Top Prospects: Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington was effusive in his praise for infielder Jurickson Profar during his Sunday morning media session. But that doesn't mean Profar will be on the Opening Day roster.

The Rangers are leaning heavily on keeping Leury Garcia as their utility infielder so that Profar can play every day at Triple-A Round Rock. The Rangers are going to do that even though Profar has exceeded expectations this spring.

"If I was surprised by anything, it's how powerful he can swing the bat," Washington said. "I really didn't know that. I thought that a young kid and as light as he is, I thought they would knock the bat out of his hand. That hasn't happened. He has bat speed. I didn't know that because I didn't get to see it that much last season.

"He has improved tremendously and he's still going to improve because he hasn't played a ton of games yet. Mentally and physically he's improved, now we just need to get him to slow the game down at the Major League level. He doesn't play out of control; he just needs to learn how to slow it down."

The Rangers knew Profar had physical talent, but even more impressive have been his instincts for the game and his mental makeup.

"I think his instincts are pretty good for a kid that's only 20," Washington said. "He has an awareness for the game more than some players with more talent. He has a feel for the game and the kid is not afraid of baseball. Whatever baseball entails, he's not afraid of it. When dealing with young kids, that's what you try to instill -- belief in yourself."

Profar spent 2012 at Double-A Frisco before getting a September call with the Rangers. With Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Ian Kinsler at second base, the Rangers don't want Profar sitting around in the Majors doing nothing. They haven't made a final decision, but they seem intent on keep Garcia as the utility infielder and letting Profar play at Round Rock.

"We'll make that decision with Profar's best interests at heart and the Texas Rangers' best interests at heart," Washington said.

Rangers claim southpaw hurler Mills

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have claimed left-handed pitcher Brad Mills off outright waivers from the Angels as possible Triple-A depth for their starting rotation. To make room for Mills on the 40-man roster, the Rangers placed pitcher Neftali Feliz on the 60-day disabled list.

Mills is out of options, which means the Rangers would also have to get him through outright waivers before they can send him to Triple-A. That's what the Angels were trying to do.

Mills has spent most of the past four years in Triple-A, where he made 77 starts and two relief appearances while compiling a record of 26-33 with a 4.68 ERA. He averaged 9.6 hits, 3.1 walks and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He has also made 10 starts and five relief appearances at the Major League level with the Blue Jays and Angels with a record of 3-3 and a 7.76 ERA.

The Angels acquired him for catcher Jeff Mathis in the offseason.

Scheppers making case for spot in bullpen

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers, fully recovered from offseason surgery on his big right toe, is making his move toward clinching a spot in the bullpen. He has thrown five scoreless innings in his last four outings.

"The last four times he has thrown the ball well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's coming on and he's doing it at the right time ... down the stretch. Hopefully with the success he's had, his confidence will grow."

Scheppers, who had a 4.45 ERA in 39 games for the Rangers as a rookie last year, underwent surgery on Halloween for a case of "turf toe," which bothered him at the end of the season. He also had a strained left hamstring midway through Spring Training and that sidelined him for a week. Those issues are behind him.

"Things are starting to feel good," Scheppers said. "My body feels good and my arm feels good. I don't know where my velocity is at, I just know the ball feels good coming out. That's all that matters."

Scheppers is the hardest throwing pitcher in camp and the Rangers want a power right-handed reliever to go with Jason Frasor late in the game. Scheppers and Josh Lindblom are the two prime candidates.

Holland on track to start home opener

Derek Holland on his experience in the Classic

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland is on track to pitch the Rangers' home opener against the Angels on April 5. He just hasn't been officially told yet. But Holland is following Alexi Ogando in the rotation this spring and would be far too difficult to switch them now.

The Rangers' home opener is scheduled for April 5 against the Angels. Holland will likely pitch against left-hander Jason Vargas for the Angels, and it will be former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton's first game back after leaving as a free agent.

"I've never pitched an opener before," Holland said. "It's just as good as Opening Day. Obviously it's a big game because it's the Angels and since everybody is making a big deal about Josh's return."

Holland's next two starts are against the Padres, on Monday in Peoria and Saturday in San Antonio.

Worth noting

• The Rangers have re-assigned pitcher Johan Yan to Minor League camp. That leaves them with 39 players in big league camp.

• The Rangers have approached the Rockies about a possible trade for Coty Woods, the right-handed reliever and Rule 5 Draft pick. Woods has to make the team or be offered back to the Rockies, who have made it clear they want him back. The two teams can make a trade but Woods would first have to clear waivers.

• Pitcher Martin Perez, who is sidelined with a broken left arm, has had his cast removed and is no longer using a brace. He is hoping to resume a throwing program in another week or so. Perez was hit by a line drive on March 3.

• The Rangers are not going to let Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria begin throwing live batting practice until the week of April 8. They are throwing without problem in the bullpen, but the Rangers are still being cautious with both.

• The Rangers released nine players from Minor League camp. Among them was pitcher Scott Olsen, who made 127 career starts with the Marlins and Nationals in 2005-10 before his career was wrecked by a shoulder injury.