Derek Lowe took advantage of an opportunity that arose when Yu Darvish was scratched from his start with neck stiffness to enhance his chances to make the Texas Rangers.
Lowe pitched three scoreless innings and Ian Kinsler had a two-run homer among his three hits and the Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-2 Monday night.
The Rangers scratched Darvish, the Japanese star who won 16 games as a rookie, with what the club termed a “very minor” neck strain.
“I think today was obviously Darvish not being able to start,” Lowe said. “I was scheduled to pitch two innings. You never like to see anybody get injured, but it actually worked out in my favor to get an extra inning out of it.”
Lowe, who signed a minor league contract with the Rangers on March 6, gave up three singles, walked one and struck out three against a Royals’ club that entered the game with a spring training-best .335 batting average. He threw 28 strikes in 47 pitches in his second outing.
“It was a lot better, a lot better breaking ball, command of the sinker was a lot better,” Lowe said. “We added a cutter today. You’re starting to get your legs underneath you a little bit where you feel like you can compete no matter how long you’re out there. All in all, it was a good day.”
Lowe, who turns 40 on June 1, has been a closer and a starter. Last season he went 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 21 starts with Cleveland and 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA and one save in 17 relief appearances with the New York Yankees. The Rangers still have an opening for a fifth starter.
“I think you’re asking a little much,” Lowe said. “I said all along when I talked to (Rangers general manager) Jon Daniels I just wanted an opportunity to compete for the job or any job. There was never any talk of anything. And I was fine with competition, try to go out and earn your way on the team.
“Let’s be honest, look around. There’s 34 pitchers still in camp or whatever it is. I’m out here to fight and claw to grab onto any role that’s possible,” he said. “That’s all I really care about. It doesn’t matter if it’s a half inning, one inning, five innings.”
Darvish said in a statement that the move is “just precautionary” and that he would have made the start in the regular season.
The Japanese ace said he felt what he called a very mild strain in his neck during a workout Sunday that caused the stiffness.
“It’s not a setback at all,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “In the season, he would have pitched, and you wouldn’t have known anything about it. But it doesn’t make any sense if he’s feeling something down here.”
In his first three appearances this spring for the Rangers, Darvish has allowed only one run with 10 strikeouts in 8 2-3 innings.
Kinsler homered off Ervin Santana.
Santana, who the Royals acquired in an off-season trade with the Los Angeles Angels, allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings. Santana had a 14.46 ERA in three starts last season against the Rangers.
“Everything was a little bit up,” Santana said. “That was the problem today. I was leaving the pitches up a little bit and behind in the count, too. It happens. I’m human. Nobody’s perfect. Better down here (Arizona) than up there.”
Brandon Wood, who was reassigned to minor league camp after the game, hit a two-run two-out ninth double for the only Kansas City runs.