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Minor continues making strong rotation case

Lefty fans 11 in Minor League intrasquad game; Moore, Bush struggle, while Jepsen stellar vs. Mariners; Ragans has elbow tightness
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mike Minor hasn't been a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues since 2014, but he has certainly looked the part in Rangers camp.

Minor went five innings in a Minor League intrasquad game on Friday, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He also struck out 11, including the last seven batters faced. The lefty threw 70 pitches.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mike Minor hasn't been a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues since 2014, but he has certainly looked the part in Rangers camp.

Minor went five innings in a Minor League intrasquad game on Friday, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He also struck out 11, including the last seven batters faced. The lefty threw 70 pitches.

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"It was good," Minor said. "Threw everything for strikes. Threw some good breaking balls, threw some good changeups on both sides of the plate. Felt pretty good."

The outing comes after Minor threw four scoreless innings against the Athletics last Saturday. He should get two more outings in Spring Training.

Video: OAK@TEX: Minor breaks down pitch repertoire vs. A's

"I still have another start," Minor said. "I don't think I am built up yet. We went 70 today; I'd like to go a little more than that. But am I close to being able to get guys out and go through a lineup a couple of times? Yeah."

Minor said he feels a significant difference between now and 2016, when he was with the Royals and trying to come back from left shoulder surgery. Minor made 10 starts in the Royals' Minor League system on a rehab assignment and was shut down after posting a 6.23 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A. He was used as a reliever last year.

"I knew, early in the spring, that I felt different than two years ago," Minor said. "Just the progress I was making. Last time, when I got to 4-5 innings, I didn't throw as many strikes, the ball was up, couldn't throw breaking balls. Today I controlled a lot of that."

Rough, windy day for Moore, Bush
The wind was blowing straight out to center field on Friday at Surprise Stadium and it made for a rough day for the pitchers in the Rangers' 9-7 loss to the Mariners. Matt Moore allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings, raising his spring ERA to 4.00.

Video: SEA@TEX Moore discusses what he focused on in start

Matt Bush, in his second relief appearance since being moved back to the bullpen, allowed three runs on three hits in one inning. He struck out the last two batters he faced.

"Today, [Bush] missed location," manager Jeff Banister said. "He's got to get back to pitching inside. You go back, the strikeouts were when he got inside. When he missed over the plate, they went the other way.

"He has had two outings since he moved back to the bullpen. It's going to take a little bit of an adjustment."

Jepsen continues to shine
Right-hander Kevin Jepsen continues to make a case to be in the Rangers' bullpen, even though he is in camp on a non-roster invite. Jepsen retired all four hitters he faced on Friday, striking out three.

In 7 1/3 innings, he has allowed two hits, not walked a batter and struck out seven. The only run allowed came on a solo home run.

"Jepsen has thrown the ball well this spring," Banister said. "He knows how to pitch and hit his spots. He has done nothing but made a strong case for himself."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Ragans feels tightness in elbow
Left-hander Cole Ragans had to come out of a Minor League game because of tightness in his left elbow. Ragans underwent an MRI and the Rangers are waiting for the results to be read by Dr. Keith Meister.

Ragans was the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft and the No. 4 ranked prospect in their farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. He was 3-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 starts for Class A Spokane last year.

Niese released, Gardewine sent down
The Rangers have released veteran left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese from his Minor League contract. Niese has made 197 Major League starts, mainly with the Mets, but has never fully recovered from 2015 surgery on his left knee. He was limited to throwing in the bullpen and also strained a muscle in his left shoulder.

The Rangers also optioned pitcher Nick Gardewine to Triple-A Round Rock. Gardewine pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on six hits, three walks and six strikeouts. He remains prominent in the Rangers' future plans: Gardewine made 33 appearances at Double-A Frisco last season, finishing with a 2.21 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Rangers beat
Shin-Soo Choo was 2-for-3 on Friday and is now 10-for-23 with three walks this spring. He hit his second home run off Mike Leake in the first inning.

• The Rangers have promoted Eric McMahon to assistant Major League strength and conditioning coach. He is in his 10th season with the organization and was at Triple-A Round Rock last year.

Up next
The Rangers will play a doubleheader with the Royals on Saturday, with the first game starting at 2 p.m. CT and the second one at 8 p.m. at Surprise Stadium. Bartolo Colon is pitching the first game for the Rangers and rookie left-hander Yohander Mendez will start the second. Jesse Chavez will follow Mendez in the second game. Both games will be broadcast live on MLB.TV.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter Shinhis podcast.

Texas Rangers, Matt Bush, Kevin Jepsen, Mike Minor, Matt Moore