Kyle McClellan didn’t take the step forward he had been hoping for Sunday.
McClellan, a candidate for the fifth spot in the Rangers rotation, had his bullpen session cut short with back soreness. It’s the same issue that has kept him out of game action so far this spring.
“Frustrating,” McClellan said. “It’s going to take time. It’s disappointing games have started and you’re not in them, but we’ve got a lot of time. If it’s still an issue in two or three weeks, I’ll be concerned.”
McClellan had shoulder surgery on July 10 and is still recovering from it. He pitched in only 16 games with the Cardinals last season, landing on the disabled list for only the second time in his five-year career.
The good news, McClellan said, is that team doctors and trainers believe overcoming the back soreness is the final hurdle before he is good to go.
“We’re on my body’s time I guess,” McClellan said. “I was game ready a week and a half ago, so that’s encouraging. I know when it felt right, how good it felt.
“If I was right today, within a week I could be in games.”
McClellan, who started 17 games for the Cardinals in 2011, entered camp as one of the leading candidates for the fifth spot along with Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm and Randy Wells. If he doesn’t win that spot, he would be a bullpen piece as a long reliever.
McClellan also has an “out” in his contract that allows him to take free agency if he’s not on the Rangers’ 40-man roster by March 22.
For now, the Rangers will continue to look at him for the rotation spot. Manager Ron Washington said it’s too early to say McClellan has fallen behind the competition.
Justin Grimm wasn’t expecting to reach the major leagues last season, but he was the best option the Rangers had when they needed a starter in mid-June.
Grimm won his first start against Houston before struggling in his second start against Detroit. Grimm lasted only one-plus innings against the Tigers, allowing six runs on eight hits with one walk.
But Grimm remembers one at-bat from the game. He got Prince Fielder to ground out to third after Miguel Cabrera had a two-run double.
“I stayed within myself that at-bat and you just try to take the positives away from outings like that,” Grimm said.
Grimm is now a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation and makes his debut audition today against the Rockies.
“In my opinion, yeah, I can compete at that level,” Grimm said. “But it’s just doing the work now and showing I can do it.”
Rangers Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers will be a guest instructor in camp later this week, and will see a familiar face in Nate Robertson.
Rogers and Robertson were teammates on the Tigers from 2006-08 when both were in the rotation. Robertson said Rogers had a big brother-type influence on him.
“I spent a lot of time with him and he’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had,” said Robertson, who signed a minor-league deal as a bullpen candidate this winter. “He was great to just talk to and pick his brain. He was good for me and helped me out a lot.”
Briefly• Because of the cold Arizona weather on Sunday, Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman did not run the bases. Both have been slowed by minor calf injuries early on in spring training. They could be ready for game action later this week.
• Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar have been alternating between playing shortstop and second base early on in spring. That will be the plan for the foreseeable future, Ron Washington said, as the team wants to get them time at each position. “Both of them can play shortstop very well,” Washington said.
• Kyle Lohse remains without a job, which is mind-boggling to his former teammate Kyle McClellan. Lohse turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals, which means the team that signs him will lose its first-round pick. “I don’t think anybody envisioned that draft pick compensation carrying such weight,” McClellan said. “To me, you’re talking about a guy [Lohse] who is going to give you 200 innings and win 15 games. There are a lot of first-round picks that don’t pan out.”