Rangers on backstops heading into the season

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Geovany Soto has caught live batting practice and is now running the bases at approximately 50 percent speed. Once he can do that at full speed without any problems, Soto should be ready to return to the lineup.

The Rangers' projected Opening Day catcher has been sidelined since Feb. 22 after undergoing surgery to remove a bone from his left ankle. He is hoping to return to the lineup by Saturday at the earliest.

"I feel great," Soto said. "There have been no issues. It has come around a lot better than I thought. I'm really pleased with the way things have come around. I'm almost there. I'm anxious to get back out there."

The Rangers signed Soto in the offseason with the idea he would be their No. 1 catcher. The surgery hasn't changed that. If Soto can get back on the field by Saturday, he would still have two weeks to get ready for Opening Day. If he needs extra at-bats, he can get them in Minor League games. Right now, the Rangers want to make sure he can run the bases without a problem and squat behind the plate for a durable length of time.

Choo out with sore elbow, hopes to play Wednesday

LAD@TEX: Ross, Choo on spring progress with Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is the latest Rangers player to come down with one of those nagging Spring Training ailments.

Choo said he has been bothered by a sore left elbow and was out of the lineup Tuesday against the White Sox. He last played Saturday against the Dodgers and is hoping to be back in the lineup Wednesday, so the problem is not too serious.

"At the end of a season, when you stop throwing, your muscles shrink," Choo said. "When you start throwing again, your muscles get extended and I get a little inflammation. I don't want to play and make it worse. It's feeling better today."

Choo is 3-for-17 with four strikeouts and one walk in seven Cactus League games, but said the elbow hasn't been a problem when he has been hitting.

"In the first week, my timing was late," Choo said. "Now I'm starting to hit the ball on time. I'm hitting it hard, but right at people."

Alex Rios also remains sidelined with a strained intercostal muscle in his right rib cage. Rios has not played since March 4, but is taking batting practice.

"We're waiting for him to tell us when he is ready," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who missed time early in the Cactus League because of a sore shoulder, has been playing regularly, but is still not full strength yet as far as throwing.

"I'm getting the strength back," Andrus said. "It's not 100 percent. I'm probably 80-85 percent. It's coming along. It will get there pretty quick."

Harrison hurls scoreless inning in 'B' game

Matt Harrison discusses his recovery from back injury

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitching in a "B" game with a bizarre format, Matt Harrison threw a scoreless inning Tuesday morning while pitching under game conditions for the first time in 11 months.

Harrison needed just 11 pitches to get through the Royals' loaded lineup, allowing just one hit. He was the first of five Rangers pitchers to hold the Royals' six-man lineup scoreless through seven innings.

"It went quicker than I thought," Harrison said. "I like quick innings. My back feels good, so hopefully we'll keep progressing. Everything felt great. The big thing is how I recover the next day, but I don't expect anything bad. I feel good and I expect to keep progressing."

Harrison made just two starts last season before suffering a herniated disk in his lower back. He needed two operations to correct the problem, missed the rest of the season and had some issues early in spring that have put him behind all other pitchers. The Rangers haven't announced when he'll pitch again, but it probably won't be more than one or two innings.

It's also likely that Harrison won't have pitched at least five innings in a start before the Rangers break camp on March 26. Harrison, if he doesn't have anymore setbacks, is expected to need at least two to three more starts after that in the Minor Leagues.

"I would like to be back before mid-April, but we'll see," Harrison said.

The Royals' lineup consisted of Major League hitters Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson and Brayan Pena. All but Pena were used as "designated hitters." The Royals used Minor Leaguers to play the field when the Rangers were hitting.

Rangers pitchers still dominated the affair. Justin Germano threw three scoreless innings, while Shawn Tolleson and Miles Mikolas pitched one scoreless inning each. Tolleson, who has overcome a sore shoulder, and Mikolas, who had some soreness in his elbow, were pitching for the first time since the intrasquad games back in February. Minor Leaguer Martire Garcia also pitched a scoreless inning.

"They all threw the ball well," manager Ron Washington said.

Hanson makes statement with four strong innings

COL@TEX: Tommy Hanson on his outing vs. Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Tommy Hanson advanced his rotation candidacy by allowing just one run over four innings for the Rangers against the White Sox on Tuesday. He also showed why he could be an asset as a long reliever.

Hanson did not start the game. Instead, he entered in the fourth inning and allowed one run on two hits, a walk and two strikeouts. His biggest transgression was a walk to start the fourth that ended up scoring.

"He really maneuvered the baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "He changed speeds, he had a curveball working and his fastball was down. The more he gets the baseball, the better feel he'll have for what he is trying to do."

Hanson is one of eight candidates for two spots in the Rangers' rotation. They want two starters to emerge but they also will need a long man in the bullpen. If Colby Lewis and Joe Saunders win the two spots in the rotation, Hanson could fill the long-man role.

"With all these starters, somebody will emerge," Washington said. "It's very important, we've got to find somebody down there who can go long."

Hanson followed Saunders, who allowed four runs in three innings while dealing with a blister on the outside of his left foot. Saunders gave up two runs in the first, struck out the side in the second and allowed two more runs in the third. An error by third baseman Adrian Beltre extended the third inning and one of the runs was unearned.

"I kind of felt [the blister] after the first inning but pitched through it," Saunders said. "I had to get my pitches in. It was no big deal. It hurt, but you have to pitch through it."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Engel Beltre had to wear No. 85 during Tuesday's game against the White Sox because he forgot to bring his No. 43 jersey to Glendale.

• Infielder Brent Lillibridge, who got off to a strong start in the Cactus League before suffering a jammed thumb on his right hand, took over for Elvis Andrus at shortstop during Tuesday's game against the White Sox. He was 2-for-2 and is now 7-for-12 in Cactus League games.

• Country-Western singing legend Charley Pride will perform his annual concert in the Rangers' clubhouse Wednesday morning.

Alexi Ogando, Jose Contreras, Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Ryan Feierabend pitch against the Angels on Wednesday in Surprise. Martin Perez pitches Thursday against the Giants in the first night game of the spring. That game will be on MLB.TV.