SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Geovany Soto returned to the Rangers lineup Thursday, his first start since having surgery Feb. 22 to have a bone removed from his left ankle.
The plan for Soto was to catch four innings Thursday, take Friday off and catch five innings Saturday. The Rangers will probably repeat that plan next week and then decide if Soto is ready to play in back-to-back games. He was originally planning to make his debut Saturday but felt good enough to play Thursday.
"I have been testing it all week and I feel good," Soto said. "Why wait a couple of days? First and foremost I need to get as many at-bats as possible. The next week or so, I'll go to the Minor Leagues and get us some extra at-bats and get game ready. We've still got time but it's go time."
The Rangers still expect him to be ready for Opening Day and get the bulk of the catching time in the early part of the season. J.P. Arencibia was signed during the offseason to be Soto's backup but Robinson Chirinos has taken advantage of Soto's absence to get club officials to notice him. He was 7-for-15 going into Thursday's game against the Giants.
"Chirinos has been very impressive," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Arencibia, who was the Blue Jays' starting catcher the past three seasons, hasn't enjoyed the same success at the plate. He was 3-for-22 with six strikeouts in his first eight Cactus League games.
"It hasn't been as good as Arencibia would like it," Washington said. "We'll keep working and keep giving him at-bats and try to get it worked out."
Arencibia is still likely to be the backup catcher going into the season with Chirinos pairing with Brett Nicholas at Triple-A Round Rock. But the Rangers are still keeping an open mind about a number of areas and catching is just one.
"Everybody has got to show something," Washington said.
Beltre departs game early with tight quad
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre tried playing in his fourth straight Cactus League game Thursday night. He didn't play as long as he wanted.
Beltre left in the top of the fifth inning after two at-bats with tightness in his left quad muscle during the first night game for the Rangers this spring. Beltre has been known to have minor leg injuries in Spring Training that he usually plays through during the season. This is the first time this spring that Beltre has reported an issue.
"It's tight," Beltre said. "I went through the workout earlier but didn't run, and before the game I sprinted and it felt tighter, tighter and tighter."
Beltre usually has problems with his hamstring muscles, which are in the back of the leg. The quad muscle is on the front side.
"I'm not used to the front," Beltre said. "I'm used to the back. This is new for me."
Beltre was scheduled to get the day off Friday and will likely not go to Phoenix on Saturday for the Rangers' game against the Athletics. So the earliest he will play is Sunday against the White Sox. He said he is not worried about the injury.
"I didn't run full speed today," Beltre said. "I don't know how it is. I tried not to force it."
Ross, Scheppers making push for rotation
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Tanner Scheppers starts Friday against the Reds and left-hander Robbie Ross will follow him. Next Wednesday, Rangers officials will likely have their first organizational meeting to discuss the state of the team.
At that time, the Rangers will start forming definite plans for their rotation candidates. If Ross and Scheppers want to be in the rotation -- they both definitely do -- Friday night will be a good time to shine.
"It's what I want to do, so there is no better time than now," Ross said. "We need somebody to step up, and I plan on being that guy. Starting has been my passion since I started playing, so it would be great."
Ross has pitched in 4 2/3 innings in Cactus League games, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts. More important, left-handers are 0-for-5 off him. Left-handers hit .341 off him last year, which is why Ross slipped behind Neal Cotts in the bullpen hierarchy in the second half last season. The Rangers want him to be better against left-handers, whether he is starting or relieving.
Scheppers is also a candidate to be the Rangers' closer. Whether it is starter or reliever, Scheppers will have a prominent role on the pitching staff. He is hoping it will be as a starter, although that would mean the bullpen taking a big hit.
"For me personally, I would love the opportunity to start," Scheppers said. "There are a lot of guys competing for a couple of spots. All I can do is control what I can do on the field."
Two more rotation candidates will take the mound Saturday when Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch pitch against the Athletics in Phoenix. Tommy Hanson, Joe Saunders, Michael Kirkman and Jose Contreras are also competing for two spots in the rotation behind Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando.
• Pitcher Justin Germano was given permission to leave the team for a personal matter.
• The Rangers play the Reds in Goodyear on Friday and Shin-Soo Choo will be recognized before the game. He will receive the Ernie Lombardi Award as the Reds Most Valuable Player in 2013.
• Mitch Moreland made his sixth start in the outfield Thursday and his first in left field. Moreland has played 45 games in the outfield in his career but hasn't played left since the Minors. But it appears as if the Rangers are serious about using Moreland in the outfield this season. Said Moreland, "I just came into camp keeping an open mind and being ready for anything."
• Matt Harrison will throw live batting practice Friday and then the Rangers will determine when his next outing will be. He is expected to pitch two innings but the Rangers aren't sure if it will be in the Cactus League or on the back fields.
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.