3/6/2014 1:39 P.M. ET
Washington: Closer race is still wide open
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington was asked about his team's closer's job and the manager did not mince words.
"It's open," Washington said. "That's it. It's open."
The competition between Neftali Feliz, Joakim Soria, and Tanner Scheppers for the position continued on Thursday against the Padres. Soria retired all three batters he faced in 10 pitches during the seventh inning. Feliz retired three batters on 16 pitches in the eighth.
"Nefi has a new arm and he's trying to figure it out," Washington said. "Hopefully, he gets it done before we get out of here."
Feliz's fastball touched 93 mph and his slider hovered between 78 mph and 84 mph. His changeup was clocked at 85 mph.
"I wish all of sudden he could come into Spring Training and all of a sudden you see 95 [mph] or 97 but he'll work his way to that if it's still in him," Washington said. "But right now, I just want him to stay healthy and if he stays healthy, he'll be where he needs to be."
Feliz's said he's focused on fine-tuning his pitching mechanics and improving his delivery.
"I'm trying to work on keeping my hands high and keep my butt down," Feliz said. "I want to get better every day and the last two weeks get ready for the season."
Rangers expect Ogando to crack starting rotation
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Rangers know where they want Alexi Ogando to pitch, but where the right-hander starts the season is ultimately up to him.
"Our thought process is Ogando is fighting to make a starting job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If he wins the starting job he's going to be starter. If somebody else wins the starting job away from him, we know he can pitch in the bullpen. We've got Ogando out there working to be a starter."
On Thursday, Ogando was charged with one unearned run on five hits in three innings against the Padres. He struck out one batter and mixed in a steady dose of changeups in the 44-pitch effort.
"I'm glad the team has confidence in me," Ogando said. "But I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm keeping my guard up."
Ogando has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The shoulder inflammation that once plagued him and landed him on the disabled list last season is no longer an issue. He's also hopeful his extra work in the offseason will keep him off the disabled list in 2014.
"His work ethic has picked up. He understands what you have to do to be a starter," Washington said. "You have to just wait and see if he can stand the rigors of getting the ball 31 times. So until he does that we'll have to wait and see. Keep our fingers crossed and hope nothing unforeseen happens that slows him down. I certainly don't believe fatigue is going to play a part anymore. Let's hope nothing serious happens."
Contreras determined to recapture old magic
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rangers veteran Jose Contreras is in his 40s, said he feels like he's in his 20s, and he is determined to recapture the magic that made him a big league star in his 30s.
"I've played professionally for 25 years and I still have the same desire for this sport that I had when I first started," Contreras, 42, said. "I'm feeling strong and I'm going to try to make this team. I'm healthy and that wasn't always the case last year."
Contreras, who spent last season with the Pirates and the Red Sox organizations, made seven relief appearances for the Pirates in May, allowing five runs in five innings. He went 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 27 relief appearances in the Minor Leagues.
Overall, Contreras is 78-67 with a 4.57 ERA since making his big league debut with the Yankees in 2003 at age 31. He had Tommy John surgery on June 20, 2012.
"I love this game so much and that's why I'm here," Contreras said. "Even my own teammates ask me why I keep playing at my age, but people forget that I played in Cuba for over 10 years and I didn't make any money. I didn't play for the money then and I don't play for the money or fame now. I play because I love this game. This is my passion. I'm just fortunate I have a family that understands and supports me."
Contreras is being stretched out as a starter, but his best chance to make the team might come as a long reliever. On Thursday, he gave up two hits in three scoreless innings against the Padres.
"His split was really working and once again, it was his second time and he made some adjustments," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He knows what he is doing out there. He knows those guys might be sitting on fastballs and he starts first-pitch breaking balls, first-pitch splits. He threw the ball inside and threw the ball down and away. His velocity was better than it was the first time, too."
Contreras gave up four runs on six hits in one inning against the Royals in his previous appearance this spring.
"My wife and my family love baseball as much as I do and I also do this for them," he said. "The other day I didn't get great results and my young son comes up to me and says 'C'mon Dad, you're going to have to do better than that. You're not going to make the team pitching like that.'"
Soto expects to be ready to play March 15
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Injured catcher Geovany Soto will take batting practice with the team on Friday and expects to be ready to play in a game on March 15.
"Obviously, we are not going to push it," Soto said. "When we decided to go through with the procedure of going through the surgery, we are going to make sure."
Soto had arthroscopic surgery late last month to remove a bone in his left ankle. He entered camp as the No. 1 catcher, but the Rangers also signed J.P. Arencibia, who started the last three seasons in Toronto, to be his backup.
"I'm slowly progressing so I can hit [March 15]," Soto said. "I'm feeling good. I'm hitting in the cage and everything is feeling good. That's where we are."
• Washington said infielder Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis) is expected to play defense in a game "sometime after the middle of the month." Profar went 2-for-4 with a grand slam as the designated hitter Thursday against the Padres.
"He's throwing in drills now and he's up to 100-something feet so once we can get him out there to 190 feet where he can throw and keep the ball with some velocity on it, we'll get him out there," Washington said. "At least, he's throwing in the drills now and that's a good thing."
Profar continues to work on defensive drills and take batting practice.
"When his throwing gets to a point where we can start putting him in ball games, it will look like he never missed," Washington said.
• Matt Harrison is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session on Friday and is on track to throw in a "B" game. Harrison threw 38 pitches in his first bullpen session on Wednesday, his first since being shut down at the beginning of camp with back and neck stiffness.
• Newly acquired left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders will throw in a "B" game on Friday. He has already thrown a live batting practice session and could pitch an inning or two of a regular Spring Training game soon. Saunders' pitch count is up to 50 pitches, Washington said.
"He's ready to go," the manager said. "He's been doing a lot of throwing. We'll get him out there and see where it goes."
• Engel Beltre was scratched from Thursday's lineup because symptoms associated with shin splints. Alex Rios was out of the lineup because of a mild oblique strain but was already scheduled to take the day off.