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Saunders cuts bullpen short

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ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Joe Saunders had to cut a bullpen session short on Wednesday because of more pain in his left ankle.

Saunders is on the disabled list with a bruised left ankle as the result of getting hit by a line drive in his only start of the season on April 4 against the Rays. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday but that isn't likely. He still needs to pass fielding tests as well.

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Saunders has had an MRI that showed only a bruise and no fractures. But the pain is still there and Saunders will back off for the next few days before trying another bullpen session. The longer Saunders is out, the more likely he'll need at least one start on medical rehabilitation assignment.

It could also push him back toward the time when Matt Harrison comes off the disabled list, although that is still to be determined. Harrison is scheduled to pitch on rehab assignment on Saturday but the Rangers haven't announced if it will be for Triple-A Round Rock or Double-A Frisco.

The Rangers are interested in seeing better results. Harrison, who started the season on the disabled list while still recovering from his back problems, allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings on Monday against Arkansas. He threw 77 pitches on a cold, wet day in Little Rock and admitted he had a hard time staying motivated. The Rangers would like to see all that change in his next outing.

Right now there are no spots in the rotation. Saunders was replaced by Colby Lewis and the Rangers are committed to him. Tanner Scheppers, who switched from the bullpen to the rotation this season, is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in his first three starts and the Rangers have lost all three games. That might be a vulnerable spot but the Rangers intent was not to put him in the rotation on temporary assignment. The Rangers believe he has the talent to be a front-line starter even if he has struggled in his first three starts.

"For me, I have faith in my ability," Scheppers said. "If I go out and do what I know I can do, I will be fine."

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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