Tepesch, Lewis progressing in rotation race

Tepesch, Lewis progressing in rotation race

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nick Tepesch is facing the same challenge as Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and a few others. It's time to raise his candidacy for a spot in the Rangers rotation.

Tepesch's next chance to do that will be Saturday afternoon, when he is scheduled to pitch four innings against the Athletics in Phoenix. This will be Tepesch's third outing, and he will follow starter Colby Lewis. Tepesch is shooting for four innings.

"I want to get through four innings, get ahead in the count and get strike one," Tepesch said. "I fell behind in my last outing, and that's always a bad thing to do as a pitcher. You want to get strike one and get that advantage."

Tepesch, who had some back stiffness early in the spring, started the Cactus League with three scoreless innings against the Indians on March 3, but allowed three runs on eight hits over two innings against the Mariners on Sunday.

Other rotation candidates have had their rough games as well. The third time around could be crucial for anybody looking to fill the final two spots behind Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando.

"I just view things in the sense that I have to worry about myself and the things I need to do to get better," Tepesch said. "I'm here for a reason and that's to win a job. That's how I look at it."

Lewis is coming off an impressive outing against the Mariners. He pitched two scoreless innings Sunday and only threw 23 pitches. He allowed two hits, a walk and a strikeout.

It was the biggest step yet for Lewis, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since July 18, 2012. Since then, he has had flexor tendon surgery in 2012 and hip replacement on Aug. 22. But at this point, Lewis is very much in the running for a spot in the rotation and could move to the front of the pack with another strong outing.

"I want to go out and get three quality innings and see how my body reacts to getting up and down," Lewis said. "That's it. Get my pitch count up and have a few quick innings and see how it goes."

After that, Lewis would have two more starts in Spring Training and that would get him up to five or six innings by the time camp breaks. That would be enough to start the season in the rotation, if he can convince the Rangers he's ready to return to the big leagues after the long layoff.

"It all depends on how my body bounces back," Lewis said. "Right now it has been great. It is doing exactly what I want it to do. I don't know if five-six innings will be any different. If I can still get outs and be productive, in the end it will be up to the coaching staff and the front office to see if I'm going to be on the team or not."

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.