ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison, who has been on the disabled list most of the season and has undergone two back surgeries, threw batting practice on Wednesday for the first time. Harrison threw 25 pitches without any problems and will have another session on Saturday in Cleveland.
"I felt really good," Harrison said. "I definitely feel I'm ready to ramp things up. My arm felt great and my back felt good. I was able to hit my spots. I feel my stuff is there and my velocity will get [higher] the more times I get out there. I'm very pleased with the way the ball feels coming out of my hand and the movement and hitting my spots."
Harrison won 18 games for the Rangers last season, when he was named to the American League All-Star team. He was the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher this season but made just two starts before undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. The Rangers still don't expect Harrison back until the end of August.
Right-hander Colby Lewis, who is three days away from hitting the one-year anniversary of his surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday. Nick Tepesch, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow, is still limited to long toss.
Berkman conservative in projecting return
ARLINGTON -- Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman, on the disabled list with inflammation in his left hip, was asked on Wednesday if there was a baseball game in his future.
"Somewhere in the distant future," Berkman said. "We'll see."
Berkman is eligible to come off the disabled list but isn't close to being ready. He is taking batting practice on the field but hasn't done any legitimate running.
"It feels OK, but it's probably still not quite ready," Berkman said of his hip.
The hip is not the only issue. Berkman is still dealing with chronic soreness in his right knee, which has been operated on four times in his career, including twice last season. The knee, which gives Berkman more trouble when he bats left-handed than from the right side, is a big reason Berkman was hitting .254 with a .377 slugging percentage this season before being placed on the disabled list.
"It feels a little better," Berkman said of his knee. "I don't think it will ever be totally right. But having not played on it lately, it's not quite as sore."
Right now, Berkman is doing everything he can to get back into the lineup, but the Rangers are actively looking for offensive help. Part of that is to be prepared in case Berkman is unable to return this season.
"He's progressing, but it's slow," manager Ron Washington said. "We just have to let it go through the process. He'll let us know when he's ready."
With Berkman out, the Rangers have been rotating players through the designated hitter spot. Texas has had nine players start at least one game at DH, posting a combined batting average of .254, seventh best in the American League. Rangers DHs entered Wednesday 10th in the AL with a .389 slugging percentage -- the lowest mark by the club's designated hitters since 1990.
Rangers, White Sox discussing Rios swap
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers continue their search for a right-handed-hitting outfielder and have talked with the White Sox about Alex Rios. The White Sox went into Wednesday's game with a record of 39-58, the second worst in the American League.
Rios entered Wednesday hitting .278 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs in 95 games this season. He has a .333 on-base percentage and a .442 slugging percentage but is hitting .308 and slugging .487 against left-handers.
Rios is signed through next season at $12.5 million, and his contract includes a club option of $13.5 million and a $1 million buyout for 2015. That means, unlike recently acquired right-hander Matt Garza, Rios would be more than just a rental player for the Rangers. He would be back in 2014, when the club is looking at the possibility of both Nelson Cruz and David Murphy having departed as free agents.
"It's a good thing when people want you to be part of a good thing," Rios told White Sox reporters. "But at the same time, you have mixed feelings. You have spent so much time in an organization, you know pretty much everybody and you have to start over in another place. It's tough. But it is what it is."
The Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat for much of the season, and the search may have gained more momentum with the possibility of Cruz being suspended by Major League Baseball. Cruz is one of several players being investigated by the Commissioner's Office after being linked to Biogenesis, a Miami-area clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to certain players. Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was suspended on Monday for the rest of the season.
"We'd certainly like to have another bat," manager Ron Washington said. "We are left-handed heavy, so we would certainly like to add a right-handed bat. Who that will be, they're hunkered up there [in the front office], trying to figure out who they want."
The Rangers have also looked into the possibility of acquiring Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. He is signed only through this season, but the Giants remain on the periphery of the playoff race and have not decided if they'll be sellers by next Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Pence is hitting .268 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 100 games and .327 with a .592 slugging percentage against left-handers.
An alternative could be the Mariners' Kendrys Morales, a switch-hitter batting .282 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs. He is primarily a designated hitter who can play first base, but the Rangers may need exactly that if Lance Berkman is sidelined for an extended period of time because of his physical problems.
• David Perez -- a former top pitching prospect of the Rangers who now ranks 20th on the club's list, according to MLB.com -- is starting to appear on the radar screen again. Perez, 20, has been sidelined after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year but is throwing bullpen sessions in Arizona and could advance to batting practice sessions at the beginning of August.
• Geovany Soto started at catcher on Wednesday with Garza on the mound. Soto was Garza's catcher with the Cubs for 37 starts, during which the right-hander posted a 3.74 ERA.
Said Soto: "Matt Garza is an upgrade to any rotation in the big leagues right now. I think it's a huge plus that we got him, and I think he'll be a great fit. I feel that he can mix his pitches a lot. He's got a changeup, curveball and slider. He pitches in with a [sinker], and he likes to mix and match his pitches. It's going to be fun to see."
• The Rangers have placed righty Neil Ramirez, the club's No. 13 prospect, on the disabled list with inflammation in his right bicep muscle.
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.