03/25/2013 4:47 PM ET
Baker makes roster after strong spring
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jeff Baker was told by manager Ron Washington on Monday morning he is going to be on the Opening Day roster. Baker, in camp on a Minor League contract, won a job as a utility player after hitting .423 in his first 24 games of the spring.
Baker is a right-handed hitter who can play first, second, third and both corner outfield spots. He has 646 career at-bats against left-handed pitchers with an average of .296, 25 home runs and 102 RBIs. He also has a .498 slugging percentage against them.
"He's a veteran utility guy who knows what he is doing," manager Ron Washington said. "He came in here and did exactly what he should do -- play and play well. We haven't had that veteran presence off the bench who can make a difference in that role. He knows how to do that and he has passed his experience on to some of the younger players."
Baker, who has been sidelined for three days with a sinus infection, could have taken his free agency on Tuesday if the Rangers hadn't put him on the 25-man roster. But Baker said his intention was to remain with the Rangers.
"I like my situation here," Baker said. "The one thing I've learned in baseball, until you hear that national anthem on Opening Day, where you are is where you are. I've seen a lot of crazy stuff so I just keep my head down and go from there."
The Rangers still need a utility infielder who can play shortstop. Rookie Leury Garcia is expected to fill that role unless the Rangers can find somebody from the outside in the final week of the season.
The Rangers have two backup first basemen in Baker and Lance Berkman. Washington said both will get an occasional chance to play there but there but the plan is still for Mitch Moreland to face both left- and right-handed pitchers during the regular season.
Rangers looking to pad Triple-A pitching depth
PEORIA, Ariz. - The Brewers have landed free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse without a fight from the Rangers.
The Rangers scouted Lohse while he was throwing in Arizona and kept in contact with agent Scott Boras but never made an offer, according to club officials. The Rangers are still undecided about a fifth starter with the decision coming down to right-hander Nick Tepesch and left-hander Michael Kirkman.
The Rangers are also still hoping Colby Lewis will return by June 1. He is in the final stages of recovering from flexor tendon surgery and is throwing off a mound in the bullpen. The plan is for Lewis to be in Arlington for the home opener on April 5 and then return to Arizona to start throwing live batting practice. From there he will need about six weeks to build up arm strength, durability and innings before he can pitch in the big leagues again.
The Rangers did add a starting pitcher on Sunday when they claimed left-hander Brad Mills off waivers from the Angels. Mills was placed on outright waivers by the Angels because he was out of options and wasn't going to make the team. Mills is not expected to make the team so the Rangers would also have to get him through waivers to get him to Triple-A Round Rock.
"I was pitching a lot of B games and Minor League games so I figured the Angels were getting ready to send me down," Mills said. "I don't know how it works so I was kind of surprised to be here. But it's always good when somebody wants you. They wouldn't grab me if they didn't want me."
The Rangers are looking for Triple-A pitching depth. The rotation at Round Rock will include right-handers Justin Grimm and Randy Wells, but other spots are uncertain. Right-handers Neil Ramirez and Jacob Brigham are among the candidates. The Rangers are also planning to stretch out Collin Balester as a starter even though he was a reliever in Spring Training. Ryan Feierabend, who made 19 starts for the Mariners in 2006-08 before his career was derailed by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is in Minor League camp and a possibility.
Nathan logs inning at Minor League camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rangers closer Joe Nathan pitched an inning in a Minor League camp on Monday. The outing came after Nathan pitched a scoreless inning against the Reds on Sunday, striking out two of the three batters faced. Nathan also had two strikeouts in a scoreless inning on Friday against the Rockies.
The back-to-back outings are something most closers try to do in the final week of Spring Training to get ready for the beginning of the season.
"Pitching back-to-back and three times in four days," Nathan said. "This is kind of my workload time to get ready. Things have been getting better and better with each outing. The only thing is to make sure the back-to-back goes well and everything is fine tomorrow. The only thing after that is getting the adrenaline going for the regular season. I'm throwing strikes and using all my pitches."
That includes a changeup. Nathan relies mainly on a fastball with either a slider or a curveball. He threw one changeup last season but has been trying to incorporate it into his repertoire this spring.
"I'm a lot more comfortable with it," Nathan said.
• The Rangers face a Tuesday deadline with pitcher Derek Lowe. He has to be added to the 25-man roster or he could take his free agency. That could be just a formality as the Rangers are strongly leaning toward adding Lowe to their Opening Day bullpen as a middle reliever.
• The Angels play the Rangers on Wednesday and that's C.J. Wilson's day to pitch. But the Angels are planning to pitch him in a Minor League game instead and use relievers against the Rangers. Wilson is not expected to pitch in Arlington during the Angels three-game series with the Rangers on April 5-7. The Angels are expected to pitch left-hander Jason Vargas and right-handers Tommy Hanson and Jered Weaver. Hanson has been troubled by soreness in his triceps muscle so his status is still in doubt.
• Lance Berkman, who was off on Monday, has seven hits in his last 14 at-bats and is tied for second in the Cactus League with 11 walks. Craig Gentry was third in the Cactus League with six stolen bases.
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.