Early birds hope to catch Rangers' fifth spot in rotation

02/10/2013 10:51 PM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Baseball was played Sunday morning at the Surprise Recreation Campus, as the mighty Linfield Wildcats beat Concordia Lutheran 8-1.

That accounted for the bulk of the action on a chilly morning, two days ahead of report day for Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers.

Fewer than a dozen Rangers were on hand Sunday, although Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are expected today.

But four of the attendees are among the many candidates to be the fifth starter.

While left-hander Martin Perez is considered the front-runner, Kyle McClellan, Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm and Randy Wells all have a shot, and each is ready to get going.

"I'd love to be that fifth starter," said Ross, who overcame long odds to the Opening Day roster last year as a reliever. "But I wouldn't be disappointed if it wasn't this year. I just hope that it's somewhere down the road."

With Colby Lewis not expected back until June because of surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, Ross will be given a chance to start.

He has put a curveball, two-seam fastball and changeup back into his repertoire after throwing mostly a four-seamer and a slider last year as one of the Rangers' most effective relievers.

The left-hander was a starter throughout his minor league career, reaching Double A Frisco in 2011 after posting numbers at Class A Myrtle Beach that would make him the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.

Ross isn't going to rest on what he did last season as he tries to pull another surprise and break through as the Rangers' No. 5 starter. But he has to outperform as many as eight others and have another left-handed reliever emerge to take his bullpen spot.

"I want to keep that feeling that I have to work for my position. I have to work for the job that's at hand," Ross said. "That's what I want to do. And I think the best way to do that is not to let it get too much to my head. I want to come in and be ready to go."

McClellan could also land in the bullpen, which would be fine by him. He just wants a spot on the roster after accepting a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

He's healthy after having surgery in July to repair a ruptured capsule in his right shoulder and having a slightly frayed labrum repaired. McClellan has thrown "16 or 17" bullpen sessions this off-season, with six at maximum effort.

The Rangers were attractive to the former St. Louis pitcher because he believes Arlington is a good spot for his family, but he also has baseball goals.

"It is an opportunity to win and an opportunity to re-establish myself in the big leagues," said McClellan, who has 17 career starts and 244 relief appearances. "Whether that's in the rotation or in the bullpen is up to them. My biggest thing is to show up healthy and be a contributing piece to a big-league club."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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