July 13, 2012

Rangers anticipate morale boost with return of injured pitchers

SEATTLE -- The last team in the major leagues to put a player on the disabled list this season saw seven knocked out of action in just less than six weeks.

SEATTLE -- The last team in the major leagues to put a player on the disabled list this season saw seven knocked out of action in just less than six weeks.

The loss of Neftali Feliz on May 21 snowballed to include half of the Texas Rangers' Opening Day pitching staff by June 29.

First baseman Mitch Moreland was the only position player to require DL time.

The Rangers have been doing enough to keep pace, and the four-game lead they owned to open the second half Friday was the same margin they had when Feliz went down with elbow inflammation.

They opened the season 26-17 before Feliz started the rash of injuries. They went 26-17 the rest of the way leading up to the All-Star break.

Things, though, are looking up in the clubhouse of the American League West leaders.

Derek Holland, who started Friday in a late game against Seattle, was making his second start since coming off the DL. Three more pitchers could be activated by the middle of this eight-game road trip.

"It's going to mean a lot confidence-wise," injured right-hander Colby Lewis said. "All the injuries don't give you that sense like we've had the last few years. When we get everyone back, it'll be a boost."

Lewis is one of the three who could return next week during the Rangers' two-game series at Oakland. He's scheduled to start against the A's on Wednesday, barring any setbacks.

He threw around 35 pitches Friday during a bullpen session after logging 53 on Tuesday at his home in Bakersfield, Calif. Lewis expects to work another light bullpen Sunday.

The Rangers passed on sending him on a rehab assignment, though they made Holland go two starts.

"Holland's been in the big leagues, what, three years? He's still trying to figure himself out," manager Ron Washington said. "Colby knows who he is."

Holland worked quickly and efficiently early against the Mariners, using only 32 pitches and allowing just one hit through the first three innings.

He returned from the DL on July 7 after battling fatigue from a stomach virus and allowed three runs in six innings against the Twins in his first start since June 5.

"He had a few innings where things went well, but he also had a few innings of some things that he needs to continue to correct," Washington said. "I expect better out of him."

Right-handers Alexi Ogando (right groin) should beat Lewis back to the active roster, and fellow setup man Koji Uehara (right lat) could as well.

Ogando worked a perfect inning Thursday for Triple A Round Rock and will pitch two or three innings tonight. If all goes well, he will join the team in Oakland.

Uehara makes his rehab debut tonight and might get another appearance Monday before hopping on a plane to the Bay Area.

Feliz will start Sunday and pitch two innings as the Rangers bring him back as a starter. If it looks like Roy Oswalt has settled in and if no other starter suffers an injury, Feliz will move to the bullpen once he's healthy.

Only then will the Rangers consider themselves to be back at 100 percent for the first time since mid-May.

"Once we can get Ogando and Uehara and Neffy in the mix, then we'll be whole," Washington said. "I think we've done a good job as a group holding this thing together while these guys were down."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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