3/17/2014 8:15 P.M. ET
Kouzmanoff making strong push for bench role
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff hasn't played in the Majors since 2011, but that could change soon. Kouzmanoff is making a strong bid to win a job with the Rangers as a right-handed hitter off the bench who can play first or third base.
Kouzmanoff started at third base on Monday night with Adrian Beltre sidelined with a tight left quad muscle. Kouzmanoff, who was a regular third baseman for the Padres and Athletics from 2007-10, went into the game hitting .333 (11-for-33) with one home run and seven RBIs. He has also shown he can play first base despite limited experience there.
"Kevin Kouzmanoff has shown me exactly what I thought he could show me," manager Ron Washington said. "He's a baseball player. He knows how to play. From what I've seen, if you put him out there, he makes the plays, he gives you a good at-bat and he executes in situations. He's a baseball player."
The Rangers could have two spots for utility infielders on a four-man bench that will also include a backup catcher and a backup outfielder.
"One will be able to play shortstop and the other will play the corners," Washington said.
The Rangers trimmed their utility-infield candidates by sending Kensuke Tanaka and Andy Parrino back to the Minor Leagues on Monday. That leaves Josh Wilson, Brent Lillibridge and Adam Rosales competing for a spot.
Being able to play shortstop is a must, and Washington said all three can do that. Washington toyed with the idea of having Jurickson Profar play shortstop when Elvis Andrus needs a day off. But he would rather keep Profar anchored at second base.
"I want Profar to get all his repetitions at second base," Washington said.
Profar started at second base on Monday night against the Royals. It was his first start in the field after dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder all spring.
Tepesch, Contreras out of running for rotation
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nick Tepesch and Jose Contreras are officially out of the Rangers' rotation competition.
The Rangers announced on Monday that Tepesch has been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock. There was a point this winter after Derek Holland suffered his knee injury that Tepesch appeared to be the leading candidate to be the Rangers' fifth starter.
But that started changing after the Rangers signed free-agent starters Tommy Hanson and Joe Saunders. Tepesch also did not have a good spring. He pitched eight innings over three appearances and allowed 10 runs on 19 hits. He walked two and struck out two.
"I'm just going to try and get better and work on some things, really just get more consistent," Tepesch said. "I've had a couple of rough outings, but there have been some positives."
Tepesch broke camp last year as the Rangers' fifth starter and was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts and two relief appearances. But he missed most of the second half with inflammation in his elbow.
"He looked rusty," manager Ron Washington said. "He came up last year, got hurt, was rehabbing for 2 1/2 months and didn't do much over the winter. He needs to go down and get into a routine. We know he can pitch, he just has to go out and do it. It's time to get into a routine and get back in a groove."
Tepesch will continue as a starter at Round Rock and could still play a key role for the Rangers. Last season, the Rangers used nine different starters in the first half. Justin Grimm was called up less than two weeks after Opening Day when Matt Harrison got hurt.
Contreras, 42, who was in camp on a Minor League contract, was informed by the Rangers that he would not make the team. Contreras, who had quickly become a popular player in the clubhouse, has told the Rangers he is considering his options. One possibility is retirement.
Contreras looked good enough early in camp for Washington to include him among his rotation candidates. But Contreras, 42, allowed seven runs on 13 hits in six innings.
The Rangers also sent pitchers Miles Mikolas, Cory Burns and Daniel Bard back to Minor League camp. Bard is recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and is hoping to start throwing off a mound later this week.
Mikolas, acquired in the offseason for first baseman Chris McGuiness, was set back early in camp with elbow inflammation and could never mount a challenge to win a spot in the bullpen. Burns had a 3.18 ERA in 10 games for the Rangers last season but allowed 11 runs in 4 1/3 innings this spring.
Moreland leaves game with oblique injury
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Moreland left Monday's game against the Royals in the third inning with tightness in his left oblique muscle. The condition is not expected to be serious, but it may keep Moreland out of the lineup on Tuesday. The Rangers are off on Wednesday.
"We'll just have to wait and see," manager Ron Washington said. "The trainer came and told me he was feeling his oblique, I said, 'Get him out of here.'"
Moreland was playing left field and had one at-bat, grounding out in the second inning. He is now 7-for-30 at the plate this spring with a double and a triple.
Moreland's injury came on a night when Jurickson Profar played second base for the first time this spring. Profar, who had been limited because of inflammation in his right shoulder, fielded a routine ground ball in the first inning off the bat of Royals second baseman Johnny Giavotella for his first defensive play of the spring.
A. Beltre hoping to return to lineup this week
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Adrian Beltre is hoping to return to the Rangers' lineup on Thursday. Beltre has been sidelined with a tight left quad muscle and was out of the lineup for the fourth straight day on Monday even though he continues to report improvement.
"I thought about playing tonight, but the medical staff wants to wait until Thursday," Beltre said. "It's Spring Training, and they don't want to rush it. Besides, they're playing better without me."
The Rangers have split-squad games on Tuesday, with a day game against the Brewers in Phoenix and a night game in Surprise against the Cubs. Then they are off on Wednesday before playing the Reds on Thursday in Goodyear. After the off-day, the Rangers have 10 games left until the start of the regular season. Beltre was 5-for-23 in 10 games before hurting his quad muscle.
"I don't feel like I want to feel but I feel OK," Beltre said. "I know what I have to do. If the season started tomorrow, I would be ready. I'd be able to turn on the switch."
• Outfielders Brad Snyder and Bryan Petersen have been reassigned to Minor League camp. Peterson was 7-for-25 in Cactus League games and Snyder was 6-for-22. Both, though, are left-handed hitters on a club that needs a right-handed-hitting fourth outfielder. That job appears to be going to Michael Choice even though left-handed hitters Jim Adduci and Engel Beltre are still in camp.
• Catchers Pat Cantwell and Brett Nicholas both were sent back to Minor League camp on Monday.
• The Rangers have 39 players left in camp, not counting their two 60-day disabled list pitchers Derek Holland and Joseph Ortiz. Washington said everybody still in camp is a candidate for the Opening Day roster. That includes rookie reliever Roman Mendez, who missed most of last season with a stress fracture in his right elbow. Said Washington, "We still want to look at him."
• Prince Fielder played for the Brewers from 2005-11 but is not going to play against them tomorrow in Phoenix. He is scheduled to play the night game against the Cubs in Surprise. Fielder has never faced the Brewers since leaving as a free agent and signing with the Tigers in 2012.
• Catcher J.P. Arencibia played in a Minor League game on Monday so that he could lead off every inning and get some at-bats. Arencibia is 5-for-32 this spring with seven strikeouts. "He needs to start seeing the ball and making contact," Washington said. "We're going to ramp up his at-bats so we can see if something might click."
• Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is still limited to designated hitter because of soreness in his left elbow.
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.