HOUSTON — Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez is still striving to find consistency from start to start, but despite his up-and-down season, he’s starting to feel more comfortable on the mound. Martinez, who will pitch Sunday’s finale at Houston, says he’s a different pitcher than he was in April.“Absolutely,” said Martinez, who’s 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 23 games. “I’ve learned a lot since [April]. I feel like I’m learning faster, noticing things and situations and sequences and where I can get my outs.”They’re the same growing pains being experienced by other young pitchers on the staff, including Nick Tepesch and Miles Mikolas.“We’re trying to learn as much as we can and avoid making the same mistakes. I think we’ll get it,” Martinez said. “You definitely notice [hitters] up here remember what [you threw them]. You have to get them out a different way, or you can get them out the same way but maybe go to a different sequence to get there. You have to be able to change with them.”In his last start, he tried to nibble around the edges too much and walked four batters and allowed five runs on six hits in five innings at Seattle.“It hasn’t been the smoothest ride. But I think that’s all part of the process,” he said.Holland’s extra workLeft-hander Derek Holland, who will make his first start in 2014 on Tuesday at Kansas City, requested extra fielding work before Saturday’s game, and manager Ron Washington was more than happy to give it to him. Holland was activated Saturday.“I want to keep working on it [to] make sure I’ve got the strength,” Holland said.“I feel great, no issues at all.”Holland wanted to test his left knee, which required surgery after an off-season fall in January. It’s been tested enough on the mound, but not as much making plays at first, including throwing home in a double-play situation.“I want to be able to get to the bag and make the throw home,” he said. “If I stop and have to throw home, I have to push off that leg.”Holland also threw a bullpen session and felt good.A lot of MilesMikolas has thrown a career-high 57 1/3 innings in the big leagues, and the mileage was starting to catch up to his arm. If you include the 44 2/3 innings he through in the minors this season, that’s more than 100 innings, well over the most he had ever thrown in his six-year pro career.So when his arm didn’t feel right during a bullpen session, the Rangers decided to to scratch him from starting Saturday.“I think my body is just adjusting and I need to let it catch up and settle down a little bit and I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “Better to back off now than to try to push through it. The ball wasn’t coming out like it usually does.”Not a no-noRobbie Ross, who left after five no-hit innings on Saturday, is the first Rangers pitcher to go at least five innings without allowing a hit since Rich Harden in August 2010. Harden went 6 2/3 against Minnesota without allowing a hit. Joe Mauer singled off Neftali Feliz in the ninth for the Twins’ only hit that night.On Saturday, the Astros’ Jose Altuve doubled to the left-field corner off Phil Klein with one out in the sixth.Briefly• Infielder Mike Carp was designated for assignment. Washington said the move was more about getting young players at-bats, not because Carp was hitting .175.• Pitcher Nick Tepesch was optioned to Round Rock to make room for Robbie Ross, but it only amounts to a paperwork decision. Tepesch made the most sense because he just pitched on Thursday. He’ll be forced, by major league rules, to be out of uniform for the next two games and will have to fly to Kansas City by himself, not on the team plane. But he won’t report to Round Rock and he’s still scheduled to pitch against the Royals on Wednesday.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST