3/7/2014 4:22 P.M. ET
Saunders looks good in 'B' game for Rangers
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Joe Saunders pitched two scoreless innings in a "B" game against the Royals on Friday, just three days after the Rangers signed him to a contract. Saunders, who has made 221 starts and won 89 games in a nine-year big league career, had been throwing bullpen sessions well before the Rangers signed him on Wednesday and had no trouble in a 33-pitch outing.
"For the first time facing hitters, he looked good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He didn't look rusty at all. He can pitch."
Saunders, who was 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts with the Mariners last season, allowed two hits and a walk while striking out two. He may get one more outing in either a "B" or Minor League game before the Rangers use him in a Spring Training game against another Major League team.
"This is why you keep yourself in shape and throw all those bullpen sessions even if you're not in somebody's camp," Saunders said. "Obviously you want to be in camp, but if you're not, you still have to be ready to throw [live batting practice] and two innings when you get here. My arm felt great. It was fun to get back out there and face hitters."
Saunders is in camp competing for a spot in the rotation along with Nick Tepesch, Tommy Hanson, Michael Kirkman and Colby Lewis. Relievers Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers are also being considered, and Washington said the Rangers are also looking at veteran Jose Contreras. He pitched three scoreless innings on Thursday against the Padres, and at age 42, has been one of the more impressive pitchers in camp.
Rangers to take look at catcher Cantwell in camp
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers added Minor League catcher Pat Cantwell to their Spring Training roster Friday and will take a look at him over the final three weeks in camp.
The Rangers returned catcher Jose Felix to Minor League camp. Cantwell has been working out of the Minor League clubhouse for the past several weeks but now has an official invitation to Major League camp.
Cantwell was a third-round pick out of Stony Brook University in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and spent last season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, hitting .249 with one home run and 24 RBIs. He has an advanced feel for catching, receiving and throwing.
"We're continuing to take a reading of our catching and anticipating our needs for the future," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Patrick Cantwell has done a great job showing up early, and we wanted to give him a little bit of a reward. We want to see if he can be a legitimate backup at the Major League level."
The Rangers expect Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia to share the catching duties at the Major League level. But Soto remains sidelined after undergoing surgery on his left ankle two weeks ago and is not expected to play in a Cactus League game until at least March 15.
Right now the two leading candidates to catch at Triple-A Round Rock are Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas. Zach Zaneski and Tomas Telis are also possibilities. Two other top catching prospects -- Jorge Alfaro and Kellin Deglan -- could end up at Double-A Frisco. For Alfaro, it would be a significant jump from Class A Hickory. Cantwell would fit in there somewhere, but right now he'll get a chance to show what he can do in big league camp.
E. Beltre sidelined by shin splints
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Engel Beltre is out of options, meaning he has to make the Rangers out of Spring Training or be exposed to outright waivers. Now he is dealing with shin splints and was unable to play in the Cactus League game on Friday for the second straight day.
Beltre was 4-for-13 in five games before his shins started bothering him a few days ago.
"It's the first time it's ever happened to me," Beltre said. "I guess it could happen to anybody. I just have to relax and get healthy."
Beltre is still taking batting practice and doing some defensive work, but he is limited in his running. He is listed as day to day but is in competition with Michael Choice and Jim Adduci for at least the fourth outfield spot. Bryan Petersen and Brad Snyder are also in the mix. Choice is the only right-handed hitter in the group and went into Friday's game against the Dodgers with six hits in 16 at-bats.
Beltre played in 22 games for the Rangers last season and was 10-for-40 at the plate. He played in 94 games at Triple-A Round Rock and hit .292 with seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He had a .340 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage. Now he has to deal with shin splints.
"The fact that he is still able to hit and field means we don't view this as serious," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "But we wanted to be cautious."
Harrison nearing return to game action
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison, who was set back early in camp because of some back issues, is getting closer to pitching in a game. Harrison threw 12 minutes of batting practice on Friday without any issues.
Harrison had been throwing bullpen sessions leading up to Spring Training, but this was the first time he has faced hitters since last season. Harrison made two starts in 2013 before being lost for the year with a herniated disk in his lower back.
"I was a little nervous," Harrison said. "At 7:15 this morning, I was walking around with butterflies in my stomach. I felt good. Half was from the stretch and half was from the windup. I had a couple of issues with my timing, but I was able to find it right away."
Harrison is planning to throw a bullpen session on Sunday. If that goes well, he could pitch in a "B" game on Tuesday.
• Outfielder Alex Castellanos has been claimed off waivers by the Padres. He was designated for assignment earlier this week to make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders.
• Pitcher Matt West pitched a scoreless inning in a "B" game against the Royals on Friday and then was optioned to the Minor Leagues. West missed almost all of 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
• Rafael Perez and Luke Jackson also threw scoreless innings in the "B" game against the Royals. Perez, who has pitched in 338 Major League games from 2006-12 for the Indians, has been delayed by a strained right hamstring but could be ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen. The Rangers won the "B" game, 1-0, although it lasted just 4 1/2 innings.
• Infielder Brent Lillibridge, who is 5-for-10 in Cactus League games, is day to day with a jammed right thumb. He injured it sliding into second base on Thursday.
• Outfielder Alex Rios is not expected to play before Sunday as he is dealing with a strained muscle in his right rib cage.
• Right-handed relievers Shawn Tolleson (sore shoulder) and Miles Mikolas (sore elbow) are hoping to be ready to pitch in a "B" game on Tuesday.
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.