Rangers eye the market for a starter

Rangers eye the market for a starter

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are scrambling to figure out their rotation this week. Roy Halladay is not going to be an option.

The Rangers have had discussions with the Blue Jays concerning Halladay but have balked at the asking price. The Blue Jays are looking for a package that includes prospects at the level of pitcher Derek Holland, Minor League first baseman Justin Smoak and outfielder Julio Borbon.

The Rangers, who have limited financial flexibility anyway, aren't willing to give that much for Halladay. But they are still talking with other clubs, and general manager Jon Daniels' top priority is still starting pitching.

"That's fair to say," Daniels said. "Nothing has changed at our end. We're looking at ways to improve the club. We're walking through our options and staying in touch with other teams and seeing if there is a fit."

The Rangers did talk to the Indians about first baseman Ryan Garko as a possible platoon partner with Hank Blalock at first base. But starting pitching is still a top priority.

"It's what we're trying to do," Daniels said. "We've got a lot of confidence in our whole pitching staff. We have a lot of reasons to feel good about our pitching staff. We'd like to add to it, but it has been a strength of the team."

Finances are a major part of it. Owner Tom Hicks is trying to sell either part or all of the team and the Rangers are unlikely to add any major payroll at this point.

"It's an element," Daniels said. "It's a different environment than we've dealt with in the past. We haven't made that a secret. It's unlikely that we'll be able to add significant money. But that doesn't mean we can't improve the club. It just makes it more of a challenge."

So the Rangers will try to piece together their rotation from what they have from within the organization. Right now they are waiting to see when Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla will pitch again.

Padilla was supposed to start on Tuesday but was scratched because of lingering effects from the swine flu. He threw in the bullpen instead and there is a possibility he could pitch later this week.

"It went good," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He just has to overcome this thing. We have question marks about other guys making their starts, but fortunately we have some options. As soon as Vinny gets his strength back, he'll be ready to go. The bug hit these guys hard. It takes some time. You don't just bounce back and be at full strength. It takes five-to-seven days."

Doug Mathis took Padilla's place on Tuesday and Scott Feldman is scheduled to go on Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series against the Tigers. Padilla could come back into the rotation either Thursday or Friday.

The Rangers are still waiting on Millwood, who is dealing with a strained left gluteus muscle. He reported improvement on Tuesday and played some catch, but he's still not sure if he'll be ready to pitch on Friday.

"It's still there, but it definitely feels better," Millwood said. "If it improves tomorrow as much as it did today, I'll be fine."

Right now Holland is scheduled to start on Thursday. He could be pushed back if the Rangers decide to pitch Padilla on Thursday. Holland could go either Friday instead of Millwood or wait until Sunday.

The Rangers could also use Dustin Nippert, who won on Wednesday in a spot start against the Red Sox and again on Sunday in relief of Millwood against the Royals.

"After [Wednesday] it's all 'to be determined,'" Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Right now the Rangers' two best starters are Tommy Hunter and Feldman.

Hunter beat the Tigers, 5-2, on Monday by allowing one run in seven innings and now has a 1.46 ERA in his past five starts, going back to June 28. In one month since then, he has the second lowest ERA in the American League among pitchers with at least five starts. Oakland's Brett Anderson has a 1.36 ERA.

Hunter has allowed one or fewer runs in four consecutive starts. The last Rangers pitcher to do that was Chris Young in five straight starts back on Aug. 17 to Sept. 7, 2005.

Matt Harrison won four successive starts from April 27 to May 14 earlier this season, but he is out for the year. Harrison, who has Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, underwent surgery on Monday to remove a rib bone that was pressing on a nerve in his left shoulder. He will not pitch again this season but should be ready for Spring Training and may pitch in Winter Ball.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.