Notes: Loe edges closer to rotation
Locked in tight competition, righty impresses on Monday
PHOENIX -- Nobody has had any St. Patrick's Day green beer yet, but it appears that Jamey Wright and Kameron Loe are the early leaders in the Rangers' fifth-starter race.Wright threw three perfect innings on Sunday, and Loe responded with a competitive outing of his own on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. Loe threw three scoreless innings, allowing a hit and two hit batters before an error led to two unearned runs in the fourth. The error was charged to shortstop Michael Young, who couldn't handle a potential inning-ending double-play relay from Loe. The throw was low and off the bag, and Loe took the blame. "I probably ran out of gas that inning, but I did it to myself," Loe said. "I thought he was very good," manager Ron Washington said. "I just wish he would have fielded his position better and turned that double play. His outing would have looked much better. That's why it's so important for a pitcher to field his position." Loe was sharper than left-hander John Koronka. In Koronka's third outing of the spring, he allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings. He faced 12 batters and eight reached base. Only a couple of double plays saved him from worse damage. "John looked like he ran out of gas," Washington said. "He lost command spotting his fastball and couldn't get the breaking ball over. He was supposed to throw 60 pitches, but when he got to 40, he was out of gas." Veteran left-hander Bruce Chen is still in the competition, and he'll follow Brandon McCarthy to the mound on Wednesday against the San Diego Padres. Thursday may be an even more important day in the process. Right-hander Josh Rupe, who was a leading candidate coming into the camp, is scheduled to pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But if Rupe was a leading candidate early, that's no longer the case. He has not impressed thus far in camp, and the Rangers are getting eager to see him start taking off. If not, he could end up in the Triple-A Oklahoma rotation. If so, he'll be joining Edinson Volquez, who is still struggling with his command and has pretty much taken himself out of the competition. So has John Rheinecker, who has had another setback in his attempts to get over the back spasms that have bothered him all spring. He threw off a mound on Sunday but came to the ballpark with more stiffness on Monday. If Wright wins the spot, Loe could end up in the bullpen as a reliever, a job he has done in the past. Loe is 5-4 with a 3.94 ERA in 41 career appearances as a reliever. "It depends on the makeup of the bullpen and how we come out of here, health-wise," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "Kam can pitch long, in the middle or as a seventh- and eighth-inning guy. We saw that two years ago. But Kam is also a guy who can pitch seven innings for you in 80 pitches."
Gagne back on mound: Here's the line on Eric Gagne's first outing of the spring: two-thirds of an inning, no pain, no stiffness, his legs still out of sync with his upper body and his velocity between 88-91 mph.Gagne faced three batters in a "B" game Monday against the Brewers, retiring the first two on grounders and then walking the third guy while working on his curve ball. It was the first time Gagne has faced hitters from another team since June 6. That was before he went on the disabled list with a sore elbow and then underwent back surgery to replace a herniated disk on July 8. He also had elbow surgery in 2005 and has pitched in just 16 games over the past two seasons. "The way I feel right now is the best I've felt in two years," Gagne said. "It felt really weird out there; I was both excited and nervous. I was walking around for an hour. It felt like my first day in the big leagues. "I was a little out of whack with my legs, but my elbow felt good and my back felt good. It was pretty encouraging." Gagne's next outing will likely be in a Minor League game on Thursday in Surprise. Benoit shines: The final makeup of the Rangers bullpen is uncertain. The manager's opinion of Joaquin Benoit is quite clear. Washington loves what he has seen from Benoit this spring and reiterated that on Monday after the right-hander threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the "B" game. "Awesome," Washington said. "He has always been one of my favorites when he was on the other side, and he hasn't disappointed me with the way he's thrown the ball." Benoit, well on his way to earning a spot as a long reliever, has also pitched in three "A" games without allowing a run. In four innings, he has allowed one hit and struck out five. Kevin Millwood started Monday's "B" game, pitching three innings and giving up a couple of home runs to rookies Brad Nelson and Alicides Escobar. Wilson draws concern: Left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson's spring ERA shot up to 15.75 after he allowed two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings on Monday. Washington wasn't happy that left-handers were 2-for-4 with a walk off him. "He's been erratic," Washington said. "I'm concerned with his command, and I'd like to see him get some lefties out. I trust Mark. Mark feels like he'll be fine. I've got to trust that and just keep getting him some work." Teixeira out until Friday: First baseman Mark Teixeira remains sidelined with a sore knee and will probably not play again until Friday. He was out of the lineup on Monday. Hank Blalock (sore calf) and Gerald Laird (bruised foot) were also out the lineup on Monday. Laird is expected to be ready to go on Tuesday, while Washington said he'll talk to Blalock to see if he's ready to go. Catcher Miguel Ojeda left Monday's game in the fourth inning with a bruised right thumb. He said it: I enjoyed hitting those guys. I didn't enjoy actually hitting them, but I enjoyed the effect it had on them. It got the left-handed hitters off the plate a little more, and told them I wasn't going to pitch away from them all the time. -- Loe, on hitting two batters in Monday's game Up next: The Rangers host the Chicago White Sox at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Surprise Stadium. Vicente Padilla pitches for the Rangers against left-hander John Danks for the White Sox. The Rangers traded Danks and two other Minor League pitchers to the White Sox for McCarthy in the offseason. Padilla has allowed four earned runs on eight hits and three walks over five innings in his first two outings.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.