ARLINGTON -- Derek Holland threw a bullpen Thursday in anticipation of starting for the Rangers on Saturday, and he said he had major improvement in fastball command. An erratic fastball forced Holland out of Monday's start against Oakland after three innings.

"I had control of my fastball this time," Holland said. "I could tell which way it was going to go. It felt a lot better than in that game."

Holland struggled with his fastball command up in the strike zone and on both sides of the plate Monday, and it resulted in his shortest outing since May 30 against Seattle. Holland allowed two home runs, upping his season total to 30. His 1.63 home runs allowed per nine innings is the third highest in the American League. It was the first time he hadn't pitched at least five innings since going 1 2/3 against the Mariners in that May 30 start.

Holland hadn't been told yet if he was starting Saturday's game.

Darvish on track to start Sunday vs. Angels

ARLINGTON -- Yu Darvish, the Rangers' hottest starting pitcher, threw long toss Thursday and felt much better as he prepares to start for the Rangers on Sunday against the Angels.

Darvish, who missed Tuesday's scheduled start with a stiff neck, will throw from a mound on Friday. If he continues to improve, he'll get the go ahead on Sunday.

Darvish ramped things up Thursday morning, throwing several pitches from flat ground before the Rangers' series finale against the A's. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he hadn't gotten any medical reports before the game, but said he was confident Darvish will be ready to go against the Angels.

"He's not tentative for Sunday," Washington said. "If Sunday rolls around and he hasn't pitched, it will be Sunday."

Darvish did some light tossing Wednesday, and he reported that he was better.

The Rangers will stick with Ryan Dempster on Friday and Derek Holland will likely pitch on Saturday. There was no thought to adjusting the rotation due to Dempster's struggles thus far against the Angels -- he is 0-1 with a 14.63 ERA against them in two starts, allowing 13 runs in eight innings.

"I look at it in the opposite," Washington said. "It's time for him to pitch well against them."

Murphy out of lineup for first time in September

ARLINGTON -- David Murphy, who has one hit in 12 at-bats on the homestand, was out of the Rangers' lineup on Thursday, the first time that's happened in September.

Murphy, who has played in a career-high 141 games, has looked a little sluggish, manager Ron Washington said. So the manager had been looking to get him a day off, and a day game after a night game with left-handed starter Travis Blackley going made for perfect timing.

I'm definitely disappointed," Murphy said, "But I can take it right, get a little rest and make sure I'm full strength for the rest of the week. It's late in the season. Everybody's worn down. This is the most games and most starts I've ever made."

Murphy started out the month red hot with seven hits in his first 11 at-bats, and he's batting .281 in September. But he's hitting .243 in his last 20 games.

"It's late in the season," Murphy said. "I need to slow it down a little."

Olt runs for first time since foot injury

ARLINGTON -- Rangers rookie Mike Olt ran for the first time since playing his last game on Sept. 12 against the Indians and had a positive report. Olt missed the recent road trip and has not played on the current homestand because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

"It feels good today," Olt said. "I did a lot yesterday. I'm not sore. I took ground balls. I jogged around."

Olt is attempting to get back on the field as the Rangers try to clinch a playoff spot and a chance to make the postseason roster looms for the 24-year-old.

Olt has made 11 starts since being called up from Double-A Frisco on Aug. 2, eight of them at first base. He gives the Rangers depth at the corner infield positions.

Worth noting

• Rookie Martin Perez is still slated to start Monday's game at Oakland after allowing five runs and failing to get out of the first inning in Wednesday's 9-3 loss to Oakland. Washington said Scott Feldman, who made an emergency start for Yu Darvish on Tuesday, was not a candidate for Monday's start.

• Roy Oswalt, who has pitched twice in the last three days -- with 3 1/3 scoreless innings -- doesn't have his pitch count up high enough to start a game, Washington said. Oswalt threw a combined 53 pitches in the two appearances against Oakland.

• The Rangers had gone hitless with runners in scoring position in six of their last 10 games entering Thursday.