Rangers call up Mikolas, designate Saunders

Young righty replaces veteran southpaw in rotation, set to start on Wednesday

Rangers call up Mikolas, designate Saunders

BALTIMORE -- The Rangers have designated pitcher Joe Saunders for assignment and called up pitcher Miles Mikolas from Triple-A Round Rock to go into their rotation. Mikolas will start on Wednesday against the Orioles.

"I have to make everything I can out of this," Mikolas said. "Keep doing what I was doing in Triple-A, that's the key. Throw strikes, get ground balls, get outs, get quick innings, go deep in the game and help us win."

 

A former reliever who pitched in the big leagues for the Padres the past two seasons, Mikolas was converted to a starter this season. He was 5-1 with a 3.22 ERA at Round Rock, including 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in six starts. Assistant general manager Thad Levine said Mikolas will be given a real chance to show he can be a starter at the Major League level.

"This is not a spot start," Levine said. "For where we are, we've had very good reports on Mikolas as a starter and we wanted to see if he can have the same level of success at the Major League level."

Mikolas, 25, was with the Rangers briefly earlier this season, but he didn't pitch. He was 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in 27 games for the Padres over the past two seasons before being acquired for first baseman Chris McGuinness in the offseason. Mikolas relies on a 93 mph fastball and a plus curve. His changeup is a work in progress. In 44 2/3 innings at Round Rock, he allowed 53 hits, walked just three and struck out 38.

"He is pounding the strike zone," Levine said. "When we acquired him, we were enamored with the velocity and the plus curveball. He has become more of a pitcher than just overpowering hitters as a reliever. We understand he is a work in progress. He will not be evaluated on a single outing."

Saunders, who was signed as a free agent three weeks into Spring Training, was designated for assignment after going 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in eight starts. Opponents were hitting .356 off him. Saunders is 0-3 with an 11.19 ERA in his last three starts, allowing seven runs in five innings in a 7-1 loss to the Orioles on Monday.

"He was a professional," Levine said. "He came in and tried out for us in Spring Training, and from the outset he was confident he could help us win games. He pitched some important innings for us and was an example for the rest of the staff. It didn't go as hoped but he has been a true professional."

Mikolas will pitch Wednesday followed by Yu Darvish on Thursday. Nick Tepesch has been pushed back to Friday against the Mets, and he will be followed by Colby Lewis and Nick Martinez.

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.