Rangers’ Darvish has no structural damage in neck

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Texas Rangers say ace Yu Darvish has no structural damage in his stiff neck but will likely begin the season on the disabled list.

Darvish was examined Wednesday by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. The right-hander will start a throwing program this weekend and won’t need any injections.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels says he expects Darvish will be put on the 15-day DL. The Rangers open Monday at home against Philadelphia.

“I would think so, yes,” Daniels said. “That’s kind of where it’s headed. We’re looking at 10 days already. He will play catch Saturday and if he continues to improve, then we’ll put a plan together from there.”

“That’s going to be two weeks. He’s not going to ready to break. It’s a relief that’s it’s positive news from the exam,” he said.

Darvish led the majors in strikeouts last year. With him out, Tanner Scheppers will start the season opener. Scheppers will be making his first big league start after 115 relief appearances.

“Scheppers is making his first big league start on opening day,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He’s profiled as a No. 1 kind of guy. The innings he pitched last year were under a lot of pressure and I think he can handle the pressure that goes along with opening day.”

The Rangers said Nick Martinez will be their No. 5 starter to begin the season. He has pitched in just five games above Class A.

Martin Perez will start the second game and Robbie Ross the third and Joe Saunders the fourth, giving the Rangers four left-handers to start the season. None of the five was in the Texas rotation to start last year.

Martinez, a right-hander, was not even in the big league camp. He finished last season 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA with Double-A Frisco. He was 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA last year between Myrtle Beach and Frisco.

“Martinez gives us an opportunity,” Washington said. “He has the stuff to pitch at the major league level. I think it’s on us to make certain to keep him in the mental state that he needs to be in. I think he can go out there and hold that spot down until we get Colby (Lewis) and Harry (Matt Harrison) back.”

Harrison, an 18-game winner in 2012, is rehabbing from a neck injury. Derek Holland will start the season on the DL because of knee surgery and Lewis is recovering from forearm and hip issues.

“We, maybe not you, but we feel confident that we are going to be competitive and are going to win some ballgames,” he said.

The 23-year-old Martinez, 23, was an 18th-round pick in 2011 out of Fordham.

“We’ve had a number of injuries to our pitching staff,” Daniels said. “It’s obviously a little quicker than we anticipated with Nick. Given the injuries and looking at our options, we had the most confidence in Nick. There was an opportunity for someone to seize it.”

“As an organization, we feel Nick’s the right guy for that opportunity,” he said. “Nick’s got three solid pitches, four really, plus command and has tremendous makeup. He’s an athlete, a shortstop-second baseman in college. He’s been durable. He’s smart. He’s poised. He attacks the strike zone.”

The Rangers made a series of roster moves.

They signed right-hander Scott Baker, who was released by Seattle, to a Triple-A Round Rock contract. The 32-year-old Baker has a 63-48 record with a 4.14 ERA in 160 big league games.

Texas claimed two players off waivers, getting infielder Donnie Murphy from the Cubs and right-hander Seth Rosin from the Dodgers.

Rosin is a Rule 5 draft pick and must remain on the 25-man major league roster all season or be offered back to Philadelphia.

Murphy can play second base, shortstop and third. The Rangers were in the market for a second baseman with Jurickson Profar out 10 to 12 weeks with a torn muscle in his right shoulder.

The 31-year-old has played in 290 major league games in eight seasons with Kansas City, Oakland, Miami and the Chicago Cubs. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Iowa, hitting .265.

The Rangers also released right-hander Tommy Hanson rather than guaranteeing his $500,000 salary, which would have increased to $2 million when the season started. Hanson was 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA in four exhibition games.

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