Quality start needed from Nick Tepesch

HOUSTON -- Nick Tepesch pitched poorly in spring training. He’ll tell you that, and he offers no excuses for his 11.25 ERA in three exhibition games.

“I had a pretty awful spring,” Tepesch said. “You can’t expect to make the team pitching that bad.”

But when he started the season in Triple-A, he declined to pout. Instead, he worked on his command so he could throw his fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup for strikes in any count.

It has worked in Triple-A, where he is 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA in seven starts at Round Rock. The Rangers desperately need it to work in the big leagues.

The Rangers start the day in fourth place in the AL West, five games behind the Oakland Athletics. They’re on the verge of being realistically eliminated from the AL West race by Memorial Day.

The Rangers are 6-1 when Yu Darvish starts and 14-19 in every other pitcher's starts. Injuries to Martin Perez (elbow) and Matt Harrison (back) have thrown the rotation into disarray.

In their last 15 games, the Rangers have one six-inning performance from a starter not named Darvish -- and even that didn’t qualify as a quality start.

The Rangers need a strong start from Tepesch, who was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 19 appearances last season, including 17 starts.

“The only thing I’m doing different is my command is better than it was last year,” Tepesch said. “You do that and you get ahead of hitters. I can throw all four of my pitches for strikes.”

The Rangers are counting on it.