers might find that they can't take him out of the rotation.

"I hope they can't take me out of the rotation," Feldman said. "I love starting."

And if he's told he's going back to the bullpen?

"I'll worry about that when it happens," Feldman said. "If it happens."

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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