SURPRISE, Ariz. — Joe Saunders’ bid for the Texas Rangers’ starting rotation appeared to be over after he allowed nine runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday against San Diego, but the left-hander said that a common spring dead-arm period was behind his lousy outing.The Padres collected eight hits, and 11 of their 15 hitters who faced Saunders reached base en route to an 11-7 victory. They scored five times in the first inning, all with two outs, but each run was unearned thanks to an error on second baseman Adam Rosales on the game’s first play.Saunders said that his pitches weren’t crisp and “seemed to be fluttering up there.” He issued four doubles and a homer while throwing 52 pitches, but afterward said that he expects to make the Opening Day roster.“I feel confident,” said Saunders, who has a 9.72 ERA after 8 1/3 Cactus League innings. “They know what I’m capable of. I’ve shown in previous starts my stuff is still there. I’m sure I’m not the only guy in spring training going through a dead arm.”He remains in the hunt for one of two rotation spots with fellow lefty Robbie Ross and right-handers Colby Lewis and Tommy Hanson, who allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings Saturday. Ross and Lewis will pitch Tuesday and Wednesday.“He didn’t have anything to get anyone out,” manager Ron Washington said of Saunders. “He wasn’t very good today, but we’re going to be patient. We’re still searching to put it together.”Michael Choice went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, and Leonys Martin went 4 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. Choice was credited with a two-run double in the Rangers’ four-run third inning after Washington got an inning-ending out call as Martin slid home reversed after a replay challenge.Washington improved to 1 for 4 this spring on challenges.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST