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With Harrison on DL, Texas eyes arms

With Harrison on DL, Texas eyes arms

ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison's arm problems could force the Rangers to make starting pitching a priority in any trade discussions they have with other teams.

General manager Jon Daniels said last week that he was more inclined to look at improving the bullpen. But that was before Harrison was placed on the disabled list Sunday with biceps tendinitis in his left arm. Now starting pitching may be a bigger concern for the Rangers and a bigger priority.

"It might," Daniels said Sunday. "We probably have more internal options in the bullpen than in the rotation. [Starting pitching] is something we're looking at but there are not that many starting pitchers available and I don't expect that to change. Not many starters get moved before the [July 31 Trade] Deadline. We may need to deal with that from within."

The Rangers are one of several teams who could use starting pitching help. The Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers, Twins and White Sox at least are looking for starting pitching. Others may join the hunt or are already doing so quietly. But not many teams are looking to give up starting pitching.

The Mariners have left-handers Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn but were just three games behind the Rangers going into Sunday's game. The Pirates might be willing to talk about Paul Malholm, Zach Duke and Ian Snell, the D-backs could move Doug Davis and Jon Garland, and the Royals may talk about Brian Bannister and Gil Meche. The Indians will probably move Carl Pavano somewhere.

The Rangers have the Minor League depth, but still don't want to trade the crown jewels. They are also unlikely to take on any significant money so that -- more than anything -- will severely limit their options in the trade market.

Their internal options are a mixed bag, beginning with Tommy Hunter. He started on Sunday night against the Padres after going 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Right now he gets the first crack at filling any hole in the Rangers rotation.

The Rangers have talked about Jason Jennings going into the rotation but that would create a hole in middle relief. At some point they could use Neftali Feliz or Orlando Hernandez to fill that role but Jennings is no longer stretched out to the point where he could just step into the rotation at a moment's notice.

Doug Mathis, who was 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 10 starts at Oklahoma City before being added to the Rangers bullpen, is more prepared to do that. He made four starts for the Rangers last year.

Another possibility is Dustin Nippert, who has been sidelined since the beginning of the season with a strained muscle on his right side. He has yet to give up an earned run in three appearances and nine innings for Double-A Oklahoma City on medical rehabilitation assignment and is scheduled to throw five innings and 75 pitches for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday in Nashville. He could be an option after that.

Veteran right-hander Kris Benson is still with the organization although on the disabled list at Oklahoma City. He just had an injection in his elbow and is throwing on the side with the RedHawks. He could start pitching in games within a week and could develop into an option at some point. But that's still several weeks away.

The guy who hasn't gone unnoticed is Guillermo Moscoso, who is 2-0 with an 0.82 ERA in two starts for Oklahoma City. He was also 3-1 with a 4.46 ERA in nine games, including seven starts, at Double-A Frisco.

"We do have some options, it's just for the most part inexperienced," Daniels said.

The Rangers are without both Harrison and Brandon McCarthy from their Opening Day rotation. McCarthy is on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right shoulder blade and has only begun to play catch again. It's unlikely he'll be ready to join the rotation much before the beginning of August.

The Rangers are more hopeful with Harrison. He is expected to be examined by a neurologist on Monday and if that goes well, he could resume throwing sometime later this week. The Rangers are hoping he won't be sidelined much longer than 15 days.

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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