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Harrison's back woes started in spring

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ARLINGTON -- The Rangers still had two weeks to go before the end of Spring Training and pitcher Matt Harrison knew something wasn't right. It wasn't his back as much as the pain shooting down his left leg.

"I didn't think anything about it, I thought it was something I could get through," said Harrison, who is scheduled for back surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disk. "But it progressively got worse."

Harrison's last start in Spring Training might have been a red flag. He allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings, while throwing 81 pitches. It wasn't a good way to finish off Spring Training, but Harrison was still the Rangers' Opening Day starter against the Astros on March 31.

But he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings and was the losing pitcher in an 8-2 loss. His second start wasn't any better, allowing five runs in five innings in an 8-4 loss to the Angels. Two days later, he was on the disabled list with an inflamed nerve in his lower back.

"I never really had back pain, the pain was really in my leg, the one I push off with," Harrison said. "That start in Houston, in the later innings, I felt my bad leg just get worse. That next bullpen [between starts] it started getting even worse. And as the leg got worse, I started changing my arm angle every time I threw, and if that kept up, there was a good chance of having an arm injury."

Anti-inflammatory medication can bring effective relief to herniated disks. Harrison had two such shots and neither proved effective. Harrison had further tests on Friday and that's when the decision was made to have surgery. He is expected to be sidelined until at least the All-Star break.

"The disk was causing all the pain," Harrison said. "If I didn't do anything, there's a good chance of causing permanent damage."

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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