Changeup could help Nick Tepesch step up

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Sometimes one pitch can make a big difference. Nick Tepesch is hoping the changeup is that pitch for him.

The 25-year-old right-hander was busy Tuesday continuing his work on the pitch, one that he knows he needs to make a solid one if he's to challenge for a spot in the Texas Rangers' starting rotation.

"I threw some pretty good ones," Tepesch said about his Tuesday session. "It's something I've been focusing on this winter in my throwing program and I feel like I've made some strides with it. I think it’s an important pitch for just about everybody. It’s something I feel like could help me turn a corner by developing that."

Tepesch, like the rest of the Rangers' arms that weren't mainstays in the rotation in 2013, has a new opportunity to show what they can do. Derek Holland's injury and likely absence for at least half the season, means competition at spring training for a rotation spot.

"My goal is to come to spring training and win a job," Tepesch said.

Tepesch was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 19 appearances (17 of them starts) last season. He realized after that rookie campaign that he needed another pitch to go with his slider and occasional curve ball.

Tepesch must separate himself from a group of pitchers that will include internal and external candidates. As of now, Michael Kirkman, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross are getting stretched out to start as spring training begins. Colby Lewis is throwing and hopes to show he's ready to go, though it's unclear how long he'll need to be fully ready. And there's a group of other pitchers the club is considering signing that could only add to the list of arms.

Tepesch believes that a full spring training and the ups and downs of a rookie season will help him when the team convenes next month in Arizona.

"Being around teammates like (Matt) Harrison and (Derek) Holland and even Colby Lewis and watching those guys and how they approached their business and trying to learn as much from them as well as the coaching staff was good for me," Tepesch said.

Perhaps with a changeup that can give hitters another speed to look at and set up his other pitches will help Tepesch gain an advantage as the competition heats up this spring.

"He gained some experience and we hope he can take that expeirence in to 2014 and make it work in our favor," manager Ron Washington said. "Without him and (Justin) Grimm during that period when we lost our starting pitching, without those two guys, we wouldn't have had an opportunity. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do. He just has to come in and show that what he gained, he can put to work now."