Matt Harrison had a forgettable 2013.
Last year’s Opening Day starter made only two starts before undergoing a pair of back surgeries in April and May and then had a third operation done in September to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in his right, non-throwing shoulder.
But the 28-year-old Harrison believes those surgeries are behind him, and he is looking to get back to his All-Star level next season. He has been rehabbing at his home in North Carolina this off-season and expects to work off a mound next week.
“I feel good to go and should be ready for Opening Day,” Harrison said at the Rangers’ media luncheon Wednesday. “It’s not about how quick I can get back. It’s more about taking each step a little bit slower, working my way up to where I need to be a lot earlier.”
That’s part of the reason Harrison will begin throwing off a mound at a 50-60 percent effort level next week, which is about a month earlier than he would normally do. Harrison and the Rangers are hoping to avoid any issues that could cause a setback in spring training.
Harrison has been throwing about twice a week for the past month and is playing long toss at 150 feet. He sounded optimistic about his ability to get back to his 2012 form, when he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts and made the American League All-Star team.
The Rangers rewarded Harrison with a five-year, $55 million contract last off-season.
Ready for Triple A
Steve Buechele is expected to be named Triple A Round Rock’s manager, although the organization is finalizing its minor league staffs before making the announcement.
Buechele, 52, has spent the past four seasons managing Double A Frisco and felt it was time to take another step forward.
“This is a good step,” Buechele said. “Obviously my goal is to be back on a big-league staff somewhere, but hopefully my time will come. I’m certainly happy to be doing what I’m doing.”
Buechele will replace longtime minor league manager Bobby Jones, who was promoted to Rangers manager Ron Washington’s staff as an assistant hitting coach.
Praise for Soto
Starting pitchers Derek Holland and Harrison were happy to see catcher Geovany Soto re-sign with the team. And both feel Soto deserves an opportunity to be a No. 1 catcher, which is what he is expected to be next season.
Soto played in only 54 games last season, batting .245 with nine doubles and nine home runs. His hits were often timely, and he’s worked well with the pitching staff since joining the team in the middle of the 2012 season.
“I’ve loved every chance I’ve had to throw to Soto; he does a great job back there,” Harrison said. “Getting that chance to play every day is going to build his confidence, and he’s definitely a leader out there behind the plate.”
Briefly• The Rangers agreed to terms with right-hander Justin Germano on a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league spring training. Germano, 31, has pitched in the big leagues in parts of eight seasons, making one relief appearance with Toronto last year.
• The Rangers re-signed right-hander Johan Yan to a minor-league contract. Yan, 26, has spent his entire professional career with Texas and became a minor league free agent on Nov. 4.
• Former Rangers reliever Darren Oliver, who retired after last season, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Mark Holtz Alumni Award. Oliver spent 10 of his 20 seasons with the Rangers.
• Prior to the luncheon, members of the Rangers participated in their annual trip to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.