2/23/2014 3:07 P.M. ET
Hard-throwing Figueroa impresses Rangers
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reliever Pedro Figueroa has intrigued the Rangers through the first week or so of camp. Left-handed pitchers who throw 95 mph have a tendency to do that. Manager Ron Washington is among those who have marveled at his great arm.
Figueroa, who has pitched in the Athletics organization the past 10 years, can throw hard but without command. He has 18 walks in 24 2/3 innings at the Major League level and 4.01 walks per nine innings through the Minor Leagues. If he can find some serious command, he could give the Rangers another left-handed weapon out of the bullpen.
"That's what I have been working on in the offseason: focusing on throwing strikes," Figueroa said. "I was opening up early in my delivery so I have worked on my mechanics, working on a strong front side, have good direction toward the plate and not rushing it."
The Athletics put Figueroa on waivers in January and he was claimed by the Rays. They tried the same thing later in January and the Rangers claimed him. Left-handers who throw hard don't remain unemployed very long.
Feeling '100 percent,' Harrison awaits all clear
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said he feels back to full strength after a week of dealing with stiffness in his lower back. But the Rangers are still sending him back to Texas to be examined by Dr. Drew Dossett on Monday.
"At this stage, based on the initial symptoms, we want to make sure we're all clear before we ramp him up again," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.
Harrison said he thinks the problem came from sleeping on a too-soft mattress when he first came to Spring Training and that caused the lower back stiffness that came up a week ago. He has since changed beds and the stiffness has gone away.
"I feel good," Harrison said. "I feel like I did when I first came in here. I feel I'm 100 percent."
That still hasn't been good enough to cancel his trip to Texas.
"They won't let me do that," Harrison said. "They want me to see him, get checked out and be 100 percent. A lot of the time you come out here and get stiff the first few days or a little sore. But for sure the bed was the issue. But I've switched beds and there are no issues."
The Rangers want to be sure after Harrison missed all of last year because of a herniated disk in his lower back. Dossett had to operate twice on him to fix the problem. That's also why the Rangers will take it slow with Harrison when he returns and aren't going to rush him into the Opening Day rotation. Harrison hasn't thrown off a mound since Feb. 16.
"I think for the way we've built the team, we've definitely subscribed to the theory we want these guys to be strong at the end of the season," Levine said. "Starts in September and hopefully in October are more valued in our minds than starts in April. We want to make sure they're healthy for the stretch drive."
Washington emphatic about value of bunting
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington has been known not to hold back on certain subjects and that was the case Sunday when asked about bunting. The Rangers were second in the American League in sacrifice bunts last year.
What set Washington off was when he was asked if anybody presented him with analytics that showed bunting is not a good idea.
"If they do that, they'll be telling me how to manage," Washington said. "I'll tell them they can shove those analytics. ... When I feel it's necessary, not when the analytics feel it's necessary, not when you guys feel it's necessary, not when somebody else feels it's necessary. It's when Ron Washington feels it's necessary.
"I look at the opposing pitcher, the guys at the plate and the situation and I'm saying, 'How can I give us an opportunity to get this runner where I want to get him?' If I've got the right person at the plate, I'm going to make him bunt. If it's a situation where we have runs already and we've got a decent lead early in the game, I'll probably let him hit. But if we're in a situation where the game is close ... I'm going to make him bunt. It's simple."
• Pitcher Rafael Perez has a strained right hamstring and is day to day. The former Indians reliever with 338 Major League appearances is in camp on a Minor League contract trying to win a job in the bullpen.
• Outfielder Alex Rios did not work out Sunday as he is still limited with a sore big toe on his left foot.
• The first intrasquad game starts at 12:30 p.m. MT Monday on the Nolan Ryan Field.
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.