SURPRISE, Ariz. — Nick Tepesch has emerged as a player to watch early in spring training.The 24-year-old right-hander has made two appearances, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts over five innings. Tepesch pitched three innings of one-run ball in the Rangers’ 7-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday.“I feel comfortable out there and I’m trying to get better command of my pitches,” Tepesch said. “I’m not really approaching this spring any differently than my first two spring trainings. I’m just trying to attack hitters. I know what kind of pitcher I am and I’m sticking to that game plan.”Tepesch, a 14th-round draft pick out of the University of Missouri in 2010, has had a relatively quick climb through the farm system. He spent his first season at Low A Hickory and then split last season between High A Myrtle Beach and Double A Frisco.The Rangers have a fierce competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Justin Grimm, Robbie Ross, Randy Wells and Kyle McClellan the leading candidates after the injury to Martin Perez (broken forearm).But has Tepesch put himself in that conversation?“Right now, we’ve just got to let this kid continue to pitch,” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s oblivious to what’s happening; let’s keep it like that.”Even though he’s unlikely to break camp with the Rangers, Tepesch knows leaving a good impression could be critical should the Rangers need a midseason call-up. Spring is the only time the major league coaches, such as Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux, get a long look at prospects.“First impressions are important, but I’m just trying to worry about myself,” Tepesch said. “I need to stay within myself and attack hitters and pitch how I pitch and not try to be somebody different.”Penalties welcomedCount David Murphy among the big leaguers who would welcome stiffer penalties for players who use performance-enhancing drugs.Commissioner Bud Selig announced his desire for harsher penalties Saturday afternoon, which pleased Murphy.“They’ve worked hard to clean up the game, but obviously things are continuing to happen,” Murphy said. “The cleaner we can get this game, the better.”Selig said there were only five positive tests of the more than 5,000 conducted during the 2012 season. However, as Murphy said, that small percentage still puts the overwhelming majority under a cloud of suspicion.“If we can get to a point where we’re perfect, that’s only going to help Major League Baseball that much more,” Murphy said. “Fans see the five, not the 4,995. It’s guilt by association, and I don’t want to be associated with those guys when I know I never did anything to cheat.”Injury updatesKyle McClellan took another step forward in his recovery from shoulder soreness that has kept him out of game action so far this spring.McClellan threw about a 35-pitch bullpen session for the first time in a week Sunday.“I felt great,” McClellan said. “I started out nice and easy at 80 percent and, once I got through, I was letting it go 100 percent with no pain. So very encouraging.”McClellan said he will be able to stretch out enough to start and remain in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation.Tanner Scheppers, sidelined with a strained left hamstring, progressed in his recovery by throwing live batting practice. Scheppers is scheduled to return to game action on Wednesday.“Everything feels good,” Scheppers said.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison