ANAHEIM -- Closer Joe Nathan was not needed during the Rangers' three-game sweep of the Mariners over the weekend and went into Monday's game having not pitched in the previous five days.
The Rangers probably need to get him in a game soon. In his career, Nathan has a 2.13 ERA with a .175 opponents' average when working as a reliever on three to five days' rest. But when he sits for six or more games, his ERA jumps to 3.51 with a .246 opponents' average.
"I think it's no surprise and no secret that most guys out of the bullpen like consistent work," Nathan said. "Anytime you don't get in there for a while, you just try not to lose the feel you have. But this is not the first time I've been through a drought like this."
The extra rest might help him regain some velocity. His fastball has been averaging 91.1 mph this season. That's down from 94 over the course of last season, but he still has a 1.42 ERA, opponents are hitting .208 against him and he is 5-for-5 in save opportunities.
"Honestly my velocity has been down but I have been effective with other stuff," Nathan said. "As long as I'm getting guys out, that's the name of the game. You don't have to throw 100 miles per hour to get guys out. If your velocity is down you get more movement and I've been using my sinker more and my breaking ball has really come into play."
Soria strains chest muscle, delaying rehab progress
ANAHEIM -- Reliever Joakim Soria's return to the Major Leagues is going to be delayed at least another month.
Soria, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent in the offseason and is coming back from Tommy John surgery, strained a pectoral muscle on the right side of his chest and will be shut down from throwing for two to three weeks. The injury occurred last week while he was throwing live batting practice in Surprise, Ariz.
"We were hoping he would be back in late May, somewhere between May 15 and June 1," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Now we're looking more like July 1, maybe late June or early July. The silver lining, if there is one, is that it's completely unrelated to his arm and his elbow. It was one of those freak deals. It was his fourth or fifth live batting practice and it happened."
Soria spent five years as the Royals closer, saving 160 games in 2007-11 and being named to two All-Star teams. But he underwent elbow reconstruction surgery on April 3, 2012, and missed the entire season. Since it was his second Tommy John surgery, the Rangers were giving him extra time to come back. The Rangers had signed him in the hopes that he could eventually return as an eighth-inning setup man in front of closer Joe Nathan, and that is still the plan despite the setback.
"It's just another issue that we have to deal with," manager Ron Washington said. "Hopefully we can get this out of the way and when he finally gets here, he'll be ready to go."
The Rangers need all the healthy pitchers they can get, but their relievers went into Monday's game with the Angels with a collective 1.96 ERA, the lowest for a bullpen in the American League. Tanner Scheppers has been the Rangers' primary right-handed setup reliever and has not allowed a run in eight appearances.
Lewis, Perez closer to pitching in game action
ANAHEIM -- Injured pitchers Colby Lewis and Martin Perez are getting close to pitching in games, which would be their next step toward becoming viable options at the Major League level.
Lewis, who underwent surgery on July 27 to repair a torn flexor tendon, is expected to throw two more live batting practice sessions this week in Surprise, Ariz. If that goes well, he could pitch one inning in an extended spring game next week.
Lewis would likely pitch two games at extended spring workouts before being officially sent on a 30-day medical rehabilitation assignment in the Minors. Between extended spring and a rehab assignment, Lewis would likely need five or six outings to build up enough arm strength and endurance to become an option for the Major League rotation. So the Rangers are likely looking at around June 1, if not sooner.
"I think everybody wants Colby back," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're going to make sure we do it right and make sure he's 100 percent. We're not taking any risks, but we're not delaying it either."
Perez, who suffered a broken left arm in a Cactus League game on March 4, will probably throw live batting practice Tuesday and then be ready for an extended spring game. Because Perez is not dealing with an elbow or shoulder issue, he could be ready before Lewis.
Perez also has options. So unless there is a need at the Major League level, he will likely continue pitching at Triple-A Round Rock even after he is at full strength.
Washington giving Baker playing time vs. left-handers
ANAHEIM -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said utility player Jeff Baker will likely be in the lineup on Tuesday with left-hander Jason Vargas on the mound for the Angels. Baker, a right-handed hitter, is 5-for-14 (.357) this season and has good career numbers against left-handers.
Baker could play either left field or first base because David Murphy and Mitch Moreland, both left-handed hitters, are struggling against southpaws. Murphy is 4-for-18 and Moreland is 1-for-18 against lefties this season. Baker is 4-for-10 and has the only home run off a lefty by a Rangers hitter this season.
"It's more of a reflection of Jeff Baker," Washington said. "I've got a right-handed bat who can hit left-handers. I've got to find a way to get him in there. He deserves to get at-bats."
Murphy is 1-for-19 against Vargas in his career while Moreland is 1-for-11. Washington may fall back to where he uses Baker for Murphy on some nights when there is a left-hander on the mound and for Moreland on other nights.
"That's the way I've done it so far," Washington said.
• Nick Tepesch, who was hit on the right arm with a line drive on Saturday, threw a bullpen session on Monday without any problems. Tepesch, who pitched just 1 2/3 innings on Saturday, is scheduled to pitch on Thursday against the Twins. "It feels pretty normal today," he said.
• Nelson Cruz has hit five grand slams at the Ballpark in Arlington. That's tied for fifth most by an active player at one ballpark. David Ortiz has 10 at Fenway Park, Travis Hafner has nine at Progressive Field, Paul Konerko has eight at U.S. Cellular Field and Robinson Cano has seven at Yankee Stadium.
• Leonys Martin had a home run and triple while batting in the ninth spot during Sunday's 11-3 victory over the Mariners. The only other Rangers player to do that hitting ninth was Juan Beniquez on May 22, 1977.
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.