04/20/2013 8:52 PM ET
Baker thriving in utility role
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Utility player Jeff Baker has started just four games. But the Rangers have won three of them, including a 7-0 victory over the Mariners on Friday. Baker gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an opposite field home run off of Mariners starter Joe Saunders.
He has started two games at first, one in left and one in right. He hasn't played third base yet, but that will come soon when Adrian Beltre needs a day off. So far, Baker is 4-for-13 and his home run on Friday was the first by a Rangers player off a left-handed pitcher this year.
"He's doing a great job for us," manager Ron Washington said. "We know he can play all the corner positions, we know he can hit left-handers and we know he can swing the bat. It's been awhile since we've had a guy like that. It's nice to have a guy who can play that role and has been successful."
Baker knew this would be his role ever since he signed with the Rangers on Jan. 26. It's been his role throughout a seven-year career. He has never played more than 49 games at any single defensive position in one year and he has never has as many as 300 at-bats in a single season.
"I like the winning," Baker said. "I have been around long enough to fit in different clubhouses and teams so, yeah, I feel comfortable. I understand what my role is, so it's not an issue one way or another."
Andrus stays positive despite results
ARLINGTON -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus went into Saturday's game against the Mariners with just two hits in his last 18 at-bats. That dropped his batting average from .244 to .206 after the first three weeks of the season.
"The other team is catching everything," Andrus said. "There's no way you can be frustrated when you're hitting the ball good. I haven't been lucky, but if I keep hitting it good like this, the balls are going to start falling in.
"I mean, at the plate I'm really feeling great. There's nothing else I can do. I'm having great at-bats and I'm hitting the ball the right way, I just haven't been getting good luck. I'm happy we're winning games, that's the main thing."
Manager Ron Washington took umbrage when it was suggested that Andrus might be in a skid.
"Elvis has been stroking the baseball," Washington said. "I don't want him to change anything. When he starts finding holes, it will come in droves. He's smacking the baseball. I told Elvis, 'Don't change a thing.'"
Harrison's back woes started in spring
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers still had two weeks to go before the end of Spring Training and pitcher Matt Harrison knew something wasn't right. It wasn't his back as much as the pain shooting down his left leg.
"I didn't think anything about it, I thought it was something I could get through," said Harrison, who is scheduled for back surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disk. "But it progressively got worse."
Harrison's last start in Spring Training might have been a red flag. He allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings, while throwing 81 pitches. It wasn't a good way to finish off Spring Training, but Harrison was still the Rangers' Opening Day starter against the Astros on March 31.
But he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings and was the losing pitcher in an 8-2 loss. His second start wasn't any better, allowing five runs in five innings in an 8-4 loss to the Angels. Two days later, he was on the disabled list with an inflamed nerve in his lower back.
"I never really had back pain, the pain was really in my leg, the one I push off with," Harrison said. "That start in Houston, in the later innings, I felt my bad leg just get worse. That next bullpen [between starts] it started getting even worse. And as the leg got worse, I started changing my arm angle every time I threw, and if that kept up, there was a good chance of having an arm injury."
Anti-inflammatory medication can bring effective relief to herniated disks. Harrison had two such shots and neither proved effective. Harrison had further tests on Friday and that's when the decision was made to have surgery. He is expected to be sidelined until at least the All-Star break.
"The disk was causing all the pain," Harrison said. "If I didn't do anything, there's a good chance of causing permanent damage."
Prospects Matthews, Cone out for season
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have lost their top two picks from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft for the season.
Pitcher Kevin Matthews, who was the 33rd overall pick in the '11 Draft, is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery for an exostosis, which is the formation of new bone on an existing bone. An exostosis can cause chronic pain, ranging from mild to severe. Matthews had been held out in Spring Training because of shoulder problems and has not pitched in a game this season.
"In some ways, this might be a blessing in disguise for Matthews," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's struggled since we signed him and this may be a significant reason why. It's not the labrum or cuff, so we're hopeful he can get back to pitching the way that encouraged us to draft him."
Zack Cone suffered a torn Achilles tendon running the bases in a game for Class A Myrtle Beach on April 12 and has undergone surgery. It's the same tendon that Cone had operated on last season. Cone was the 37th overall pick in the 2011 Draft and was hitting .308 for the Pelicans at the time of the injury.
"Zack's is kind of a freak injury," Daniels said. "He hit a ball off the wall, and the tendon gave out on him as he reached second. It's unfortunate that he'll miss a year of at-bats from a development standpoint, but it should be a full recovery from physical standing."
• Yu Darvish struck out 10 in seven innings on Friday and now has 10-plus strikeouts in 10 of his 33 Major League starts. Only three pitchers had 10 double-digit strikeout games in fewer starts at the beginning of their career than Darvish: Hideo Nomo, Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller. Darvish is already fifth for most 10-plus strikeout games in club history. Nolan Ryan leads with 34, Bobby Witt is second with 24 followed by Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins with 10 each.
• Pitcher Joakim Soria, who is in extended spring training, is sidelined with a strained chest muscle. He has been throwing live batting practice while he finishes his recovery from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
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.