ARLINGTON -- The Rangers enter the second half of the season needing one more starting pitcher for the stretch run and have officially entered themselves in the Roy Halladay Sweepstakes. Starting pitching appears to be a top priority for general manager Jon Daniels as the Rangers get ready to begin the second half against the Twins on Friday night. "All 30 clubs can say the same thing," Daniels said Thursday afternoon. "It's something we're exploring, but at the same time, we've got to be prepared to go from within. Anything that presents itself externally is a bonus. We've got to be able to count on guys already on the ballclub."
The Rangers have asked about Halladay and have had discussions with the Blue Jays. But sources call it a "long-shot." Texas knows the cost is going to be high, in terms of taking on salary and giving up prospects. Toronto is expected to demand first baseman Justin Smoak and at least two good young starting pitchers. That could drive the Rangers away, but at least there is dialogue going between the two teams. Word is the Red Sox and the Phillies are likely to be the leading candidates for Halladay. The Rangers will start the second half with rookie left-hander Derek Holland in the rotation, and he's scheduled to start on Sunday against the Twins. He'll follow Vicente Padilla and Scott Feldman. Kevin Millwood and Tommy Hunter are expected to start the first two games against the Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday. "We like our five guys," Daniels said. "We expect them to have a quality outing every night. Obviously, we have some inexperience toward the back end but they are still more than capable." Holland is expected to pitch on Sunday against the Twins and the following Saturday against the Royals in Kansas City. Both teams have lineups that are strong from the left side, especially the Twins with All-Star catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau, so the Rangers wanted Holland to start. Holland will likely make those two starts and possibly one more against the Mariners before the Rangers decide what to do with him. By then, Texas will be at the Trade Deadline and will know if they can add a starting pitcher from outside. The club will also know if Matt Harrison is close to returning from the disabled list. Harrison, who is sidelined with biceps tendinitis in his left arm, threw a simulated game at Rangers Ballpark on Thursday. His next step could be a medical rehabilitation assignment in the Minor Leagues, but the Rangers want him to have multiple outings before they consider activating him again. That will likely won't be until August but it's farther along than Brandon McCarthy, who is on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. His return may not be until September. Rangers manager Ron Washington said only three starters are locked into the rotation: Millwood, Padilla and Feldman. Washington did not put Hunter in that category, but he is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four starts and it's doubtful he's going anywhere anytime soon. "If he continues to pitch well, he'll continue to get the ball," Washington said. Dustin Nippert is going back to the bullpen after posting a 7.36 ERA in two starts. He'll join Doug Mathis as the long-men in the Texas bullpen. The Rangers have also discussed the possibility of adding a right-handed reliever and are likely to add Neftali Feliz in the next week or so. Texas wants him to pitch back-to-back games this weekend and that's likely to be the final test before calling him up to the big leagues. Orlando Hernandez is also with Oklahoma City, but he has not impressed anybody and is expected to be let go by Monday at the latest. The Rangers know there might be some starting pitching available. They know about Halladay and they have asked about Cliff Lee, but the Indians don't want to trade him. They'd rather move Carl Pavano. Seattle left-handers Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard are free agents after the season but the Mariners -- who need offense -- aren't likely to talk about them while they are in the race. The Red Sox have a glut of starting pitching and could move Brad Penny. The Rangers like Javier Vazquez if the Braves are willing to talk about him. The Rays have extra starters, which brings Andy Sonnanstine's name up again, but need a closer for their bullpen. Teams like D-backs left-hander Doug Davis, but aren't as keen on right-hander Jon Garland. The Giants may dangle no-hit pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, but want a young bat in return and not a rent-a-player. If the Reds' tenuous playoff hopes sputter, they may move Bronson Arroyo. Lesser names available include Mets right-hander Tim Redding, Pirates right-hander Ian Snell (who is currently in Triple-A), Royals left-hander Kyle Davies and Tigers left-hander Nate Robertson, who is in the bullpen this season. "There are a few guys we're going to look at and might be interested in, but we're not going to trade for just anyone," Daniels said. "There has to be some kind of a fit." The Rangers have pushed the limits of their starting pitching depth from within the organization. Kris Benson is back pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, but allowed four runs in four innings in his first start there on Saturday. "You can never have enough pitching," Washington said. "If we can add somebody of significance, we will. If we can't, we'll go with what we've got. They've got us this far."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.