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05/24/08 6:50 PM ET

Millwood cleared to return to rotation

Rangers' No. 1 starter shows no ill effects in simulated game

CLEVELAND -- Kevin Millwood is returning to the Rangers' rotation and scheduled to pitch Friday against the Athletics at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Millwood was cleared to return after throwing 65 pitches in a simulated game at Progressive Field on Saturday. Millwood threw 45 pitches on the field over three simulated innings and another 20 pitches in the bullpen afterward.

Millwood has been sidelined for two weeks with a strained right groin muscle, but that has cleared up and the Rangers liked what they saw on the mound Saturday.

"My groin feels good, I didn't have any problems with it," Millwood said. "I felt my stuff and location was as good or better than it has been all year."

The Rangers had considered the possibility of Millwood pitching in a Minor League game but decided against it after watching him Saturday.

"He feels he's ready to pitch and we need to get him back in our rotation," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He's obviously important to us. He's our No. 1 starter, a winner and an innings guy."

Millwood went 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA in his first nine starts before going on the disabled list, and this is the second straight year he has missed substantial time in May.

He missed two weeks last season with a strained hamstring muscle, tried to pitch against the Angels on May 14 and immediately re-aggravated the injury. He missed two more weeks before he pitched again.

The Rangers are confident this time that Millwood's over his injury, putting him through extensive pitcher's fielding drills earlier this week in Minnesota.

"We didn't put him through as many rigorous tests [last year] as we did this time," manager Ron Washington said. "What I saw him do today, he was good out there. He had great stuff and no residual [effects] from the groin."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.