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Joe Saunders eyeing return to Rangers’ rotation, not bullpen

05/06/2014 1:28 PM

05/06/2014 1:29 PM

Joe Saunders feels he’s getting closer to starting in the big leagues again after a four-inning rehabilitation start at Double A Frisco on Tuesday afternoon.

Saunders allowed three runs, including two earned on back-to-back home runs, on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts over his 66-pitch outing. He believes he could return to the rotation next week, but another rehab start seems likely.

The big question, though, is if there’s a spot in the Texas Rangers’ rotation for Saunders. Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis appear to have secure spots and Robbie Ross has shown flashes early on. Ross starts tonight in Colorado.

That could force the Rangers to view Saunders in a long relief role when they feel he’s ready to return, allowing them to send Nick Martinez back to the Frisco rotation. But Saunders isn’t interested in that job.

“For me, it’s all about starting and helping this team win games as a starter,” said Saunders, the 32-year-old who signed with the Rangers on March 5. “It’s what I signed to do and what they signed me to do.”

That decision doesn’t have to be made yet and Saunders was simply pleased with his first rehab start. The veteran left-hander has been on the disabled list since April 7 with a stress fracture in his left ankle that he initially injured in his season debut April 4 at Tampa Bay.

Saunders allowed an unearned run in the first inning against Midland, threw two scoreless innings and then allowed two runs on consecutive pitches – solo homers by Josh Whitaker and Chad Oberacker – in the fourth.

He exited with Frisco leading 9-3.

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