SURPRISE, Ariz. — It isn’t rookie Nick Tepesch, who came in as a long shot but is now the front-runner for the fifth spot in the Texas Rangers’ rotation. And it isn’t Michael Kirkman, who has pitched lights-out all spring.For Ron Washington, the surprise of spring training has been center fielder Craig Gentry.“He’s figured out just how good he can be and he’s just letting it go,” Washington said. “He’s showing me a total game.”Defense and speed have been Gentry’s more notable characteristics, but his offense has been a question mark. He had a breakthrough season last year at the plate, batting .304 with a .367 on-base percentage. However, his power numbers were lacking with 26 RBIs over 240 at-bats.The benefits of Gentry’s improved strength this off-season are being seen this spring. He is batting .333 in Cactus League games, has 14 runs scored, eight extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 21 games and 51 at-bats.He has tripled in consecutive games, too, as he roped one down the left-field line Saturday and another off the left-center field wall Sunday.“I feel I had a great year last year offensively, even though the power numbers weren’t very high,” Gentry said. “I’m just trying to build off that. The fact that the skipper is noticing means a lot.”Still, Gentry knows he’s in a battle with Leonys Martin to win the everyday job. Martin is having just as impressive of a spring, and it appears the Rangers will go with a platoon in center to start the season. Gentry will start against left-handers, and Martin against right-handers.Home opener nod?Derek Holland hasn’t been told officially yet, but he is in line to start the Rangers’ home opener on April 5 against Josh Hamilton and the Angels. The Rangers originally said Opening Day starter Matt Harrison would start the home opener but now have slotted Holland for the latter.Holland is following Alexi Ogando in the rotation, and it’s hard to see the Rangers flip-flopping them in the next week. Holland is scheduled to start today against the Padres in Peoria, and would make another start against the Padres on Saturday in San Antonio.Assuming he’s the home opener starter, Holland said: “To me, that’s just as good as Opening Day. Obviously it’s going to be a big game against Anaheim and, since everybody is making a big deal about it, it’s Josh’s return.”Finishing strongTanner Scheppers is looking more and more likely as if he’ll be one of the seven in the Rangers’ bullpen come Opening Day.Scheppers, who had surgery for turf toe on his right big toe last off-season and was slowed by a left hamstring strain earlier in spring, has not allowed a run in his last four appearances. His latest showing was two scoreless innings Saturday against the Reds.“He’s doing it at the right time, down the stretch,” Ron Washington said. “Hopefully because he’s having the success he’s having, his confidence will be high.”Said Scheppers: “It’s been good. My arm feels good and my pitches feel good coming out.”Rangers claim leftyThe Rangers claimed left-hander Brad Mills off outright waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday and placed him on the 40-man roster. To clear a roster spot, Neftali Feliz was moved to the 60-day disabled list.“Brad is a strike-throwing lefty,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Gives us another option to take a look at this week.”Mills, 28, is scheduled to pitch Tuesday but it has not been determined if it will be the “A” game or a minor-league outing. If he doesn’t make the team, the Rangers would have to get him through waivers to keep him in the organization.Mills has spent parts of the past four seasons in the big leagues with the Blue Jays and Angels, primarily as a starter. He is 3-3 with a 7.76 ERA in 15 games, including 10 starts.Feliz underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last August, and will not be ready until late this season.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison