Joe Saunders declares himself ready to join Rangers rotation

Posted Thursday, May. 22, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The rehabilitation path for left-hander Joe Saunders has hit a crossroads or in his mind, a dead end after he worked seven innings Tuesday for Triple A Round Rock.

“What else do they want me to do?” Saunders said Thursday. “I can’t imagine where another start would be in the picture.” The Texas Rangers will have to figure out how Saunders fits in their pitching picture.

Saunders declared himself ready to go, again, after recovering from a stress fracture of his left ankle suffered when an Evan Longoria liner smacked him April 4 during his only start of the season.

Saunders allowed one run on eight hits in his fourth and best rehab start, his second with Round Rock.

“I feel like I’m ready to go,” he said. “I feel like I can contribute to this team.”

The Rangers’ rotation has been ever-changing because of injuries and, in Robbie Ross’ case, a lack of performance. Saunders could take the spot of either Scott Baker, Nick Martinez or Nick Tepesch, all right-handers, but Martinez and Tepesch have shown well in their recent starts.

Baker will make his first start of the season Friday. Any of those three could become the Rangers’ long reliever to make room for Saunders.

Choice’s struggles

Outfielder Michael Choice entered the opener against Detroit with a .194 average and in a 1-for-23 slump, but still seven at-bats shy of the point when he thinks anyone should start to panic.

“It’s hard to go by numbers when I don’t even have 100 at-bats yet,” he said.

Choice moved closer against the Tigers, going 1 for 4, and will continue to get at-bats as the Rangers sort through injuries. The right-handed hitter was in the lineup for the ninth straight game after playing mostly against left-handers.

Two of those nine were because Leonys Martin was dealing with a neck injury, but the center fielder was out Thursday with Detroit starting lefty Robbie Ray.

“If I was going up there striking out every at-bat, that would be a funk,” Choice said. “I fee like I’ve hit a lot of balls right at guys.”

Manager Ron Washington is also a firm believer that a player needs 100 at-bats to get his timing where he wants it.

“At least he’s getting an opportunity to see pitches,” Washington said. “I expect getting those at-bats, at some point, things will fall back into place.”

Physician’s new digs

Dr. Keith Meister has been busy this season as the Rangers’ team physician, but that’s not why he is having a new facility built.

Ground in South Arlington was set to break this week for a 20,000-square foot orthopedic center that will be the new home of Meister’s TMI Sports Medicine.

Meister’s offices and rehab center are at the Medical Center of Arlington on Matlock Road. The new building, just to the south, will have 9,000 square feet dedicated to rehabilitation, including an outside training area with batting cages, sprint lanes and throwing lanes.

Most Rangers players who have surgery begin their initial rehab at TMI, which also treats and trains other major leaguers.

Boston right-hander John Lackey, who lives in Fort Worth, trains there in the off-season, and former Tampa Bay righty Jeff Niemann is there continuing his recovery from a 2013 shoulder operation.

Construction is expected to be completed in December.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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