Saunders extends rehab with eye on starting
Veteran lefty ready to return from DL but Rangers only have bullpen spot available
ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Joe Saunders, who is on the disabled list with an injured left ankle, is scheduled to make two more rehab starts at his own request. That could be for the benefit of other clubs that need starting pitching and might send scouts to watch him pitch.
Saunders is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Double-A Frisco and Thursday for Triple-A Round Rock. After that, Saunders will assess his situation with the Rangers. He is still hoping to regain a spot in the rotation, even though it appears there is no room right now.
"I asked for those two more starts," Saunders said. "I told them they brought me here not to go to the bullpen but to start. That's still my expectation. I'm here to start and win games for the Texas Rangers. That's what I want to do, that's what they're paying me to do, that's what they brought me in here to do."
The two starts could also allow other clubs to see if Saunders is healthy and can pitch well enough to fit into their rotation if the Rangers don't need him.
Saunders opened the season in the Rangers' rotation but had to leave his first start against the Rays on April 4 in the fourth inning, when he was hit on the left ankle with a shot off the bat of Evan Longoria. The injury was first diagnosed as a bruised left foot but was later upgraded to a stress fracture.
Saunders made his first rehab start for Frisco on Tuesday, allowing three runs on four hits, with one walk and four strikeouts in four innings. On Thursday, the Rangers met with Saunders and told him the only spot they have for him is in the bullpen.
Saunders said he would prefer to make at least two more starts on rehab assignment instead and then see what the Rangers' pitching situation is.
"Not necessarily change minds but to show I'm totally healthy and the ankle is not a problem," Saunders said.
It also buys time. The Rangers keep Saunders stretched out, and there is always the possibility of a spot opening up in the rotation at some point in the next 10 days. If not, Saunders will have to make a decision about going to the bullpen or asking the Rangers for a chance to go to another team. Two good starts could also create some interest from other clubs.
"Obviously, once you go into the bullpen, it's hard to go back into the rotation," Saunders said. "That's where I feel the direction is headed, so I want to make sure we cross our t's and dot our i's. I am here to be a starter, I'm paid to be a starter, and they brought me in as a starter."
Saunders, who was signed two weeks into Spring Training, has made 222 career Major League starts without ever pitching in relief.
Andrus back at No. 2 spot against Red Sox
ARLINGTON -- Elvis Andrus was back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup Friday with Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz on the mound. Manager Ron Washington said his only other option for the spot was Leonys Martin but, with Shin-Soo Choo batting leadoff, Washington didn't want two left-handed batters at the top of the order.
Andrus hit in the No. 2 spot for the first 30 games before being dropped to No. 9 on Sunday against the Angels. He has batted in the bottom half of the lineup for the past five games. He was 5-for-17 with three walks in that stretch.
"He has been looking better, he's trying to stay inside the baseball and keep it up the middle or to right field," Washington said. "It was just a matter of time. Elvis is a good hitter, he's not a bad hitter."
Prior to being demoted, Andrus had just two hits in his last 27 at-bats.
"I feel a lot better," Andrus said. "I feel really good. I feel ready to be back in my spot and do what I've always done. I feel confident and ready to go. You have a lot of pride, so it's not a good feeling to drop down. But you understand as a professional it's best for the team. I'm glad to be back in that spot, and hopefully I can be there all year."
Martinez more than Rangers' mop-up reliever
ARLINGTON -- Leading 2-0 with one out in the sixth on Thursday against the Rockies, the Rangers replaced starter Matt Harrison with rookie right-hander Nick Martinez.
With a runner on base, Martinez struck out Drew Stubbs, gave up a double to Brandon Barnes that put runners on second and third, and then struck out Jordan Pacheco. Bringing Martinez in that situation, shows that manager Ron Washington no longer considers him just a long reliever.
"He did a good job," Washington said. "That could have gotten wild. You have to give him a lot of credit. He's not fazed. I hope he continues to have that mindset."
Martinez originally made the Rangers as a spot starter with the intention of sending him back to the Minors to continue as a starter once the rotation was completely healthy. The rotation is set, but the Rangers have no intention of sending Martinez back down. He was originally kept as a long reliever but could earn a more prominent role.
"Whatever your role is, you have to earn your spot," said Martinez, who is ranked as the Rangers' 13th-best prospect. "I'm aware of that and not going to settle for anything less."
Washington said his bullpen is fully rested for Friday's game with the Red Sox, although he would like to stay away from Martinez because he pitched Thursday.
"I don't think we need to use him back to back," Washington said. "We have other guys who were down who are ready to pick that up."
• Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder turned 30 on Friday.
• With infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, the Rangers are the only team in the Major Leagues with two players who were 20 years old when they made their season debut. The Rangers haven't had two players under 21 on their Major League roster at the same time since 1991 with pitcher Hector Fajardo and catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The last time the Rangers had two position players under 20 on the roster was in 1989, when Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer -- both 19 years old -- were September callups.
• Odor was the ninth rookie used by the Rangers this season. The White Sox have used 10, while the Angels and the Yankees also have used nine.
• Infielder Michael De Leon, 17, whom the Rangers signed out of the Dominican Republic last July, has been transferred from extended spring workouts to Double-A Frisco. He was ranked by MLB.com as the 27th-best international signing last year. Outfielder Jamie Jarmon was also added to the Frisco roster, while catcher Brett Teschner was transferred from Triple-A Round Rock to extended spring.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.