SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers announced on Thursday that Robbie Parker will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the home opener against the Angels on April 5 at Rangers Ballpark. Parker is the father of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Twenty children and six adults died as a result of the shootings.
Parker is from North Texas and a lifelong Rangers fan. Through the efforts of several local baseball websites -- including the Newberg Report, Lone Star Ball and Baseball Time in Arlington -- thousands of dollars have been donated by individuals in North Texas to Emilie's Fund, which assisted families of those impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, both John Blake and I saw a picture on the Internet of Mr. Parker and his daughter Emilie watching batting practice at Rangers Ballpark. As we learned more about Robbie Parker being a Rangers fan, John and I discussed having him here for Opening Day and the ceremonial first pitch," Rangers vice president Chuck Morgan said. "We took the idea to Nolan Ryan and it was done. It was an honor for me to call Robbie and invite him to Texas for Opening Day, something I will never forget. A special tip of the cap to Rangers fans that have donated time and money to help the folks in Newtown, Conn., and brought this to our attention."
Major League Baseball will honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during the opening games of the 2013 regular season. All players, managers, coaches, umpires and on-field personnel will wear a symbolic ribbon patch and observe a moment of silence in their opening games (March 31 to April 2) in a league-wide effort to remember the 26 individuals who lost their lives.
"The unimaginable tragedy that befell Newtown, Conn., will never be forgotten," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Major League Baseball, all 30 clubs and baseball fans from around the country and Canada offer our deepest sympathies and our unbridled support as the community continues to heal from this heartbreaking day."
Wells, Grimm will open season at Triple-A
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have knocked out two more candidates for their rotation, leaving Nick Tepesch all but certain to be the fifth starter.
The Rangers told veteran Randy Wells and rookie Justin Grimm, who is the club's No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com, on Thursday they are being sent to Triple-A Round Rock. That leaves Derek Lowe, who signed with the Rangers two weeks ago, as the only other possible candidate for the rotation, and he is being viewed more as a middle reliever.
Tepesch, who is ranked the organization's No. 18 prospect by MLB.com, still has two more starts in camp, and the Rangers haven't made a formal announcement on his status, but Robbie Ross has been told he is going to the bullpen and Martin Perez is still sidelined with a broken arm. Kyle McClellan is also sidelined with a strained ribcage muscle.
That leaves Tepesch, who was a 14th-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Missouri. The 24-year-old split last season between Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco, and he was a combined 11-6 with a 3.67 ERA. The right-hander averaged giving up 9.2 hits and 2.4 walks per nine innings along with 7.1 strikeouts.
"He's still here," manager Ron Washington said.
Wells made it competitive, going 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in four starts. He has also made 86 career starts and 11 relief appearances with the Cubs from 2008-12. The Rangers also considered him for a role as a long man in the bullpen but prefer him starting at Triple-A to give them some rotation depth.
"It is what it is," Wells said. "The guy pitched well. I made it competitive, but I just came up short."
Wells signed a Minor League contract with the Rangers in the offseason. Unlike others who signed similar deals, Wells does not have an out clause that will allow him to take his free agency if not added to the Opening Day roster.
"This is where I wanted to play," Wells said. "I wasn't in a position to go anywhere, but this was No. 1 on my list. I got the opportunity. ... I'm very grateful. The guy just stepped up and I came up short. There's no real mystery. It's never what you want to hear, but I have been around enough to know how the game works."
Grimm, who made two starts and three relief appearances for the Rangers last season, got off to a slow start this spring and never could catch up to Tepesch. Grimm was 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in four outings this spring. Like Wells, Grimm will be in the Triple-A Round Rock rotation.
"He needs continued growth," Washington said. "As a young pitcher, he needs to pitch regularly and harness what he has."
Ross accepts bullpen role
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Robbie Ross came to camp hoping to be the Rangers' fifth starter. Instead, he was told he is going back into his old role as a setup reliever.
"I wasn't the absolute biggest candidate and show them they couldn't do without me as a starter," Ross said. "If I blew their minds and showed that I could do it right away, it would be different. I felt I put up a good fight. I'm not going to let it go that I couldn't do it."
Ross is 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances. Returning to his old role gives the Rangers more clarity to an uncertain bullpen situation. Ross was the Rangers' best left-handed setup reliever in 2012, going 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 58 games. But he had a 0.95 ERA in the first half and a 5.60 ERA after the All-Star break, and that may have left the club with some concerns about his overall stamina as a starter.
"Starting and relieving are different," Ross said. "I really don't know if that was it, but I hope not. I felt I could have done it. I don't think innings were a big issue. They probably would have held me back some, but I feel some day I can throw 200 innings."
Ross said his experience as a starter this spring should help in one regard. As a reliever, he relied mainly on his fastball and slider. This spring, he worked on bringing back the curve and changeup to his repertoire, giving him a four-pitch mix again.
• Right-hander Colby Lewis, who is coming back from flexor tendon surgery, threw in the bullpen on Friday and will be examined by Dr. Keith Meister on Saturday. If Meister gives his approval, Lewis could graduate to throwing batting practice next week.
• Meister is also expected to look at Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery), Perez (broken arm) and McClellan (strained rib cage muscle) and assess their progress. Soria has been throwing in the bullpen, but he has not yet thrown batting practice. Perez and McClelland haven't resumed throwing programs.
• Michael Kirkman is scheduled to throw four innings on Friday night in a Minor League game against the Royals. Josh Lindblom is also pitching. He pitched on Thursday, so this will be his first back-to-back outing of the spring.
• The Rangers went into Friday's game having committed errors in two of their previous 15 games.
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.