SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Randy Wells gets his first shot at the fifth starter spot when he pitches against the Royals on Saturday (2:05 p.m. CT).
Wells is one of five prime candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation and the most experienced. He made 86 starts for the Cubs over the past four years before signing with the Rangers on a Minor League contract.
He was 20-24 with a 3.70 ERA in 59 starts for the Cubs in 2009-10, but dropped to 7-6 with a 4.99 ERA in 23 starts in 2011 after missing six weeks at the start of the season with a strained right forearm.
He was healthy in Spring Training and pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings. But the Cubs -- under Theo Epstein's new regime -- surprised Wells and others by optioning him to Triple A to begin the season. It all started unraveling after that. He shuttled between the Cubs and Triple A, going 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA in four starts and eight relief appearances at the big league level. His season came to an end on July 25 when he had surgery on his right elbow.
"It was a little bit of everything," Wells said. "In the spring, I felt good and was throwing well. To get sent out deflated me mentally. I kind of lost confidence and had to battle through some tenderness in the elbow. It kind of snowballed me. I didn't handle it well."
Wells refused outright assignment after the season and became a free agent. He and Kyle McClellan are the two non-roster veterans competing for the fifth starter spot against reliever Robbie Ross and rookies Justin Grimm and Martin Perez.
The Rangers like Wells because he throws strikes with four pitches, keeps the ball down, makes pitches and doesn't get rattled on the mound. But his best asset to make the Opening Day rotation could be Colby Lewis.
Lewis is coming off flexor tendon surgery and could be ready by June 1. If that appears to be the case, it could influence who the Rangers choose as their fifth starter.
"If he continues to feel this good, we're going to be in good position," general manager Jon Daniels said. "If it looks like he'll be back on the early side, we'll factor that in."
That means the Rangers could leave Ross and McClellan in the bullpen and Grimm and Perez in Triple A, leaving Wells as the temporary fifth starter until Lewis gets back. That would give time to make a more lasting impression.
"I just want to make a name for myself and prove I'm healthy," Wells said. "When I'm healthy, I'm a quality pitcher who can throw strikes and pitch innings. I want to prove my worth to the guys up top."
Ryan: Rangers will miss Hamilton
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Club president Nolan Ryan, speaking with the media on Friday, said the Rangers will miss Josh Hamilton.
"When you talk about Josh, it's a complex situation," Ryan said. "You just don't replace a talent like that and we all know that. But also, there's a dimension that's brought to the ballclub that very few players if any other player in baseball would bring. It's so unique and unusual that you can't put other players in that category."
Hamilton signed with the Angels in the off-season and has already stirred things up with some of the comments he has made this spring. Those comments didn't seem to bother Ryan.
"Josh is probably making an adjustment mentally and emotionally to new surroundings and being with another ball club, and with the way the season ended last year," Ryan said. "I think he has to sort through things and I think that's what he's doing right now.
"He's dealing with being with a new organization and a lot of people asking him about leaving us and the relationship. Josh had a big impact on our organization and we wouldn't have gone to two World Series without him."
McClellan dealing with back soreness
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Kyle McClellan is dealing with some soreness in his back and has not yet been scheduled to pitch in a game. He is throwing off a mound in the bullpen but there is no word yet when he'll pitch in a game.
McClellan had shoulder surgery on July 10 and is still in an official rehabilitation mode. He threw two live batting practice sessions to hitters last week before the back started acting up.
"It's getting better each time but when those small muscles in your back lock up, they won't let you push through it," McClellan said. "You have to take your time to get back. It has to do with the surgery but the good news is the repair site is not the problem. A week ago I felt great. But I haven't faced hitters since May and this is part of the process."
The danger is falling behind in the fifth-starter competition but there is no immediate danger of that. The Rangers played just the first of a record 38 exhibition games on Friday.
"This is a long spring and I'm not the type of guy who takes a whole lot of time to get ready," McClellan said.
But McClellan can also take his free agency on March 22 if he is not added to the 40-man roster. He is one of five players with "out" dates in their contracts. The others are pitcher Yoshinori Tateyama (March 24), Brandon Snyder (March 29), Jeff Baker (March 31) and Jacob Brigham (March 31).
Garcia to play for Dominican Republic in WBC
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Infielder Leury Garcia is going to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. At least he is going to be on the team. Whether or not he plays is another matter.
But Garcia has accepted an invitation to be on the Dominican Republic team even though he has never played above Double A in the Minor Leagues. The rest of the Dominican infield has significant Major League experience: Edwin Encarnacion, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada and Erick Aybar.
"I don't know myself how much I'll play, but it will be fun to be there," Garcia said. "I wanted to see what the Rangers think and they said they had no problems with me playing."
Garcia is a candidate to be the Rangers utility infielder. Jurickson Profar is also a candidate, and he decided to stay in camp because he believes it will help his chances of making the team.
Darvish to start Tuesday against White Sox
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish will make his first Cactus League start on Tuesday against the White Sox (2:05 p.m. CT). Darvish allowed a run in his only inning of work last Tuesday in the intrasquad game. He pitched in four Cactus League games last year and allowed six runs in 15 innings. He gave up 12 hits, walked eight and struck out 21.
Randy Wells will pitch on Saturday (2:05 p.m. CT) with Michael Kirkman and Evan Meek scheduled to pitch in relief. Matt Harrison starts on Sunday against the Royals (2:05 p.m. CT) and Martin Perez starts Monday against the Rockies (2:10 p.m. CT).
Closer Joe Nathan has not pitched in a game yet this spring but did pitch live batting practice on Friday morning. Perez and Justin Grimm also pitched live batting practice.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.