5/14/2014 12:02 A.M. ET
Feliz unscored upon in return from disabled list
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Reliever Neftali Feliz was activated off the disabled list at Triple-A Round Rock and threw one scoreless inning in the Express' 14-3 loss to Memphis. He allowed a single, struck out one and threw 14 pitches. His fastball topped out at 96 mph.
"Today was good," Round Rock pitching coach Brad Holman said. "Hitters still respect his fastball. They had to cheat on it a little bit to catch up to it. It had some good late movement and he threw a couple sliders and changeups. He looked good, he knows what he's doing out there."
Feliz, who was the Rangers' closer in 2010-11 before undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in '12, was pitching for the first time since April 16. He made five appearances with Round Rock to start the season before being placed on the DL because of general arm fatigue. The Rangers also wanted him to get more time working on his mechanics with Holman and Minor League pitching coordinator Danny Clark.
"The focus points were to get extension and not cut his delivery off … allowing his backside to replace his front side vs. pulling premature and causing side to side action," Clark said. "His arm slot is the same as always. …We're hoping to get his fingers to stay over the ball. Having the setback slowed his progress, but regaining arm strength and showing he can go back to back will be his future short-term goals. Great sign today touching 96."
Harrison leaves Rangers to have back examined
HOUSTON -- The Rangers are sending pitcher Matt Harrison back to Dallas on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Drew Dossett after he left Tuesday night's 8-0 loss to the Astros with stiffness in his lower back. There is a strong possibility he could end up on the disabled list.
The Rangers won't know the extent of this problem until after Wednesday's examination, but there is serious concern after what Harrison has been through with his back over the past 14 months.
"It's frustrating, to begin with," Harrison said. "I think of what happened last year and all I went through to get back. I don't want to go through that again. I guess we'll find out tomorrow and see what he says. I'd like not to have that issue again. I'm praying I don't have to go through it again."
Harrison was making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list. An 18-game winner for the Rangers in 2012, he made just two starts last year before suffering a herniated disc in his lower back that required two surgeries to correct.
This game started with the roof open and the temperature at 66 degrees with a breeze, unusually cool for Houston in mid-May. But Harrison said that wasn't the problem.
"I've pitched in all kinds of weather during my rehab coming back," Harrison said. "I don't think that was the problem."
Harrison said he warmed up fine and got through the first inning without any back issues despite two walks. He said he started feeling stiff when he warmed up for the second inning.
"It just didn't feel right," said Harrison, whose velocity on his fastball dropped to 84 mph during the inning. At his best, Harrison can hit 94.
Harrison gave up a single to Chris Carter and a two-run home run to L.J. Hoes to start the second. He retired the next two hitters, but Jose Altuve doubled, George Springer walked and Dexter Fowler grounded a run-scoring single up the middle. It was at that point manager Ron Washington, pitching coach Mike Maddux and trainer Kevin Harmon went to the mound.
"He just didn't look right," Washington said. "I told Mike, 'He doesn't look right. Let's go out and see.' He just didn't look right. There were a couple of pitches that he bent over and got through, but a lot more where he was standing up. So we decided to go out and check. He said his back was stiff and I took the ball away from him."
He was healthy at the beginning of Spring Training but had some stiffness early in camp that put him 2-3 weeks behind and forced him to start the season on the DL. The Rangers played it cautiously in Spring Training when Harrison dealt with stiffness, and it's likely they will do so again.
He is guaranteed to miss at least one start but there is a high probability that he is looking at going on the disabled list.
"You're always concerned. ... We'll know more tomorrow," Washington said.
The Rangers already have Tanner Scheppers on the DL with inflammation in his right elbow and could put Martin Perez there as well on Wednesday. Perez is also dealing with elbow discomfort.
Tepesch ready to step in for Perez
HOUSTON -- After recovering from a rough spring while getting off to a terrific start at Triple-A Round Rock, right-hander Nick Tepesch will return to the Rangers' rotation to pitch against the Astros on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
Tepesch replaces Martin Perez, who will likely go on the disabled list with a sore left elbow, although the Rangers haven't made a final decision. Tepesch was 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA in seven starts at Round Rock. Opponents hit .218 off him with nine walks and 41 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.
"It was just a matter of commanding all of my pitches, consistently commanding them in the zone," Tepesch said. "That's probably the biggest thing."
Tepesch was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts and two relief appearances for the Rangers last season while missing most of the second half with inflammation in his elbow. He came to camp as a candidate for the rotation but was one of the first players sent down after posting an 11.90 ERA in three outings.
"I didn't expect to make the team pitching that way," Tepesch said. "I don't put the blame on anybody else. You just challenge yourself. Why did I pitch like this? You just think about different things and what was the reason, try to pinpoint that and address it."
Tepesch still relies on a sinking fastball as well as his slider and curve. The Rangers wanted him to work on his changeup, a pitch he threw just 4.7 percent of the time last year, but it is still a work in progress.
"We still want him to use his changeup more, but he wasn't down there to develop," manager Ron Washington said. "He was down there to get people out, and he was getting people out."
Scheppers throws off mound
HOUSTON -- Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers, on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow, took another step toward returning when he had his first throwing session off the mound on Tuesday.
"It was definitely exciting," Scheppers said. "I went through it with no problems. I threw about 25-30 pitches. It's extremely nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel and be headed in the right direction."
Scheppers was the Rangers' Opening Day starter after spending last season as their eighth-inning setup reliever. The Rangers have not decided whether Scheppers will return as a starter or a reliever. At some point they will have to make that decision so they can adjust his rehab throwing program accordingly.
"We haven't discussed that yet," manager Ron Washington said. "It's premature. The main thing is to get him healthy. We've got to get him healthy and ready to compete again. When we get closer to that, before we start ramping him up we'll make a decision because we have to set up his program. We haven't set the program yet."
Scheppers wants to remain as a starter but said, "I'm willing to accept anything. The main thing is I'm happy to be in the process of getting back and closer to being back."
Rookies Odor, Martinez continue to shine
HOUSTON -- Rougned Odor was 20 years and 90 days old when he hit his first Major League home run on Monday night. Over the past 50 years, only three Major League second basemen were younger when they hit their first home run. Jurickson Profar was one of them. The others were Roberto Alomar and Danny Ainge.
Odor was also the youngest player in history to hit a home run at Minute Maid Park, beating teammate Elvis Andrus by 171 days. Odor was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the Rangers' 4-0 victory.
"I was pretty excited with that," Odor said. "I'm just trying to help this team win."
Rookie reliever Nick Martinez contributed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the victory and has not allowed a run in his last 11 1/3 innings. That includes 10 1/3 scoreless innings since moving to the bullpen, the most relief innings without giving up a run in the Major Leagues this season.
• The Rangers have been playing with three bench players since outfielder Daniel Robertson was optioned to Triple-A on May 7. Instead, they have been carrying eight relievers rather than the usual seven. Manager Ron Washington would like to get back to four bench players on the next homestand, which starts Friday.
Robertson is not eligible to come back until Saturday unless he replaces an injured player. The Rangers could bring him back on Wednesday when they put Martin Perez on the disabled list and send down another pitcher to make room for Nick Tepesch.
• Closer Joakim Soria had retired 18 consecutive batters before giving up a one-out double to Jose Altuve in the ninth on Monday night. Opponents had been hitless in 27 at-bats with the one baserunner reaching on an error.
• Rangers pitchers allowed 11 hits in their 4-0 victory over the Astros. It's only the fifth time in club history that Rangers pitchers have thrown a shutout while allowing at least 11 hits and the first time since April 28, 1994, against the Blue Jays. They allowed 11 hits in four of those shutouts and 12 in a 1-0 victory over the Red Sox on May 7, 1982. George Medich and Danny Darwin combined for the victory.
• The Rangers have 48 shutouts since the start of the 2011 season, tied with the Rays for the most in the American League. The Dodgers lead the Majors with 50.
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.