Texas Rangers

Rangers’ fifth starter race: Griffin appears to have edge on Guthrie

Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin is the leading candidate to earn the fifth spot in the rotation. He next pitches Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz.
Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin is the leading candidate to earn the fifth spot in the rotation. He next pitches Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz. AP

Jeremy Guthrie has been around long enough to know how baseball clubs operate.

The fact that he was pitching in a minor league game Saturday afternoon while most of the major leaguers were in Scottsdale playing is a sign his chances of making the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster are slim.

He could be wrong, of course, but manager Jeff Banister indicated he and his staff had seen enough to make a decision.

A.J. Griffin, who pitches Tuesday for the final time this spring, appears to be the favorite to win the fifth spot in the rotation.

It would be a good fit for Griffin, who has thrown just 14 innings over the past two seasons after Tommy John surgery. His innings would be limited anyway this season, so switching to a spot starter once Yu Darvish returns in mid-to-late May would make sense.

Jeff Banister said Jeremy Guthrie had some command issues in a Triple A start Saturday in which he allowed three solo homers (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

“I’m not totally certain what was needed, but I showed that I’m healthy and showed that I’m strong and capable of pitching the way that I have [in past seasons],” said Guthrie, who is 36 and dealt with back spasms early in camp. “Obviously, my opportunities recently haven’t been out on the A field, and I’m sure that’s some indication as to where they’re leaning.”

Guthrie allowed three solo homers in five innings in a Triple A game Saturday. Two of the homers came down to a lack of pitch execution, the other was a well-thrown curveball the batter beat him on, Guthrie said.

“[He was] similar to what we’ve seen previously,” said Banister, who was in Scottsdale on Saturday but got a report on Guthrie’s outing. “He has to locate very well to be effective. His velocity is very similar to what we’ve seen, 91-92 [mph]. His command is not as sharp as he’s accustomed to.”

Guthrie has an out clause in his minor league deal, which he can exercise Monday, that allows him to decline a move to Triple A Round Rock. Guthrie would most likely exercise his option with hopes of trying to find another major league opening.

Banister indicated the club may wait a day or two before making the final call on the fifth starter.

“As long as a guy is in competition for a major league job I’d find it hard to believe that you’d take an out,” Banister said. He also said pitching in a minor league game this late in camp doesn’t necessarily mean Guthrie is out of the running.

“No. There are different evaluations on that. Guthrie is a veteran guy,” he said. “Making his case [to earn the job] it comes down to stuff and how does his stuff play. With other guys, it’s about still [being] on the stage, in that competitive major league mode.”

That included Nick Martinez, the third remaining candidate for the job still left in major league camp. Martinez struggled Saturday in Scottsdale after coming on in relief.

Jeremy Guthrie expects to learn soon whether the Rangers want him on the roster as fifth starter/long relief option (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Guthrie still feels like he can be an effective major league pitcher and hopes it’s with the Rangers, an organization and clubhouse he says he meshes well with.

“I don’t know exactly what the situation called for [coming into camp],” he said. “I have years of experience and there’s really no question marks if the team wants to know who I am. They can figure it out pretty easy by looking at the track record for good or for bad.”

Bush dazzles again

Matt Bush pitched for the Rangers again Sunday, another scoreless inning that featured a high-90s fastball and knee-buckling breaking ball that came in at 80 mph.

His lone strikeout came against Rickie Weeks in which he evened the count at 2-2 with a 100 mph fastball before getting Weeks swinging at an 80 mph curve. Both pitches got a big cheer from the crowd at Surprise Stadium.

“I thought they were cheering because I threw a strike,” Bush said. “It felt like it came out really good.”

Bush, who was incarcerated for 51 months for an alcohol-related car wreck, said he last was clocked throwing 101 mph in 2011 when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Banister was impressed again.

“It’s fun to watch,” he said. “When you’ve got power stuff and put them away with minimal pitches, that’s what you look for.”

The curveball, Banister said, is also a power pitch even if it’s coming in at 78-80 mph.

“It’s what he’s capable of doing with the fastball-breaking ball combo,” he said. “He’s going to be a tough customer.”

Colby Lewis threw his best game of the spring and Matt Bush impressed again out of the bullpen as the Rangers beat the DBacks 5-4 Sunday (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Stubbs’ steady spring

Outfielder Drew Stubbs wanted to show the Rangers, and any other teams watching this spring, that he could still be an effective hitter. To some degree, he has done that. But it’s his speed and defensive abilities that make him a likely candidate to make the Opening Day roster.

“You just want to show up and showcase some of the things you can do, and I think I’ve done that this spring,” said Stubbs, who is hitting .324 with four extra-base hits. “My last season as a whole was not a good representation of the player I am. This year, I was looking to come in and reset the bar as to who I am and what I can do.”

After finishing last season with the Rangers, the Texas Longhorns ex, who is from the East Texas town of Atlanta, would like nothing more than to remain in Texas.

“I love being here. I hope it works out,” Stubbs said. “If not, I’ve got an out [clause] in the next day or two.”

Drew Stubbs wanted to show he can still hit in the majors and is more than a speedy, defensive bench player (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

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