SEATTLE -- Scott Feldman needs better command of all his pitches if he's going to stay in the Rangers' rotation. He had that command in Spring Training, but it has escaped him during the past six weeks of erratic use as a spot starter and long reliever.The question is whether the Rangers will give him the regular work as a starter while Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list to allow him to regain his command. That's something they intend to discuss before Feldman's scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday against the Mariners. But manager Ron Washington wasn't ready to put the entire blame on Feldman after the Rangers finished their road trip with a 5-3 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday. Feldman did give up a grand slam to Alex Liddi, but the Rangers' offense didn't help matters by being held scoreless for six innings by former teammate Kevin Millwood. "I don't think you can put what happened today all on Scott," Washington said. "He made a bad pitch to Liddi, but he made a ton of good pitches, too. We have a decision to make and we'll make it, but you can't put all of that on Scott." Just as costly as the grand slam were five walks issued by Feldman, including one that was intentional. "Walking that many guys, I was dodging bullets the whole day and they finally got me in the fifth inning," Feldman said. "Bad command. I've got to get back to where I was when I left [Spring Training] and I had confidence in all my pitches. "There were some positives. My fastball was decent, but my other pitches, I didn't have the command. I'm going to work hard the next few days between starts and work on that, maybe an extra bullpen [session] or throw to some live hitters." The Rangers haven't announced whether Feldman will start on Tuesday, but they don't have much choice otherwise. Alexi Ogando isn't stretched out and there are no attractive alternatives at Triple-A. Roy Oswalt is unsigned and the Rangers have interest, but he isn't close to being ready to pitch in a Major League game. "We haven't talked about it yet," Washington said. "We'll just wait and see when we start to talk." The Mariners were in need of starting pitching depth this winter, so they signed Millwood to a Minor League contract and then put him in their rotation at the end of Spring Training. He has pitched twice against the Rangers this season and has allowed just one run in 12 innings. "When you face a lineup that good, you focus more, which is kind of bad to say because you should probably focus like that against every lineup," Millwood said. "But when you have one through nine that can do damage, it makes you try to lock in even more, and I think that's what we've done."
The Rangers managed just three hits and a walk through six innings against Millwood. He struck out two in winning his third straight start. He has allowed one run in his last 22 innings."To me, for some reason, my timing always seems off against him," Rangers left fielder David Murphy said. "He's not much to figure out -- he's always been fastball, curve, slider and changeup. But he's a veteran who knows how to pitch and has been doing it for a long time. He's had our number and he's in our division so we're going to face him a lot so we have to make an adjustment." Millwood isn't the only pitcher who has thrown the ball well of late against the Rangers. In their last 10 games, the Rangers are hitting .243 with a .293 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage while averaging 3.5 runs per game. They didn't score on Wednesday until the eighth inning. "We're not swinging the bats the way we're capable of right now," designated hitter Michael Young said. "We've got to stay the course. That's what the big league season is all about. When things don't go your way, you stay with it and play hard. Our confidence is still high as a team and we expect things to go our way." Feldman's troubles started when he walked the first three batters in the second inning and then Michael Saunders gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. Feldman was able to escape further damage by retiring Mike Carp on a popout and Brendan Ryan on a grounder. He retired the side in order in the third and fourth before walking Saunders to start the fifth. Carp followed with a single to left. A botched pickoff moved runners to second and third. Ryan grounded out to shortstop without the runners advancing and then Dustin Ackley was intentionally walked to load the bases. The obvious idea was to get an inning-ending double play out of Liddi, and Feldman threw a first-pitch sinker. "I was trying to go down and in, and get him to roll it over," Feldman said. "I got it up." He did and Liddi crushed it over the left-field fence for a grand slam. "He'd been throwing a pretty good sinker down in the zone," Liddi said. "I think he wanted me to hit a ground ball, so I was looking for a pitch up that I could hit a fly ball or drive it." Feldman needed better command of his pitches. That will decide whether he can fill this spot in the rotation. The Rangers have much to talk about.
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.