Scheppers On A Fast Track For Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The 2009 pitching draft pick on everybody's mind this season is Washington's Stephen Strasburg. Sure, that's following the trend. But for trendsetters, it would be wise to keep an eye on Rangers righthander Tanner Scheppers.

It's entirely possible Scheppers could beat Strasburg to the majors. The Rangers are hoping he's a second-half option for the pitching staff. The second half of 2010.

"In general, the goal is to introduce him to a pro routine, build up his arm strength, protect his arm and ultimately use him in such a way that he's available in the second half if we feel like he can help us," general manager Jon Daniels said. "But, obviously, he's got to earn it."

So far, Scheppers, who turned 23 in January, has done nothing to make the Rangers think the plan is far-fetched. Scheppers was considered a top 10 pick in 2008, but a shoulder ailment that was misdiagnosed forced him to miss some time that season at Fresno State. He fell to the 48th pick in the draft and passed on Pittsburgh's offer. He pitched in the independent American Association in 2009 before the Rangers took him with the 44th pick overall. They signed him for $1.25 million in September.

Scheppers was impressive during instructional league last fall, which helped earn him the non-roster invitation to spring training. In the spring, he wowed team officials during workouts, then unveiled a fastball that ranged from 96-98 mph in the first exhibition of the spring. He threw five fastballs in that inning, all of them for strikes. In his second appearance, in a "B" game, he showed off his tight curveball for the first time. And for his third outing, several veteran players, already cleared to leave the dugout, decided to stick around and watch him pitch. The Rangers consider Scheppers a prospect as a starter, but that could change depending on the team's needs.


• Outfielder Steven Murphy, who has played more games (332) at Double-A Frisco than any other player, did not report to camp and was expected to retire. Murphy, a 2005 14th-round pick, was the Northwest League's MVP in his first season, but never hit better than .277 after getting to Frisco. He hit .209/.277/.376 at Frisco and Oklahoma City last year.

• Second baseman Marcus Lemon played some center field during the Arizona Fall League and is expected to get a longer look there when he returns to minor league camp. He spent the first month of camp with the big league club after shortstop Khalil Greene failed to report due to social anxiety disorder.