ARLINGTON -- Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Friday the No. 5 spot in the Rangers' rotation is up for grabs three weeks away from pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report in Surprise, Ariz.
Several young starting candidates within the organization will get a shot -- if the Rangers don't acquire a free agent before Spring Training begins Feb. 15. Several of them, including right-hander Justin Grimm and left-handers Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, took part in Friday's pitchers minicamp.
"Maybe someone steps up like [Alexi] Ogando did a couple of years ago and claims the spot and prospers with it," Maddux said. "We have some youth in that role, we have some six-year free agents that might qualify for that role, there's still some free agents out there. There's really no telling who the forerunner is on it, but we do have some in-house candidates out there."
Perez, Grimm and Ross all said they are ready for their chance behind Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Some highlights of what they're thinking heading into Surprise:
Perez said he's been working on his mechanics and refining a slider he started developing last year. The 21-year-old went 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA in spot duty last season, and said it helped him get his feet wet, especially making key starts in a pennant race in September.
"I like to compete," Perez said. "This gives me an opportunity to do my best."
Grimm, 24, has been fine-tuning a two-seam fastball and slider since making two starts last year -- one a great one against Houston and another a tough one against a veteran Detroit lineup.
"I've been preparing myself for this all offseason," Grimm said. "I want to get more consistent. We have a lot of young talent."
Ross, 23, is a wild card, having pitched so well out of the bullpen last season. He was 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 58 appearances. Ross said he's ready to battle for a rotation spot, but he's going to prepare how he did last year when he figured he'd be a starter in Double-A or Triple-A.
"I haven't done anything different," Ross said. "I'm keeping the same routine, making sure I'm conditioned and my arm is ready."
Feliz throws baseball for first time since surgery
ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz threw soft toss Friday at the Rangers' pitching minicamp at the Ballpark in Arlington, the first time he's thrown a baseball since undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
Feliz said he felt good afterward, and looks forward to the long climb back onto a Major League mound. The Rangers hope Feliz will pitch some time this season, the best-case scenario being around the All-Star break.
"He's probably on schedule to where he needs to be," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said to reporters after Friday's minicamp session. "Hopefully the rehab goes well and we'll see him this year."
Feliz said he doesn't know how long the rehab process will take. He's focused on getting healthy. When asked if he would prefer returning as a starter or a reliever -- Feliz was in the rotation when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm -- he said didn't know.
"I'm not giving that much thought right now," Feliz said through an interpreter. "I'm trying to get ready and be in the best shape and be ready to play."
Feliz did have his contract situation worked out Thursday. He and the Rangers avoided salary arbitration, with Feliz agreeing to a one-year, $2.9 million contract.
He tweeted Friday in Spanish that the deal was done and he was happy.
"The timing's good because I want to get my family in a better position," Feliz said.
Feliz was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year as the Rangers' closer with 40 saves. He had 32 saves in 2011, but was moved to the rotation in '12. He was 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in eight games (seven starts), with 37 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Ogando puts starter preparation ahead of Classic
ARLINGTON -- Alexi Ogando said Friday that he originally planned on representing the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. And he did appear on his country's provisional roster Thursday.
But Ogando went to the Rangers, and they told him he would be in the starting rotation again, so he decided against it.
Ogando wants to have plenty of time to get ready this time. He was thrust into a starting role in 2011 late in Spring Training when Tommy Hunter started the season on the disabled list.
"It's a privilege to represent my country, and I was willing to do it," Ogando said through an interpreter. "I have two years without being a starter full-time, and I don't want to take a risk on anything. I want to be a starter."
Ogando made the All-Star team two seasons ago, starting the year with a 7-0 record and a 2.20 ERA. He finished at 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said Ogando can be even better in his second stint in the rotation.
"As long as Alexi stays healthy, healthy, wealthy and wise, we'll be OK," Maddux said. "He's a special talent. He has that look. We're going to refine him a little more."
Holland, Rangers embrace lefty's Classic chance
ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Derek Holland will pitch in the World Baseball Classic, while teammates Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish both declined invitations and will sit the event out.
Holland, who discussed his decision with Rangers management and pitching coach Mike Maddux, said Friday that pitching for Team USA will fulfill a dream of his. Holland was in Texas' clubhouse Friday, but wasn't participating in the pitching minicamps.
All involved said Holland is separated from Harrison and Darvish because he pitched 175 1/3 innings last year. Darvish pitched 191 1/3 and Harrison a team-high 213 1/3 innings.
"For me, I didn't get as many innings," Holland said. "But at the same time, I asked for everybody else's opinion, if it's OK. It is something I want to do, but I didn't want to go against the team on that. I wanted to make sure this was a decision that was going to benefit me, but also be good for the Rangers."
Maddux also feels good about it knowing that Team USA's pitching coach is his brother Greg, who is a special assistant to the general manager for the Rangers. Greg Maddux will be with Holland all the way.
"[Derek] becomes even more of a candidate because we can control the environment with the familiarity with my brother," Maddux said "[Greg] is here now, he's going to be in camp/Spring Training, then he's going to take Derek with him when they go to the WBC. So we'll be able to keep an in-house look at him."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.