SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Joakim Soria is off to the quickest start of the three candidates for the closer's role. While Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers have been dealing with minor ailments, Soria has impressed early in Rangers camp with his throwing.
"He's such a professional," manager Ron Washington said. "His arm looks much more free and his velocity has picked up. He was never a power pitcher, but he could locate and throw breaking balls."
Scheppers has been bothered by back spasms, but those have subsided. He threw off flat ground on Saturday without any problem and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Monday. Feliz is also throwing better after some early soreness in his right biceps. He is scheduled to throw one more live batting practice and then in the intrasquad game on Tuesday.
"I felt it a little bit the other day, but I'm better," Feliz said. "I'm ready to go with no problems."
With Cruz to O's, Moreland in line to DH for Rangers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Moreland can relax. Nelson Cruz is not returning to the Rangers and taking his spot at designated hitter.
Instead, Cruz has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Orioles. The Rangers had been keeping in touch with Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, but were already stretching the limits of their payroll after adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo this offseason.
"We viewed him as a fit, but we couldn't pull off the deal," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They're getting a power bat and a guy who drives in big runs. They're getting a guy who loves to play baseball. They're getting his power in that small ballpark. He's a tremendous teammate. All the qualities you want in a winner, that's Nelson."
Moreland has been the Rangers' first baseman the past three years but lost that job when they acquired Fielder from the Tigers. Right now he is the primary candidate to be the designated hitter. He might have lost that job as well if the Rangers had landed Cruz.
"I'm hoping for the best for Nellie," Moreland said. "I don't know anything about it. I'm just going out and playing today and trying to get better. Nellie is a great teammate. Every team out there would like to have a guy like that in their clubhouse or in the middle of the lineup."
While Moreland could get most of the at-bats at designated hitter, Washington will also use the position to rotate some of his veterans like Fielder, Choo, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios. Washington will also look for a right-handed hitter who can DH. Michael Choice is one possibility, although Washington is reluctant to use a young player in that position.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is in camp as a non-roster invitee. Kouzmanoff, 32, was the starting third baseman for the Padres from 2007-09 and the Athletics in 2010. During that four-year period, he hit .259 with 75 home runs and 317 RBIs. But his career has dropped off the past three years due to injuries and lack of production.
"He's a veteran who has been through the wars," Washington said. "We'll see what kind of game he has."
Darvish throws live BP, set for intrasquad game
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish, showing off an excellent changeup, threw 34 pitches of live batting practice on Saturday, and his next start will be in game conditions. Darvish is scheduled to pitch on Monday in the Rangers' first intrasquad scrimmage and again on Thursday against the Royals at 2:05 p.m. CT in the first Cactus League game.
"I'll try and do my best," said Darvish with a smile.
He'll likely throw just one or two innings in each of those outings, but it puts him on the road to be the Rangers' Opening Day starter against the Phillies on March 31. Nate Adcock will be the other starter in Monday's intrasquad game.
On Tuesday, Colby Lewis and Jose Contreras will start the intrasquad game. Also scheduled to pitch are Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando, Joakim Soria, Nick Tepesch, Neftali Feliz, Neal Cotts and Michael Kirkman.
Darvish and Tommy Hanson are scheduled for Thursday against the Royals, while Ogando and Contreras will pitch against them on Friday.
Nicholas to get a look after Soto has surgery
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Geovany Soto will be sidelined for three weeks after left ankle surgery, giving the Rangers a chance to look at some of their other catchers in camp. One intriguing option is Brett Nicholas, a sixth-round pick out of the University of Missouri in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Nicholas has been used both at first base and catcher over the past four years. He was drafted as a catcher but has been used mostly at first base the past two years because the Rangers had other highly regarded catching prospects in front of him. But now Nicholas is going back to catching full time this spring.
"I like it because I consider myself a leader and being a catcher, that's mandatory," Nicholas said.
Nicholas is also a left-handed hitter who batted .289 with 21 home runs, 91 RBIs and a .474 slugging percentage at Double-A Frisco in 2013. A left-handed hitting catcher with power is an invaluable commodity. According to those who have watched him, Nicholas handles pitchers well and has worked into a good receiver. He still needs to work on his throwing.
"The biggest thing is I don't have the greatest arm," Nicholas said. "I need to develop a quick release and work on my accuracy. If I can get my throws down and on target, everything will be good."
• Shortstop Elvis Andrus, infielder Luis Sardinas and pitcher Perez -- all from Venezuela -- were among the Rangers who tweeted a photo showing support for their country. "Pray for Venezuela" was among the messages written on placards in the photo for a country that has been racked by protests lately.
• The Rangers have signed right-hander Scott Richmond to a Minor League contract. He will be in Minor League camp. Richmond went 6-7 with a 5.91 ERA in 20 starts at Triple-A Round Rock last season. He has pitched in 36 games at the big league level, all with the Blue Jays in 2008-09 and 2011-12, with a record of 9-14 with a 5.27 ERA.
• Right-handed reliever Shawn Tolleson relied exclusively on a fastball and a slider when he was 3-1 with a 4.30 ERA in 40 games for the Dodgers in 2012. But the Rangers have discovered he also has a very good changeup, and they want him to include it in his repertoire.
•: Jurickson Profar, who is unable to throw because of right shoulder tendinitis, is able to swing the bat without any issues. He is hoping to resume a throwing program next week.
• Rios is still being held out of workouts with a sore left big toe.
• Fielder was given a personal day off by Washington.
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.