SEATTLE -- Luis Mendoza is inching closer to a return to the Rangers' rotation, but John Patterson has suffered a setback in his comeback. Patterson made his second start in extended Spring Training on Saturday but had to be shut down because of more soreness in his right forearm. The Rangers have sent him back to Dallas to be examined by Dr. Keith Meister. "He was not happy with the way the ball was coming out of his hand, and he had some pain in his forearm again," Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor said. "Everything was going well until that second start."
Patterson, after going 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 31 starts for the Nationals in 2005, has been limited to 15 starts the past two years because of arm problems. He was released by the Nationals near the end of Spring Training and signed by the Rangers to a Minor League contract. The Rangers were hoping to get him right and have him become an option for their rotation in case of emergency, but that hope has suffered a setback. Mendoza is on the disabled list because of a sore right shoulder but reported no pain or soreness during a 45-pitch throwing session off the mound on Wednesday. "It felt really good," Mendoza said. "No problems. No more soreness. No more pain. Nothing." Connor said Mendoza is making progress but is not close to returning. The plan right now is for Mendoza to pitch two to three innings in a simulated game on Saturday when the Rangers return to Arlington, then make at least two or three starts in the Minor Leagues. Connor said the main concern right now is for Mendoza to rebuild his endurance. Mendoza started to get tired at the end of his bullpen session on Wednesday. "The action of his arm has been good, and the velocity is back," Connor said. "All the things that you want to see are back. We're just going to play it on the cautionary side rather than the aggressive." The Rangers are getting Kason Gabbard back. He is coming off the disabled list on Thursday to pitch against the Mariners. Left-hander A.J. Murray is expected to be sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma on Thursday after making just one start for the Rangers. Murray beat the Athletics, 6-3, on Saturday while allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings. "I figured I'd only be up here for one start," Murray said. "Hopefully when the time comes and the organization needs another spot start, they'll look at that game and what I did." Gabbard's return should stabilize the rotation until Mendoza is ready. Right now the Rangers are going with Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Sidney Ponson, Scott Feldman and Gabbard for the foreseeable future. Murray could get recalled if the Rangers have a need, but Doug Mathis is also starting to get consideration. Mathis, a 13th round Draft pick out of the University of Missouri in 2005, is 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA in seven starts at Oklahoma. The Rangers received glowing reports about his 5-3 victory over Sacramento on Tuesday. He allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits while striking out six and not walking a batter. "We got a great report from Oklahoma City," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It was very encouraging. He's a strike-thrower who throws all four pitches over the plate. He gets a lot of ground balls and works deep into the game. He's certainly on our radar." Mathis, for the short-term at least, has pushed ahead of Eric Hurley, who has been struggling at Oklahoma. Hurley is 1-2 with a 7.32 ERA after seven starts. "If you look at his starts, he'll have two or three good innings, and then he'll run into a bump in the road," farm director Scott Servais said. "He can't escape the big inning and that home run hurts him."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.