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07/01/09 8:16 PM ET

Nippert closing in on return for Rangers

Club to use him as either a starter or long man in bullpen

ARLINGTON -- Dustin Nippert, who has been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season, is close to being an option for the Rangers' pitching staff, either as a starter in place of Derek Holland or a long man in the bullpen.

Nippert, who was sidelined with a strained muscle in the back of his shoulder, threw five innings and allowed just one run for Triple-A Oklahoma City on a medical rehabilitation assignment against Nashville on Tuesday. Nippert allowed two hits, two walks and struck out six while throwing 76 pitches.

"I feel like I'm able to locate all my pitches and throw strikes," said Nippert, who has also made four appearances for Double-A Frisco and has a 2.55 ERA in five games while holding all opponents to a .167 average.

Nippert, who worked out with the Rangers on Wednesday, is supposed to make one more start in the Minors to work up to 100 pitches. At that point, the Rangers could activate him either as a starter or a reliever.

"We want him to be able to give us some length out of the bullpen or be a starter if needed," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But we want him to be able to give us three or four innings if needed. We want him to make one more start before making that assessment but he's progressing."

Right now, the Rangers have Holland in the rotation but there is some sentiment that he might be a better weapon pitching out of the bullpen. But the Rangers don't have very many alternatives right now with Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy on the disabled list. McCarthy won't be back until August and Harrison, sidelined with biceps tendinitis, will likely need at least a couple of rehab starts before he's activated and that probably won't be until after the All-Star break.

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