Scheppers has personality to handle jitters

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tanner Scheppers faced a wall of television cameras Thursday and managed to say he was excited about starting on Opening Day without once ever looking excited.

Perhaps Texas Rangers fans should take that as a good sign for his nerves when he takes the mound Monday.

Scheppers will make some history when he toes the rubber at Globe Life Park next week. He'll become the first pitcher to make his first big-league start on Opening Day since Fernando Valenzuela. Hey, Tanner: What do you know about Fernando?

"Not a whole lot," Scheppers said. "Not a whole lot."

Have you ever seen him pitch?

"I haven’t, but I guess I should look into that," said Scheppers, who might plug Valenzuela's name into Youtube on his phone at some point.

Heck, Scheppers didn't even know he was the first pitcher in more than 30 years to make his starting debut on Opening Day. And he didn't look like he cared, either.

He answered every question asked of him, but stayed even-keeled. There was only a hint of a smile at times. He stayed cool and didn't seem, at least outwardly, to be consumed by the idea of being the first Rangers pitcher to fire a pitch that counts in the 2014 season.

"It's an honor," Scheppers said. "I just want to win."

Scheppers arrived at spring training stretched out to start, but the entire exercise seemed like an insurance policy. Turns out Rangers camp was a great place to be an insurance policy. And Scheppers quickly pitched like he belonged. Yes, the injuries helped secure his place, but Scheppers was named to the rotation before the final two spots were sorted out. He essentially took Alexi Ogando's spot when Ogando struggled this spring.

Scheppers knows the biggest question for him as the season begins isn't necessarily whether he has the stuff to start, but the stamina. He hasn't started since 2011 in the minors. What does he remember about that start?

"I think that's when I was dealing with my back deal and I couldn't feel my legs," Scheppers said. "I think it will be nice to feel my whole body this time."

Scheppers said that the way the off days are lined up should allow him to get six days of rest at times. And he's vowed to be honest with the coaching staff about how he's feeling.

"I'm ready to go," Scheppers said.

Sure seems like it.