4/29/2014 8:05 P.M. ET
Martinez's long appearance saves bullpen
By Dave Sessions / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez had two firsts Monday night: his first outing at home and his first appearance as a long reliever for Texas. He threw five shutout innings to end Monday's game.
"I had some jitters out there," Martinez said. "But I settled in and I'm looking forward to pitching here a lot."
Most important, Martinez prevented the bullpen from being overworked after Yu Darvish departed after only 3 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his career. Keeping the bullpen from being taxed with two games left in the A's series was much appreciated by manager Ron Washington.
"Martinez saved us last night," Washington said Tuesday. "We didn't have to bring a pitcher in. We've got all those arms down there, they're fresh and at least they've all had a day off."
Martinez's immediate future on the Major League club is uncertain. But the 23-year-old Martinez has made a good impression in three appearances, compiling a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings.
"He'll be here as long as we feel we need him," Washington said. "Of course at some point we're going to want that kid to go get on a regular turn, but right now, as long as we need him, he'll be here."
Kouzmanoff facing probable back surgery
ARLINGTON -- Just eight days after he was named the AL Player of the Week, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff said he may have to undergo back surgery after an epidural shot last Friday wasn't effective as hoped. He has a herniated disc in his lumbar spine and Rangers back specialist Dr. Drew Dossett has recommended surgery.
Kouzmanoff has numbness in his right leg and calf, signifying that surgery may be necessary.
"Surgery is a last thing, but I think now it's to the point that maybe the time has come," Kouzmanoff said. "There was just an adjustment period for a couple days. It was hard to swallow, but now it's like, OK, this is the way it's going to be and we just have to make a decision to move on from here."
Though Kouzmanoff seemed resigned Tuesday to the likelihood of surgery, he will get a second opinion Friday by Southern California specialist Dr. Robert Watkins while the team is in Anaheim. Dossett served a fellowship in spine surgery under Watkins.
"We're just trying to do our homework and gather as much information as we can," Kouzmanoff said.
Kouzmanoff said he has been told if he does have surgery, he will be out 7-12 weeks.
The 32-year-old veteran didn't play in the Majors at all the past two seasons. But he had a strong spring, worked his way onto the Rangers' roster when Adrian Beltre was injured and hit .362 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 13 games. The Rangers went 9-3 in the 12 games Kouzmanoff started.
"It's bad timing," Kouzmanoff said of his injury. "It was fun ... I was having fun winning."
Several injured Rangers making progress
ARLINGTON -- Assistant general manager Thad Levine issued a slew of injury updates before Tuesday's game as several Rangers continue to work toward returning to action.
Second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) had an MRI and was cleared by team physician Dr. Keith Meister to resume baseball activities. He'll start swinging a bat immediately, Levine said, and will start a throwing program in a week assuming he progresses well. Profar was placed on the 60-day disabled list near the end of Spring Training and will be eligible to return at the end of May, though the team will not rush him back.
"With what we experienced in Spring Training in terms of an effort to ramp him up a little bit faster, I can see us being a little bit more cautious with him," Levine said. "I think we'll use every bit of the time to make sure that he's a full-go when he gets back on the field."
As for the rest of the injury updates:
• Catcher Geovany Soto (torn meniscus, right knee) is still in a brace for another week or two, but remains on schedule to return in June, Levine said.
• Left-handed starting pitcher Derek Holland (left knee surgery) continues to participate in pitchers' fielding practice drills and will throw another bullpen session Wednesday.
• Left-handed reliever Pedro Figueroa, whose season ended April 22 when he injured his throwing elbow in a game in Oakland, will undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time, as well as flexor tendon surgery, on Wednesday.
• Tanner Scheppers (right elbow inflammation), the team's Opening Day starter, will begin a throwing program Wednesday.
• Starting pitcher Joe Saunders is scheduled to throw three innings, or about 50 pitches, in an extended spring game Friday in Arizona. After that, he'll begin a more formal rehab program.
• Outfielder Engel Beltre (fractured right tibia) is "progressing ahead of schedule," Levine said. He is eligible to return May 29.
• Left-handed reliever Joseph Ortiz (fractured right foot) has just begun a throwing program in Arizona.
• Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (herniated disk) is likely to have back surgery but will be re-evaluated Friday.
• Finally, former closer Neftali Feliz, who was placed on the Minor League disabled list last week with "general soreness" in his right elbow, is now "pain free" according to Levine and is expected to begin a throwing program soon.
BP for Rangers pitchers means bunting practice
ARLINGTON -- With less than a week until their first road Interleague series, Rangers pitchers began taking batting practice Tuesday to prepare for their visit to Denver to take on the Rockies beginning May 5.
Manager Ron Washington doesn't expect much out of his pitchers during their plate appearances other than executing the fundamentals. Nor does he want a scenario similar to the 2012 incident in which Alexi Ogando missed more than a month after straining his groin trying to beat out a bunt for a base hit.
"Just get the bunt down," Washington said. "They get a chance to hit, they hit, but other than that, I just want them to bunt. Don't be trying to beat out ground-ball base hits and all of that. But that's just words, because when you start competing you just react."
Last season, no Rangers pitcher had a hit. Texas pitchers went a combined 0-for-18 with 11 strikeouts. Derek Holland was the only Rangers pitcher to have any success at the plate, accounting for both of their walks, their only run scored and their only sacrifice bunt.
The Rangers were one of three AL teams whose pitchers did not collect a hit in 2013, along with the Mariners and the Yankees. The Royals led the league in pitchers' hits with six.
• From April 20 through April 28, over the course of eight games, the top three batters in the Rangers' batting order had a slash line of .169/.303/.258. That includes two leadoff hitters, Shin-Soo Choo (two starts) and Michael Choice (seven games, six starts); Elvis Andrus at the No. 2 hole in all eight games; and at the third spot, a combination of Alex Rios (four games), Adrian Beltre (one game) and Prince Fielder (three games). Andrus hit .100 (3-for-30) during that timeframe.
• Manager Ron Washington challenged two calls Monday night and saw another call overturned in his favor by a crew chief's review. Tuesday, he again said he has been pleased with the instant replay system thus far. He also shed some light on the process, saying that umpires have been "willing" and "relaxed" about taking a second look at plays.
He expounded on the tactic that many managers have adopted: running out to talk to an umpire, then looking back into the dugout for a signal on whether the play should be challenged: "They say, 'Wash, I think I got him,' I say, 'Well, I'm not so sure about that,'" Washington said. "And they say, 'Well, let's have a minute and see what your boy [bench coach Tim Bogar] says over there.' One time when [Bogar] said that he made the right call, I said, 'You're pretty good at your job -- I'm going to go on in.'"
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.