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HEIM -- The Rangers are nine days away from the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and they are suddenly staring at two question marks in their starting rotation.
Roy Oswalt has been scratched from Monday's start against the Red Sox because of tightness in his lower back and will be replaced by Scott Feldman. In addition, Colby Lewis is unlikely to start against the Red Sox on Tuesday because of lingering tightness in his right forearm.
He could end up on the disabled list and be replaced by rookie left-hander Martin Perez. Lewis is scheduled to be examined by Dr. Keith Meister on Monday in Arlington before a final decision is made, but the odds of pitching Tuesday are not good.
"We'll talk to Meister when we get back and see where we go from there," Lewis said. "You can't push an arm issue. A lot of other things you can push through, but an arm issue, you don't want to mess with. I have a lot of years left on the mound. I don't want to push it and hurt my arm or my career. If it's another two weeks or a month, that's what needs to happen."
The Rangers have been monitoring the trade market even before these setbacks and were scouting the top pitchers expected to be available. The Rangers were hoping to get their pitchers healthy so that they would not have to get involved in a major trade for a starter. That hope may be eluding them, and they could be looking at tough decisions before July 31.
"You always have to make the right decisions," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're monitoring the market and we're having conversations. You want to get as much good information as you can on the guys coming back. That will dictate what decisions we make and whether we make a deal.
"We've got guys who are capable. It all goes back to the fact that depth is huge. It gives you options, it keeps you from panicking and from making moves just to make moves."
The Rangers also remain without Neftali Feliz, who began the season in the rotation, but has been sidelined since mid-May with a sprained right elbow. He has made just two starts on rehab assignment and has allowed five runs on four hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings. He is not expected back until after the Trade Deadline.
"He has been getting all his work in, but it hasn't been very good," Daniels said. "You'd like to see him have crisper outings, but he is healthy."
The Rangers have been scouting the top starting pitchers rumored to be on the trade market, a list that includes left-hander Cole Hamels with the Phillies and right-hander Zack Greinke with the Brewers. The Cubs are also interested in trading right-handers Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster.
Hamels is the one pitcher that the Rangers really like, but he is currently discussing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies. The Rangers have a deep enough farm system that they could be major bidders on any player that is available at the Deadline.
"We've said all along that our first priority is getting our arms around the health of our guys," Daniels said. "We don't have 100 percent of the picture yet."
Oswalt's injury is not considered serious, but he has a history of back issues that have troubled him in the recent past. He has been on the disabled list five times in his career because of back problems, including twice last year. Oswalt felt his back flare up on his last pitch during a bullpen session on Friday, and the Rangers decided late Saturday night to shut him down.
He will be examined on Monday in Houston by a back doctor that has treated him in the past. Right now the Rangers are hoping Oswalt will miss one start and be back on the mound this coming weekend against the White Sox.
"When we signed Roy, prior to him signing, he explained to us that sometimes his lower back acts up," Daniels said. "He may get an injection, but we believe he'll miss just one start."
Oswalt was signed by the Rangers at the end of May, and he has made five starts for Texas, going 3-1 with a 5.22 ERA. Feldman has made 10 starts and is 2-6 with a 6.46 ERA as a starter.
Lewis was on the disabled list from June 24 to July 18 with tightness in his right forearm. He came off the disabled list last Wednesday in Oakland and allowed one run in five innings. But he left the game experiencing more tightness in his right forearm and has been limited to playing catch since then.
"This is a guy who is as tough of a guy as we have," Daniels said. "He pitches through things that other guys don't or can't. When he expresses concern, we take it seriously. We want to make sure he gets it right. We have options."
Perez was 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances with the Rangers. He was sent down to Triple-A Round last week when Lewis was activated off the disabled list and pitched two innings in relief on Friday against Omaha. The Rangers limited his work because they want him ready in case Lewis is can't pitch Tuesday. That now seems to be the case.