Healthy McClellan out to earn spot on Texas' staff

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Kyle McClellan is 100 percent healthy. He just needs to get all his muscles back into pitching shape after his battle with elbow and shoulder problems.

McClellan had to deal with pain in his shoulder for the past two years. It's why he pitched in just one game in the playoffs for the Cardinals in 2011, although the shoulder bothered him for much of the season. He made 16 appearances last year for St. Louis before going on the disabled list on May 18 with a strained right elbow.

But the problem was still the shoulder.

"I couldn't get my elbow above my shoulder," McClellan said. "The stress on the elbow was significant."

The problem was still evident when McClellan was close to coming off the disabled list in June. His mechanics were still out of whack and he was still feeling discomfort in his long-toss sessions. An MRI after the 2011 season showed only a minor tear in the labrum, but McClellan knew there was something wrong.

The doctors decided the only way to find out was through surgery. McClellan had the operation during the 2012 All-Star break and it was discovered that he had a "split" shoulder capsule in addition to some fraying of the labrum. The damaged capsule, which could not be detected through an MRI, was the source of McClellan's problems.

"I was relieved," McClellan said. "I knew something wasn't right and I wasn't able to fix it."

McClellan was not eligible for free agency this winter, but the Cardinals decided to release him rather than go to arbitration. The Rangers signed him to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

"It was not what I was hoping for," McClellan said. "I was hoping to finish out six years with the Cardinals. But it was nice to see other teams interested and Texas was one of the first to call."

McClellan spent five seasons as an integral member of St. Louis' bullpen, but was also 6-6 with a 4.21 ERA in 17 starts as a starter in 2011. Texas is going to give him a chance to win a job as the fifth starter.

"I've been asked for five years if I want to be a starter or a reliever," McClellan said. "My answer is I don't care. I didn't sign here hoping I would have a better chance of starting. I signed here because I felt it was a place my family would be more comfortable, there is an opportunity to win and it's an opportunity to reestablish myself. The biggest thing is showing I'm healthy and can I can be a contributing piece to a Major League team."