SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' bullpen is far from set. There are still some roles that need to be claimed, decisions to make and relievers who need to start pitching better.Koji Uehara tops that list, and he gave up four runs in his inning of work against the Cubs on Thursday. Rookie Brett Jackson hit a two-run home run off him in the seventh, and Uehara now has a 16.88 ERA for the spring and opponents are hitting .400 (10-for-25) off him. "He got the ball up a little bit," manager Ron Washington said. "When a pitcher has a track record, you don't get concerned. He is a veteran pitcher who has done it before. He's had some troubles, but we just need him to maintain confidence in himself. The last outing he could lock it in." Mark Lowe was able to survive a bad day. He gave up a home run to Ian Stewart and a double to Joe Mather but escaped having allowed just one run. "That's the worst I've felt all spring as far as everything working," Lowe said. "Only giving up one run with nothing working ... I'll take it. I battled and made it through." The Rangers know that Joe Nathan, who pitched a scoreless ninth on Thursday, will be their closer and Mike Adams will be their primary setup reliever. They also know they have Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando who can pitch multiple innings in any role. But Washington acknowledged they have three one-inning jobs up for grabs. There are three right-handers competing for them: Uehara, Lowe and Yoshinori Tateyama. But if the Rangers decided they want at least one left-hander, then one of those right-handers might get bumped aside. "I would like for it to be a left-hander, but it doesn't have to be," Washington said. "I'm not concerned about the middle of the bullpen yet. I'm not concerned about anything yet. I'm only concerned about them getting their work and getting off the mound healthy. When it comes time to set up the bullpen, we'll be happy with it." Tateyama pitched a scoreless eighth on Thursday and has a 1.50 ERA for the spring. Opponents are hitting .182 (4-for-22) off him. "It has been a good spring for him," Washington said. "He's hitting his spots, changing speeds, keeping the ball down. He's doing a good job. That's what he does."
Rangers still pondering center-field decision
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton started in left field on Thursday afternoon against the Cubs. It was his eighth start in left as opposed to four in center and one at designated hitter.There is still a possibility that he could get more playing time in center field during the season, but the Rangers haven't made that decision yet. Hamilton, like everybody else, is waiting for the Rangers to make a decision on the position. But manager Ron Washington said they haven't come to that point yet. "I just want to be prepared," Hamilton said. "I want the opportunity to play center so I can get my legs under me out there. If I do start the season in center, I don't want to spent the first one and a half to two weeks getting my legs under me."
Hamilton was in left for the first game of the split-squad doubleheader. Craig Gentry started in center and Julio Borbon was in center for the night game against the Reds. Those two are competing for the center-field job, and Borbon has had the best spring. But the Rangers are still looking hard at Gentry and the possibility exists that both could make the team.If Hamilton plays center, that allows the Rangers to get David Murphy into the lineup, and he went into Thursday's games hitting .387 for the spring with a .412 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. "All I know is David Murphy is going to be on the team and David Murphy is going to play," Washington said. Murphy has been hotter than Hamilton, who went 1-for-4 against Cubs pitcher Matt Garza on Thursday and is 6-for-34 (.176) on the spring. His only extra-base hit has been a double. "I still feel good," Hamilton said. "Today is the best that I have felt as far as my power being back to where it needs to be," Hamilton said. "I'm just trying to eliminate the bigger movements in my swing and keep it simple. The last 10 days are the most important in trying to figure it out and get the timing where it needs to be."
Yu's Minors start on Sunday in main stadium
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish's next outing will be on Sunday but not against the Angels. The Rangers are going to have Darvish pitch in an intrasquad game against Minor Leaguers.Intrasquad games are normally held on the back field, but the Rangers are holding this one in the main stadium. The game will start at 10 a.m. MST and the gates will open at 9:30 a.m. Fans holding tickets to the Royals-Brewers game can use them to attend the intrasquad game as well. The Rangers have not announced a starter for Sunday's game against the Angels. Robbie Ross is expected to pitch in the game, but the Rangers are undecided if he'll start of if he'll pitch in relief. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are also making their next starts against Minor Leaguers. Alexi Ogando will start in place of Holland on Friday night against the Giants and Greg Reynolds will pitch against the Angels on Saturday. The Rangers want Holland, Harrison and Darvish to pitch in a Minor League game because it allows them to get their pitch counts up without worrying about results. Those three have combined for a 2.25 ERA through their first three outings and opponents are hitting .186 off them. Darvish once again had two bullpen sessions between his starts rather than throwing live batting practice. "He's just trying to command his fastball and get a feel for it," manager Ron Washington said.
The Angels are pitching Ervin Santana against the Rangers on Saturday. Monty Fariss, the Rangers' first-round pick in 1988, visited camp on Thursday with a youth team from Edmond, Okla. The Rangers have released outfielder Braxton Lane and pitchers Kennil Gomez, Geuris Grullon, Colby Killian, Samuel Robinson and Timothy Stanford from their Minor League system. Michael Young has hit safely in nine straight games. Mike Napoli has reached base safely in nine straight games and has nine walks during that stretch.
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.