Texas Rangers set starting rotation, put Darvish at No. 4

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The starting rotation that the Texas Rangers will have next week to open the regular season is the same one they've had for this Cactus League season.

They found no need to tinker, because the five projected starters have done nothing this spring to suggest anything needed to be done.

Colby Lewis will make the first Opening Day start of his major league career April 6 against the Chicago White Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The right-hander will be followed by lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, and righties Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz will round out the rotation.

Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando, who have been stretched out as starters this season, will be in the bullpen.

Manager Ron Washington announced the decisions Thursday afternoon after Feliz completed a bullpen session without feeling any of the shoulder tightness that set him back 10 days ago.

"Each one of them has done well," Washington said. "The only thing I'm looking for is that each time they take the ball they keep us in the ballgame. Keep us in the ballgame, and my guys will find a way to put us in a position to win it. That's what it's about."

Darvish is scheduled to make his first big league start April 9 against Seattle and Ichiro Suzuki, the most successful Japanese player in major league history.

"Wherever and whenever I'm told to pitch, I'll just do my best," Darvish said of his rotation spot. "That is all I am thinking about right now."

The Rangers are expecting tickets to go quickly, and Japanese media have been anticipating the potential for a Darvish-Suzuki showdown since Darvish signed Jan. 18.

"Ichiro is one of the better players in the American League, and Darvish is trying to establish himself as one of the best pitchers," Washington said. "It should be a good matchup, but it's not Darvish vs. Ichiro. It's Darvish vs. the Seattle Mariners."

Lewis, at 32, is the oldest member of the rotation, and Washington said that tenure played a role in the decision to give Lewis the ball in the season opener.

He made two Opening Day starts while with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan and has been the best starter in Rangers postseason history, going 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA.

The big stage is nothing new to Lewis.

"I'm just looking at it as another start," he said. "The first start of the year is not going to determine how the season is going to turn out."

The Rangers decided not to split their two left-handers, Holland and Harrison, with Darvish. Holland and Harrison are power lefties, and the Rangers are comfortable using them consecutively.

Harrison, who started Thursday against San Francisco, has been the Rangers' best starter this spring. He entered the start with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings and also worked six scoreless innings last weekend in a minor league game.

Darvish's numbers have been just a tick behind Harrison. Washington said that Darvish, who will make his final Cactus League start tonight against Colorado, has shown improvement each time.

Lewis and Holland allowed six runs apiece in their most recent starts. The biggest rotation concern this spring has been Feliz, who was skipped the last time because of a tight shoulder.

He pitched in a minor league game Tuesday, going four innings, and will start Saturday against Cincinnati. Feliz threw a bullpen session Thursday without any issues.

That convinced the Rangers that their 2012 rotation is ready to go.

"To me it's still a pretty strong and experienced rotation," Holland said. "We have guys who have seen and done everything. It comes down to execution."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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