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Scheppers in Rangers' rotation; Soria to close

Ogando headed to the bullpen; Feliz not yet assured spot on Opening Day roster

Scheppers in Rangers' rotation; Soria to close

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Tanner Scheppers is going into the Rangers' rotation, and Alexi Ogando is going to the bullpen. Joakim Soria has won a job as the Texas closer, and Neftali Feliz still has to win a spot in the bullpen.

He hasn't done that yet.

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Those were the major decisions announced by the Rangers on Saturday morning as they try to assemble their pitching staff for the regular season. There are still more decisions to be made, but they have officially put Scheppers into the rotation and identified Soria as their closer.

The Rangers are still looking for two more starters to fill out the rotation. Manager Ron Washington said there are four candidates still remaining: Robbie Ross, Colby Lewis, Joe Saunders and Tommy Hanson.

Scheppers won a promotion to the rotation with a 2.08 ERA this spring. Opponents have hit .208 off him, and he has a 1.02 WHIP.

"He's got electric stuff, that's what plays for me," Washington said.

Scheppers may have nailed down the job when he pitched six strong innings against the Brewers on Friday. He allowed two runs in the first, but then retired 16 of the final 18 hitters he faced. Afterwards, Washington said he was impressed by Scheppers' stamina, and that's what they have been monitoring all spring. He has made just eight starts -- all in the Minor Leagues -- since the Rangers drafted him in 2009.

"That [stamina] is the main thing I have been looking at -- if his stuff was the same in the late innings as it was in the beginning," Washington said. "He sustained, and his stuff got better as the game went on."

Scheppers out-pitched Ogando, who has a 6.35 ERA in the Cactus League, with opponents hitting .377 off him. Ogando will be used as a setup reliever, a role he had in 2010 and '12. He has pitched well as a starter, but there were also concerns about his ability to hold up for an entire season. He was on the disabled list three times last year.

"That comes into play, but we had some decisions to make to set up the team as best we can," Washington said. "We feel it's best for him to be in the bullpen."

Ogando could close on occasion, but that job right now belongs to Soria, a two-time All-Star who had 160 saves as the Royals' closer from 2007-11. He missed all of '12 after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, and he pitched in 26 games for the Rangers last year. Soria had a 3.80 ERA and opponents hit .212 off him. He has also pitched seven scoreless innings in the Cactus League.

"His consistency and his … experience in closing down ballgames," Washington said as to why Soria won the job.

Feliz had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1, 2012, and he is not back to pitching at the same level he did in 2010-11. He has a 4.50 ERA and opponents are hitting .324 off him this spring.

Washington said Feliz is not guaranteed a spot in the bullpen.

"Neftali hasn't been pitching in two years," Washington said. "Let it play out and see what happens. Neftali is healthy, now he has to win a job. He's just not going to win the closer's spot."

Right now, the Rangers bullpen includes Soria, Ogando, right-hander Jason Frasor and left-hander Neal Cotts. That leaves three spots open. Ross and Hanson could be moved into the bullpen if they don't make the rotation.

Besides Feliz, right-hander Shawn Tolleson is still competing for a job, along with left-handers Aaron Poreda, Rafael Perez, Ryan Feierabend and Pedro Figueroa. Michael Kirkman, who is out of options, is also being considered for the bullpen and is no longer a candidate for the rotation.

Poreda and Tolleson have been the most impressive lately. Feierabend could end up in the Triple-A Round Rock rotation. Right-hander Justin Germano is in camp but has just re-started his throwing program after missing a week for personal reasons.

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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