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Rangers' rotation picture still murky

Injuries, performance concerns make for tough decisions
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers may not have the best pitching staff in Spring Training, but they could easily have the most complicated.

There are less than three weeks to go before Opening Day and there is much about this staff that remains shrouded in mystery. That's what happens when you have two Cy Young Award winners in camp -- Tim Lincecum and Bartolo Colon -- and nobody is sure if they'll be on the Opening Day roster.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers may not have the best pitching staff in Spring Training, but they could easily have the most complicated.

There are less than three weeks to go before Opening Day and there is much about this staff that remains shrouded in mystery. That's what happens when you have two Cy Young Award winners in camp -- Tim Lincecum and Bartolo Colon -- and nobody is sure if they'll be on the Opening Day roster.

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The Rangers knew going into the offseason they needed to buy pitching in bulk. Now, they have the heavy task of sorting through it all.

"It's complicated, but we knew that going into it," manager Jeff Banister said.

• Rangers Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

The Rangers' pitching puzzle includes left-handed starter Martin Perez and right-handed reliever Keone Kela, two homegrown talents they are counting on heavily. Their path to Opening Day appears quite murky.

Perez is finishing his recovery from a broken bone in the tip of his right elbow and is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday. The Rangers aren't sure how many pitches he will throw, but Perez has reached as high as 70 in live batting practice. This will be his first time pitching without a protective screen.

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After that, Perez could get three more outings before the end of Spring Training and be ready to start the fifth game of the regular season. But the Rangers aren't going to push him.

"In a vacuum, I want him ready as soon as we can get him," Banister said. "Big picture, it's about the total more than the first one."

Kela has made three appearances this spring, with the most recent one coming on Monday. He is not scheduled to pitch this weekend. Kela was on the disabled list twice last season because of a strained right shoulder and the Rangers don't want to push him either.

Video: TEX@DET: Kela K's four through two innings

"He's got a history of having a little bit of a shoulder, so we want to make sure we do our best to keep him available for us and built up and ready to go," Banister said. "If that means you back off a little to get him going, that's part of it, too."

The Rangers also remain non-committal about the possibility of Mike Minor and/or Matt Bush being switched from the bullpen to the rotation. Minor appears to be the more likely candidate to make the move, but Colon is still in camp. Colon, who has pitched well and starts on Sunday against the Angels, could make the debate about relievers moving into the rotation a moot point.

Bush is hoping to find out soon if he'll be a starter, but that may not be possible.

"We're not at that mark just yet," Banister said. "We still have other starters who are being built up. We're still working off the idea that we're moving forward with a five-plus-one [rotation] with a thought process of preparing ourselves if something unforeseen happens, or if there's a decision that gets made that we go with a straight five … all the possibilities."

The Rangers also don't normally sign multiple prominent pitchers after camp is open with the idea they'll be a part of the Opening Day roster. However, Jesse Chavez was added on Feb. 23 and Lincecum came aboard on March 7. Lincecum, who threw his second bullpen session on Saturday, will take two days off and then throw back-to-back sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Chavez has a 5.40 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP after three outings and he is still being evaluated for a role as a spot starter/long reliever.

Video: CWS@LAA: Chavez K's five over seven-plus innings

The Rangers also have to make a call on veteran non-roster relievers Erik Goeddel, Steve Delabar and Kevin Jepsen, which is why they need to figure out what's going on with Kela and Lincecum, among others.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

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