Early in spring training, it seemed like a near-lock that prospect Martin Perez had done enough to lock up the fifth spot in the Texas Rangers' starting rotation, then he broke his arm and was put on the shelf for two months.
That opened up all kinds of possibilities for the No. 5 starter, including in-house candidates as well as looking at possible trades for someone like Rick Porcello or a free agent signing like Kyle Lohse.
Robbie Ross was an early favorite to take Perez's place but has struggled recently, and on Thursday it was announced the Rangers would be returning Ross to the bullpen, where he was so valuable last season as a surprising rookie, going 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 65 innings of work.
The Rangers also decided to option Justin Grimm to Triple-A Round Rock and assign Randy Wells there, as well. With Washington saying recently signed veteran starter/reliever Derek Lowe is not a candidate for the rotation, that leaves Nick Tepesch as the clear-cut guy for the No. 5 starter spot.
Tepesch, a 24-year-old righty, has started two games this spring and has a spring ERA of 3.46. Last season, he pitched in High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco with a combined ERA of 3.67.
The Rangers won't need a fifth starter the first time through the rotation, and Colby Lewis is apparently on pace to return by early May, well ahead of schedule after rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. That means, if all goes well, the Rangers will only need about three starts from Tepesch, but after that he could either become a part of the bullpen or go back to Frisco to get more work as a starter, whatever the Rangers see fit.