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Diekman on track to face hitters next week

Lefty has been out since Spring; Chirinos avoids DL; Mazara dropped to eighth
MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have said they're looking into left-handed relief help as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, but they're going to be getting one fairly soon without having to make a deal. Jake Diekman, who has been on the 60-day disabled list since Feb. 14 after having a pair of surgeries to correct his ulcerative colitis, is on track to begin ramping up his workload as he progresses toward an eventual return to the bullpen.

Diekman said on Monday that he's aiming to throw to live batters "hopefully by the end of this homestand." The Rangers play nine games in 10 days with an off-day on Thursday after they wrap up a three-game series with the Marlins.

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ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have said they're looking into left-handed relief help as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, but they're going to be getting one fairly soon without having to make a deal. Jake Diekman, who has been on the 60-day disabled list since Feb. 14 after having a pair of surgeries to correct his ulcerative colitis, is on track to begin ramping up his workload as he progresses toward an eventual return to the bullpen.

Diekman said on Monday that he's aiming to throw to live batters "hopefully by the end of this homestand." The Rangers play nine games in 10 days with an off-day on Thursday after they wrap up a three-game series with the Marlins.

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Diekman's throwing bullpens -- his last one was 27 pitches, and Diekman said he feels good -- and the next one is scheduled for Wednesday. Diekman said he was looking to throw 30 pitches in that one, "but that probably means like, 33."

Playing catch and throwing bullpens are part of the road back for Diekman, and he said he's scheduled to throw batting practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"I feel really good," Diekman said. "I feel better after every bullpen, I'm not as sore. I feel like I'm coming along pretty well. I have to remember that this is kind of like my Spring Training; it's really hard. But yeah, overall, I feel pretty good."

Chirinos avoids DL

After Adeiny Hechavarria collided with him at home plate on Sunday in the Rangers' 6-5 win over the Rays, Robinson Chirinos had to exit the game and looked like he could be in some serious trouble. He was spotted in the clubhouse after the game in a walking boot on his left ankle, but it turns out he avoided suffering anything serious.

Chirinos was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle, and although he was sore, the MRI came back showing no structural damage. The walking boot was absent the next day.

"I am sore but feel good, better than I thought I would feel," Chirinos said on Monday after taking batting practice. "I hit in the cage and felt good."

The Rangers called up catcher Brett Nicholas from Triple-A Round Rock on Monday, but manager Jeff Banister said Chirinos would be available in an emergency situation, although it's unlikely.

Nicholas played 15 games with the Rangers over a pair of stints in 2016, and he was batting .311 with seven homers and 38 RBIs with Round Rock this year.

"The cool part is, being around [the Rangers] in Spring Training and the last few years, I know these guys really well," Nicholas said. "It's not a matter of coming in and changing anything."

Rangers beat

• The Rangers shook up the batting order on Monday, dropping Nomar Mazara, who usually bats third, to eighth, giving the team three right-handed hitters in a row with Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli in the third-through-fifth spots in the order. Banister said that was to stack right-handers to get on top of Miami's left-handed starter, Adam Conley, early.

• After sweeping Tampa Bay over the weekend, the Rangers followed a series in which they were swept by sweeping another team, the first time in team history they'd been swept in a series of 4-plus games and followed that up with a sweep of 3-plus games.

• Shin-Soo Choo's .592 on-base percentage in Interleague games this year is the highest among Major League qualifiers. He's drawn 13 walks in 11 such games this season.

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas.

Texas Rangers, Robinson Chirinos, Jake Diekman