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Rheinecker makes case for rotation

Rheinecker makes case for rotation

ARLINGTON -- John Rheinecker has pitched his way back into the Rangers starting pitching picture.

Rheinecker came up from Triple-A Oklahoma and held the Seattle Mariners to one unearned run over seven innings in a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday.

The Rangers had considered the possibility of sending Rheinecker back down after the game was over and adding left-handed reliever A.J. Murray for the second game. But they nixed that idea after Rheinecker's performance.

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"He did an excellent job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "To shut down that lineup and hold them to one unearned run, he did an exceptional job. He changed speeds, kept the ball down and threw strikes."

Rheinecker allowed six hits, walked one and struck out four in his second start for the Rangers this season. He also started on June 5 against the Detroit Tigers and made 13 starts for Texas last year.

In his start against Detroit, Rheinecker allowed four runs in three innings. He said the difference this time was not getting "over-amped" and keeping his emotions under control. That kept him from overthrowing. Instead, he had better movement on his fastball and was able to hit his spots down in the zone.

"I only missed on a handful of pitches where I wanted them to be," Rheinecker said. "I'll take that every time."

The Rangers are looking for a new fifth starter after Robinson Tejeda was sent to Oklahoma with a record of 5-9 with a 6.61 ERA in 19 starts. The Rangers, because of off-days on Thursday and Monday, don't need a fifth starter again until Aug. 4.

Rheinecker likely will be available out of the bullpen this weekend in Kansas City and then be a candidate for the Aug. 4 start against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Hopefully this puts me in a position to go out and do it again," Rheinecker said.

Shortstop Michael Young's error cost the Rangers an unearned run in the first, but they tied it up in the fourth on a double by Sammy Sosa and a triple by Marlon Byrd. They then took the lead in the fifth against Mariners starter Ryan Feierabend on three straight two-out hits: a double by Travis Metcalf, Frank Catalanotto's infield single and a run-scoring single by Young.

Rheinecker responded to Young's error by retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. A pair of singles by Willie Bloomquist and Jason Ellison gave the Mariners runners at the corners with one out in the sixth. But Rheinecker, in his toughest spot of the afternoon, responded to that crisis by striking out Ichiro Suzuki and Jose Lopez to end the threat.

"That was the ultimate right there," Washington said.

Suzuki was 0-for-4 against Rheinecker on Tuesday and is 0-for-8 against him in his career.

Rangers right fielder Jerry Hairston left the game in the fourth inning with stiffness in his back. Hairston has been having back troubles lately and told Washington he just couldn't get loose. He is day-to-day.

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

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