SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison received a nerve-blocking injection Monday to relieve some stiffness in his neck. But he was also given a clean bill of health by Dr. Drew Dossett as far as his lower back and the go-ahead to begin a throwing program later this week.
The stiffness that Harrison experienced in his lower back last week has probably cost him a chance to be in the Opening Day rotation, but the Rangers were pleased with the results from Monday's examination in Dallas. There is a good chance that Harrison will miss no more than a couple of turns through the rotation at the beginning of the season after Dossett found no serious issues in the lower back.
"I'm happy I got a clean bill of health from the doc," Harrison said. "I'm excited there were no issues and just eager to get going again. He [Dossett] agreed it was the soft mattress."
Harrison, who missed almost all of last season with a herniated disk in his lower back, will return to Arizona on Tuesday and resume a light throwing program Wednesday. At that point, pitching coach Mike Maddux and the medical staff will map out a plan for the rest of the spring.
"I think we feel it puts him behind coming into the season but how far remains to be determined based on the throwing program," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "This is as good of news as we could have gotten and we're very optimistic."
Darvish, Hanson impress in intrasquad game
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Yu Darvish and Tommy Hanson both pitched one scoreless inning for "Team Bogar" in the Rangers' intrasquad game Monday afternoon on the Nolan Ryan Field. "Team Buechele" prevailed in the affair with a 7-4 victory over 6 1/2 innings.
The game was all about the pitching and Darvish faced four batters in the first inning while throwing 13 pitches. He struck out one, and the only batter who reached base did so when Darvish dropped a throw at first base. Darvish had no flare-up of the back issues he felt at the end of last season.
"It has been awhile since I have been in game situations so I felt a little awkward," Darvish said. "But I'll get used to it little by little. I felt no pain or discomfort."
Hanson, who was signed just before camp opened and has been impressing people since he got here, faced three batters and struck out two.
"The command was good, I felt really good and I threw all of my pitches for strikes," Hanson said. "It was a good first one."
Arencibia pleased with new home-plate rule
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia was a player representative while with the Blue Jays and he has been in contact with Players Association executive director Tony Clark about possible new rules concerning collisions at home plate.
So when the new rules came out Monday, Arencibia was happy with the changes.
"I think it's great," Arencibia said. "It takes away malicious intent on plays at the plate."
The changes mean a catcher can no longer block the plate if he doesn't have the ball. It also means a runner can't run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate.
"There are still going to be collisions at home plate," Arencibia said. "The runner doesn't always have to slide and the catcher still has the ability to block home plate if he has the ball. But this takes away hits that are not considered professional. It's pretty clear what you're able to do and what you're not able to do."
Rangers manager works on defense with Fielder
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder had his first defensive one-on-one session with manager Ron Washington on Monday. It won't be his last.
"I just want to get better at everything and I want to get as much information as I can get," Fielder said.
Fielder has never rated high in any of the metrics that rate defensive play. But Washington has always taken great pride in working with infielders on their defense. The lesson Monday was about being better and digging throws out of the dirt.
"It's about getting lower with the body and trusting your technique," Washington said. "I was showing him some techniques he really wasn't onto before. But the last 15, 20 balls came together the way we wanted it to. Bend the knees and get the body down. At the end, you could see how flexible he is. We want to make sure we use that flexibility."
Fielder's early work kept him out of Monday's intrasquad scrimmage. Third baseman Adrian Beltre also didn't play in the game.
• Outfielder Alex Rios, who has missed three straight workouts with a sore toe on his left foot, has been cleared to resume baseball activities.
• Infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff was scratched from Monday's intrasquad game with a sore back. He is day to day.
• Right-handed pitcher Daniel Bard, who underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery Jan. 2, has begun a light throwing program.
• Right-handed reliever Ben Rowen remains sidelined with biceps tendinitis and will not resume throwing for at least another week.
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.