Notes: Fifth-starter spot undecided

Notes: Rangers undecided on fifth starter

PHOENIX -- The Rangers planned a big meeting for Tuesday to discuss final composition of their roster and the fifth-starter spot was on the agenda.

There is much to discuss, even if knuckleballer R.A. Dickey appears to be the last man standing.

This comes down to what the Rangers really trust. Dickey has heart and character, but he is still learning the knuckleball. Juan Dominguez has talent but keeps being his own worst enemy. Edinson Volquez has talent and loads of self-confidence, but his inexperience is glaring.

"There is still more discussions to be had," general manager Jon Daniels said.

Dominguez, the starter in an 8-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday was a leading candidate at the beginning of camp, but he hasn't shown what the Rangers wanted to see this spring.

Dominguez started off strong against the Athletics with two scoreless innings, then he ran into trouble when he walked two of the first three hitters in the third. Left fielder Steve Murphy lost a fly ball in the sun, a single to load the bases.

Dominguez, who was growing angrier by the moment, then didn't cover first when Phil Nevin made a terrific diving stop on a grounder and one run scored. A bases-loaded walk to Bobby Crosby brought home a second run, Eric Chavez's infield grounder made it 3-1 and Frank Thomas' sacrifice fly added a fourth run. Milton Bradley grounded out to end the inning.

Dominguez stalked off the field, fired his glove into the dugout and then came back to pitch a scoreless fourth.

"One inning kind of got away from him," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "He pitched well, but walks and command was an issue. Walks are not something you want to see this late in spring."

Dickey had trouble with his control too, walking three in two innings. A stiff breeze blowing toward the left-field corner did not help.

"A little different wind than what he's been dealing with," Showalter said. "I don't think he's had a real good feel today -- as he did in his last four or five outings."

Both could get one more outing on Saturday against the Florida Marlins in Frisco, Texas.

The Rangers could also settle the matter by flipping a coin. Or they could use that coin and call Roger Clemens.

Jaramillo undergoes surgery: Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo underwent surgery for 3 1/2 hours in New York for prostate cancer and trainer Jamie Reed, after speaking to personnel at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, reported that everything went well.

"All the cancer was contained within the prostate, and they got the prostate out," Reed said. "Everything went well. He'll be in New York for two weeks and then be released back to Texas."

Showalter spoke with Jaramillo's wife, Shelley, and said, "She seemed pretty excited to get this behind them. We miss him."

Nevin goes deep: After just missing on a couple deep fly balls early in the game, Nevin crushed a home run off of reliever Kiko Calero in the ninth inning on Tuesday.

Nevin had just two hits in 27 at-bats over a two-week period before he hit the home run.

Nevin was hitting .388 on March 14, but that average has dropped to .217.

Nevin had spent the morning in the cage with hitting instructor Brook Jacoby working on his footwork and timing and said, "I felt good. The main thing is to see the ball and react to it. It's one thing to see the ball, and I've been seeing it good, but you have to be able to react; today, I did.

"The first two weeks were good for my confidence, knowing I can still do it, realizing the stuff that Rudy and I had worked on and the stuff that I had worked on this winter worked. It's almost good that I got out of it for 1 1/2 weeks, because now I know what it feels like it when it's not there. Hopefully, now I can lock it in."

The Rangers need him to, because they cut one of their safety nets when they released Erubiel Durazo on Monday.

"I said before, I know if I'm doing the things I'm capable of doing, I'm going to play. I didn't look at it as being in competition with Erubiel." Nevin said. "If Erubiel Durazo is healthy -- and I don't think he is -- he helps our team. Look what he's done in the past."

Wilson still struggling: The bizarre spring of C.J. Wilson continues and his run of troubles is going to keep him off the Opening Day roster.

Wilson has been zapped with the flu and was able to face just five batters in a Minor League camp game on Tuesday. He gave up three hits, a walk and one batter reached on an error before his day came to an end.

"C.J. is a big question mark," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "I think he's probably five or six innings away from where he needs to be. He's got to get healthy. Everything went wrong for him this spring."

Wilson, who had a 2.73 ERA in 18 relief appearances as a rookie last year, came to camp as a leading candidate to make the bullpen. But he started out with a strained hamstring, then had to be scratched from an outing because of a stiff shoulder.

"My arm is fine," Wilson said. "I ended last season on a good note, and I wanted to build on it, but a lot of things have happened."

Wilson's travails likely opens up a spot for Erasmo Ramirez as a second left-hander, but the Rangers could have three because they are strongly considering Rule 5 Draft acquisition Fabio Castro.

Millwood sluggish: Pitcher Kevin Millwood was planning on taking a ride in an F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday afternoon. There's little doubt he'll get a bigger thrill out of that than pitching against Minor Leaguers in the morning.

"He was OK," Connor said. "He said he was a little sluggish and couldn't get it going. He said he's ready for some adrenaline."

He'll get that on Monday, Opening Day, when he pitches against the Red Sox at Ameriquest Field. Against the Minor Leaguers, he pitched three scoreless innings and threw 48 pitches.

"This was the last start of the spring, and I backed off a little bit," Millwood said. "I feel like all my pitches are where they need to be. I'm ready for Opening Day. I think everybody is. It's like Groundhog Day right now. We're all ready to see a third deck in the ballpark and hear the fans."

More Mench mania: Kevin Mench did not go to Phoenix on Tuesday, another day of rest for Cactus League pitchers.

Going into Tuesday's games, Mench was leading the Cactus League with seven home runs, 18 RBIs, 50 total bases and a 1.042 slugging percentage. He was second with a .458 batting average and third with 22 hits.

"We've seen it from Mench before," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We know he's got the ability to hit over 30 home runs and drive in over 100 RBIs."

Briefly: Showalter admitted that outfielder Gary Matthews (strained ribcage muscle) is "no longer in the mix" and will start the season on the disabled list. ... Francisco Cordero pitched a scoreless inning against the Minor Leaguers and Connor said, "Coco was pretty good. He threw all his pitches for strikes." ... Hank Blalock (stiff back) went through a full workout back in Surprise, Ariz.

Coming up: Adam Eaton faces his old team when he pitches against the San Diego Padres at 2:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday in Surprise. Jake Peavy, who spent part of the spring pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, pitches for the Padres. Akinori Otsuka, another former Padres hurler, could also pitch in the game. Outfielder Brad Wilkerson is also expected to return to the Rangers lineup.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.