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Lowe not letting strong start veer focus

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Lowe just wants to earn a spot on the Rangers' pitching staff. After turning in an impressive outing on Monday, he was reluctant to discuss the possibility of it being as a starter.

"I don't even think that's a conversation," Lowe said. "I'm here to fight and scratch and claw to any role."

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Manager Ron Washington wasn't ready to go there, either.

"No, he's not a candidate for the rotation," Washington said. "We're just trying to build him up."

Lowe pitched three innings on Monday night, starting in place of Yu Darvish, who was scratched with a stiff neck, and did not allow a run in the Rangers' 8-2 victory over the Royals at Surprise Stadium. Lowe allowed three hits and a walk while striking out three. He threw 47 pitches, and the outing comes after throwing two scoreless innings against the Giants on Friday.

"I said all along I just wanted the opportunity to compete for a job," Lowe said. "We never talked about anything except just go out and earn my way onto the team."

He is off to a good start. Washington said Lowe's actual performance reflects the results.

"Yes, yes, yes," Washington said. "He had a real good sinker tonight, and he was able to get his breaking ball over. A lot of ground balls, that's what he does. He knows what he has to do and how to do it."

Lowe was signed to a Minor League contract on March 6. At the time, the Rangers were looking at him as a reliever. Ideally, that's where he would end up. But Lowe has made 377 starts in his career, and the Rangers still haven't named a fifth starter.

Lowe could get two more Cactus League outings. He could also make another start in extended spring training because the Rangers don't need a fifth starter until April 9 against the Rays. Those three outings could get his pitch count up to 80 or so. Lowe signed late, but he has been working out since the end of November and came into camp ready to compete for a job.

"I would never have come if I wasn't," Lowe said of being prepared. "Why waste your time."

The Rangers are still looking at left-hander Robbie Ross and right-handers Nick Tepesch and Randy Wells for the fifth spot, and they are not close to making a decision. Lowe has time to close ground on them if he continues to pitch like this.

"I said after the last outing, I'm just trying to get better, and this was definitely better than the last start," Lowe said. "If you look at the game, there were still a lot of pitches, but it was a lot better ... a lot better breaking ball, the sinker was better and we added [the cut fastball]. You start getting your legs under you. You feel like you can compete."

But compete for what role.

"My intention is just to keep pitching him as long as we can get him out there," Washington said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }