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Holland appears headed for Triple-A

Holland appears headed for Triple-A

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland was in the Rangers' rotation at the end of last season. He could end up in the Triple-A Oklahoma City rotation to start the season.

The Rangers, with Tommy Hunter down, are getting ready to open the season with a rotation that includes left-handers C.J. Wilson and Matt Harrison, and right-handers Rich Harden, Colby Lewis and Scott Feldman.

The biggest pitching question facing them right now is what to do with Holland, who allowed three runs in four innings in a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday.

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Holland is unlikely to make the rotation. He sprained his knee early in camp and has been trying to catch up to other pitchers since. In other camps it would have been no problem. But Harrison and Wilson have been outstanding since Spring Training began, and Holland is still trying to run them down. Their lead will likely prove insurmountable.

That will likely mean a trip to Oklahoma City for Holland. The alternative would be using him out of the bullpen, but that appears to be unlikely. Neftali Feliz, another rotation candidate unable to keep up with Wilson and Harrison, is going back to the bullpen, where his powerful right arm remains a formidable weapon.

But the Rangers' preference with Holland right now would be to send him to Triple-A and keep him stretched out as a starter. The organization prefers to have at least two rotation candidates stretched out at Oklahoma City in case a need arises at the big league level. Holland would be the most likely candidate to fit that responsibility.

"It doesn't matter where I go," Holland said. "I've got a job to do. My job is to compete and show people that I belong in the rotation."

The bullpen is almost close to completion. Only one spot remains open.

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The Rangers know that Frank Francisco will be their closer. They know that left-hander Darren Oliver and right-hander Darren O'Day will be two setup relievers. Chris Ray, who has pitched well despite some shoulder issues, and Feliz are expected to join them in that role.

That leaves two spots left for middle/long relievers. Dustin Nippert is going to be one of them. He showed his value as a long reliever/spot starter last season and has pitched as well as anybody in camp.

That leaves one more spot. The Rangers would prefer a pitcher who can throw multiple innings. Brandon McCarthy has experience in that role, but it has been three years since he's worked in relief. The Rangers are concerned about McCarthy responding to the demands of constantly getting up and down.

His tenuous health may work against that. He may be better served pitching along side Holland every fifth day at Oklahoma City.

If that be the case, the Rangers could end up choosing one more middle reliever from a list that includes Doug Mathis, Guillermo Moscoso, Luis Mendoza and veteran Geoff Geary.

"I know pretty soon we have to make some decisions," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're not there yet."

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

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