Tepesch still auditioning for role

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington has been careful when discussing the performance of his rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch.

The 24-year-old is in his first spring training camp as a non-roster invitee, and Washington admitted he didn't know much about him when camp began. After his first two appearances, the Rangers bench boss knew more and liked what he saw but still didn't want to say anything that would give the young pitcher too much to think about beyond pitching.

Washington's actions spoke louder than words on Saturday, when he started Tepesch in the Rangers' split-squad game against Oakland. The scheduled four-inning outing was a chance for Tepesch to show his strong multi-inning mid-game appearances would translate if he were to be inserted into a higher-pressure situation by opening the game.

Tepesch opened the start strong by retiring eight of the first nine batters he faced, giving up only a single. With two outs in the third, four consecutive Oakland hitters reached base on a pair of singles and two walks, but none of the balls were hit hard. Tepesch remained poised, as he has all spring, and limited the damage by allowing just one run and leaving the bases loaded.

"When things are going good and coming easy, everyone looks good," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "But when it gets a little bit hairy out there, that's when you see what you are made of.

"I thought it was a pretty mature outing."

His maturity and poise especially came through when trying to limit the damage and close out the third inning. Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss battled Tepesch with a nine-pitch at bat, continually fouling off pitches, but a sharp cutter eventually did him in, enabling Tepesch to escape the jam.

"That's what you try to do when stuff like that happens, limit the damage," Tepesch said. "I felt like I didn't have my best stuff today, but I competed and tried to attack hitters and go after them. It was a pretty good day overall, though."

After today's performance, Tepesch has allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings with a 2.25 ERA. His seven strikeouts tie him with Alexi Ogando for the team lead.

Prior to the start, Washington remained cautious about saying Tepesch would become a factor in the conversation about the fifth-starter role, which is still far from being resolved.

"He's been in the starting rotation, so he's been getting the opportunity to throw multiple innings each time he went out there, and it's no different right now," Washington said. "We haven't made any decision yet about anyone on the team, and he's one we haven't made a decision on."