TEX@TB: Martinez goes six strong in MLB debut

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers have optioned pitcher Nick Martinez to Double-A Frisco and remain unsure if Joe Saunders will be able to make his next start.

Saunders is still getting treatment for a bruised left ankle after getting hit by Evan Longoria's line drive in Friday's start against the Rays. Saunders has been able to play catch, but he has not thrown off a mound yet.

Saunders' next turn falls on Friday. But the Rangers have a day off on Thursday and could push back Saunders as far as April 15 if needed. The Rangers could also have Colby Lewis ready to rejoin the rotation as early as Friday. He pitches on Sunday for Triple-A Round Rock.

"We just have to keep playing it by ear right now," manager Ron Washington said. "We still have some decisions to make."

Martinez was sent down after holding the Rays to three runs in six innings on Saturday night. He left with a 4-3 lead in his Major League debut but the Rays rallied against reliever Neal Cotts for a 5-4 victory.

"I had a great time and it was a great learning experience," Martinez said. "I couldn't have asked for much more. I had an amazing time."

Martinez knew he would only make one start. He was here because Yu Darvish had to start the season on the disabled list with stiffness in his neck. Darvish was activated on Sunday and the Rangers beat the Rays, 3-0.

Martinez admitted there was always hope he might be able to stay around for more than one start.

"I didn't want to put any extra pressure on myself, but in a perfect world, you're thinking you might be able to stay," Martinez said. "But you don't want to put any extra pressure on yourself so you just pitch your game."

Washington said Martinez will start again for the Rangers at some point.

"He did a great job," Washington said. "He showed poise out there and proved he's got pitchability. I don't think the kid has faced hitters like he did last night. I don't think he got rattled. He left the game in the sixth inning with an opportunity to win the ballgame.

"We know who Nick Martinez is. He's going to pitch for the Rangers for a long time, we just don't know when we can get him back here."

Young pitchers get Fenway experience

TEX@PHI: Scheppers delivers the first pitch of season

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers open a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Red Sox on Monday at Fenway Park. The Rangers are scheduled to start right-hander Tanner Scheppers and left-handers Martin Perez and Robbie Ross.

It will be the first time any of those three start a game at Fenway Park. Ross and Scheppers have both made three relief appearances there while Perez has never pitched in the oldest ballpark in baseball.

"When I was young, I looked at those stadiums on television," Perez said. "To be able to pitch in that stadium will be great for me."

"Obviously there is a lot of history and it's an awesome field," Ross said. "It's just fun to pitch off a mound that so many great pitchers have been on and so many great athletes have played there. It's just exciting."

Scheppers goes first. It will be his second Major League start and first since Opening Day, when he allowed seven runs in five innings against the Phillies.

"They have a great team so the thing for me is I'm itching to get back out there," Scheppers said. "It's special playing there with all the history and the environment. It makes for a lot of fun."

It's not always fun for an opposing pitcher. Charlie Hough is in the Rangers Hall of Fame but was 4-3 with a 5.21 ERA in 11 starts and two relief appearances at Fenway while pitching for Texas. Manager Ron Washington said his young pitchers should welcome pitching on a big stage like that.

"I just hope they execute their pitches as they did as relievers, just do it longer," Washington said. "I get butterflies when I go into Boston. I just hope those butterflies don't turn into moths."

Ross rejoices over Kentucky's Final Four run

PHI@TEX: Ross Jr. fans seven in first career start

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross is battling a cold and sore throat. But that hasn't kept him from rejoicing over the Kentucky Wildcats great run in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Ross is from Lexington, Ky. And a huge Wildcat fan. He had a baseball scholarship to Kentucky before being selected by the Rangers in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Ross didn't sign until Aug. 15, but said there was little doubt he was going to sign with the Rangers.

"It was not that close," Ross said. "I hadn't even started signing up for classes. They told me they wanted to sign some of the lower round guys and then they would get around to me and Justin Smoak."

Now Ross has a chance to win the Rangers annual college basketball pool. He turned in five different brackets and one had Kentucky going all the way. It's down to him and team photographer Kelly Gavin. If Kentucky wins on Monday, Ross takes the pool. Gavin wins if it's Connecticut.

"Tell Kelly Gavin she has no chance winning this bracket," Ross said.

Worth noting

• Colby Lewis went five innings for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday, allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He threw 92 pitches.

Prince Fielder played in his 511th consecutive game on Sunday. That's tied for the 29th longest streak in Major League history.

Josh Wilson had his 10th three-hit game on Saturday night against the Rays. He had two slow rollers that went for infield hits and a popup that fell into shallow right field between second baseman Ben Zobrist and right-fielder Matt Joyce. Said Wilson, "I can't remember being that lucky but I'll take it."

• Pitcher Alex Gonzalez, the Rangers' first pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, made his first start on Saturday for Class A Myrtle Beach and allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 5-2 loss to Salem.