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Rangers could skip Millwood's next start

Rangers may skip Millwood's start

ARLINGTON -- Kevin Millwood is frustrated, and the Rangers aren't sure whether their ace will make his next scheduled start, which happens to be Friday's opener of a crucial three-game series against the first-place Angels in Arlington.

The beleaguered Millwood threw a bullpen session Sunday, less than 24 hours after his second shortest outing of the season. Millwood likes to throw between starts, but doing side work Sunday suggests that he is desperately trying to sort out why he is 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA in his past 12 starts.

Rangers manager Ron Washington said that Millwood was working on mechanical stuff with pitching coach Mike Maddux. Millwood will have at least another bullpen session before he makes his next start.

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"He tried to work a bit out of it today," Washington said. "He's going to continue to work on it."

Millwood said after Sunday's doubleheader split with Seattle that he was getting ready to pitch in a game.

"I was just working on a few things," Millwood said. "If I got into all the mechanical things, you wouldn't understand them."

Millwood lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Saturday's 8-3 rain-shortened loss to Seattle, allowing five runs. It was his shortest outing since going two innings against the Royals on July 26 when he left with a strained gluteus muscle.

If Millwood doesn't start Friday against the Angels, it's possible he could get pushed back to the Rangers' next road trip at Oakland. The thought that Millwood, the Rangers' highest-paid starter, wouldn't pitch against the Angels with the Rangers' chasing the American League West front-runners is an odd development.

When asked about the different scenarios for when Millwood would pitch again, including him starting Friday against the Angels, the manager was non-committal.

"For me to definitely say that, I don't know," Washington said.

Millwood said after Saturday's start that he is fine physically.

"He's not hurting," Washington said. "It's just not going that good."

The interesting side story to the Millwood saga is that he is guaranteed his contract of $12 million for the 2010 season if he throws 180 innings.

Millwood is currently at 175 2/3 innings with 22 games left in the season -- including Sunday's doubleheader. With four possible starts still out there, it would seem he would clear 180 innings easily.

Clearly, Millwood, who said after Saturday's start that he's "trying to do some things to get it straightened out," has personal and team incentive to get back on the mound and pitch well.

But it's also clear that the 34-year-old veteran is struggling to figure out why he's in a tailspin. Washington said it was good to see Millwood pound the strike zone after battling control problems in his previous start against Baltimore.

"He usually can figure things out," Washington said. "He makes a pitch and they're still finding a way to get to it. It's just like a hitter sometimes. He keeps the bat on his shoulder instead of swinging at pitch he likes."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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