TJ-comeback starters ready for game action

Volquez, Smyly, Miller will return to the mound later this week

February 26th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Rangers' comeback starters are ready for game action. , and are expected to make their first starts later this week.

All three are coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, so this is another step toward being ready to start the season in the Rangers' rotation. Volquez is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Cubs in Surprise, Ariz., Smyly will go the next day against the Angels and Miller is down to pitch Friday at home against the White Sox.

Miller, who had his surgery on May 10, 2017, pitched in five games for the D-backs last season. Volquez hasn’t pitched since 2017, and Smyly has missed the last two years. Their health issues have given them a common bond.

“It didn’t take long for us to mesh together,” Smyly said. “We’re all going through similar experience. We have been around, we have been pitching, we have been battling injuries, but now we feel we are all over the hump so we are just looking forward to taking it into the season healthy and getting back to competing.”

Burke impresses with scoreless inning

Left-hander Brock Burke pitched a scoreless inning in the Rangers' 11-5 victory over the Indians on Monday, striking out three of the four batters he faced. The Rangers are looking for left-handed relievers, but Burke, acquired from the Rays this winter, is not a candidate.

“He is a starter,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We want him to start. We want to build him up to be a starter.”

Left-hander Taylor Hearn and right-hander Jonathan Hernandez are in the same category. They are in big league camp, but not to make the team.

“They are too valuable as starters,” Woodward said. “Now if they pitch well in Spring Training and three guys get hurt, we obviously need an option. But as it stands right now, they are obviously going to start in the Minor Leagues.”

Minor aiming for 200

Mike Minor, who allowed one run in two innings against the Indians on Monday, said his goal this season is to pitch at least 200 innings. The Rangers were without a 200-inning starter the past two seasons, but that could be reachable for Minor now that last year’s limitations are being lifted.

“I think it is a goal for everybody,” Minor said. “People are going to say the bullpens are taking over, but I think if you throw well enough, you can reach it.”

Minor pitched well last season, but the Rangers monitored his workload because he missed two years due to shoulder surgery, and he was used as a reliever in 2017 while with the Royals. The reverse may be true this season. With Volquez, Smyly and Miller coming back from surgery, the Rangers will need Minor to be more of a workhorse this year.

“I know he wants that, and we kind of owe it to him,” Woodward said. “If he can maintain his health and maintain his stuff through his starts, I would love nothing more than that.”

Rangers beat

• Hunter Pence made his first start in the Cactus League on Monday, and he went 1-for-3 with a double as a designated hitter. Pence can’t play the field because of a sore right shoulder but is expected to DH on Tuesday against the Mariners.

• Minor League first baseman Preston Beck was 2-for-3 on Monday after replacing Ronald Guzman in the late innings. Beck, a fifth-round pick out of the University of Texas-Arlington in 2012, has never been in big league camp but this was his 28th Cactus League game over the past three years as a reserve brought over from the Minor League side. He is 10-for-34 (.294) at the plate in those 28 games.

• Right-handers Lance Lynn and Shawn Kelley will pitch in a simulated game Tuesday in camp. Adrian Sampson is scheduled to start against Seattle.

Up next

Asdrubal Cabrera will make his spring debut for the Rangers at third base when they play the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz. Cabrera was signed as a free agent in the offseason to replace Adrian Beltre at third base. He has been getting extra work in camp with infield coach Tony Beasley and did not play in the first three games.