Left-hander Matt Harrison made his final start Wednesday night before his 30-day rehab window closed Thursday, and he again said that he is confident he can get big-league hitters out.
He gets a chance to prove it next week after the Texas Rangers optioned right-hander Nick Martinez to the minors in order to, among other things, create a place for Harrison to pitch for the first time since a major back operation last year.
Martinez was sent to Triple A Round Rock in what was framed as an opportunity to get him some rest and have him ready for the second half of the season. Former closer Neftali Feliz was activated from the disabled list.
Harrison has done all he can on rehab assignment and proven that he is healthy. He will make his first start for the Rangers since May 2014.
“He’s made progress, probably as much as anything with his confidence in himself,” Harrison said. “It’s time. He’s not going to get anything more out of minor-league starts. It’s time to get him out in the big stadium, get the adrenaline going, and see where it goes.”
Harrison allowed three runs in six innings for Triple A Round Rock in a game in Des Moines, Iowa, against the Chicago Cubs’ top affiliate. As has become the trend for Harrison, he was sluggish early on before finishing strong.
His velocity topped out at 89 mph.
That’s not where he was before having multiple back surgeries, including a spinal fusion last year, but he said that he has adapted and might get back to where he was.
“I feel like I’m at a point where this is who I’m going to be as a pitcher and have learned to pitch with what I have now,” Harrison said late Wednesday. “It may get better as the year goes or may not, but I’m confident in myself about getting out there and getting outs.”
Martinez pitched 6 2/3 innings Thursday, surrendering four runs (three earned) in taking the loss in a third straight start. He has thrown 97 innings, which is more than halfway to the 180-inning target the Rangers had for him at the beginning of the year after working 151 innings between the minors and majors in 2014.
He will pitch at Round Rock, just lighter innings and in a less stressful environment.
“There’s a negative way and a positive way to look at things,” said Martinez, who is likely to return for the start of the second half. “And I believe they’re just looking out for my health.”
The decision, coupled with two days off next week, will give rotation member rest before the All-Star break. The Rangers are toying with implementing a six-man rotation at certain stretches in the second-half, when a spot starter will be used during long stretches without a day off.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760