Rangers set rotation amid pitching questions

Rangers set rotation amid pitching questions

ARLINGTON -- Lisalverto Bonilla started for the Rangers on Saturday, while Robbie Ross remained in the bullpen.

Manager Tim Bogar said people shouldn't read too much into that. The Rangers want to look at Bonilla, and he was the logical choice to go when Scott Baker was scratched. If Baker, who has right triceps tendinitis, isn't ready to go next Friday against the Angels, Ross will get consideration for that start.

But the Rangers still have to decide this winter if they'll keep Ross in the bullpen -- where he has had the most success -- or continue to give him a chance to start.

"I like him as a bullpen guy -- and that's what, to me, we should focus on," Bogar said. "But we'll have those discussions when the season is over."

Ross was the Rangers' top left-handed reliever in 2012-13, before winning a spot in the rotation in Spring Training. He made nine starts and was 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA before being moved back to the bullpen. He was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, where he was used as a starter. He was 4-4 with a 4.39 ERA in nine starts there, including 4-2 with a 2.78 ERA in his last six.

"Being in the bullpen is not a bad place to be, but I would like to start," Ross said. "I feel like going back to Triple-A and figuring it out, I took the right steps -- and I'd like to continue in that direction."

The Rangers have a long line of hopefuls for a rotation that begins with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Much depends on what happens with some of the injured pitchers -- including Matt Harrison and Miles Mikolas -- and if the Rangers will be serious bidders for the top free-agent starters.

This will be an unusually strong class of free-agent starting pitchers, including Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields and Ervin Santana. Colby Lewis is also a free agent, and is hoping to return. The feeling may be mutual.

"I would love to have him back," Bogar said.

Ross was 10-2 with a 2.62 ERA over 123 games as a reliever for the Rangers in 2012-13, with opponents hitting .245 off him. This season he is 2-6 with a 6.53 ERA, with opponents hitting .325 off him.

"We'll see what happens," Ross said. "I'd like to be a starter, but we'll see how the rest of the season goes. Take it a day at a time and see what happens."

Lewis will pitch on Sunday against the Braves. The Rangers are off on Monday, and Nick Tepesch will open the three-game series against the Athletics on Tuesday in Oakland.

The Rangers will then follow with Holland on Wednesday and Nick Martinez on Thursday. Texas is moving Holland ahead of Martinez and pitching him on five days' rest. Martinez, who pitched on Friday, is getting extra rest, but either way both should get three starts before the season is over.

Friday is open, but Baker is still the Rangers' first choice if the inflammation in his triceps subsides.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.