ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington thinks closer Joe Nathan is a lock for the All-Star Game. While Washington isn't the American League manager for the Midsummer Classic, Nathan has been one of the best first-half closers in the league.
Nathan recorded his 28th save Thursday for the most in franchise history before the All-Star break. He's tied for second in the Majors in saves entering Friday's game, trailing Orioles closer Jim Johnson. Of his 28 saves, 14 have come in one-run wins.
"He's been needed very much," Washington said. "He's taken on a much heavier workload than he has in the past, at least with us. He's answered the bell each time. That's why he has as many saves as he has. It may not be in the fashion you would like to see, but the bottom line in the end is it gets done."
He hasn't had the best stuff in his career, but Nathan said he's compensated with his aggressiveness and command. Nathan credited the club for implementing a plan to keep him strong and rested when needed. He's allowed a .156/.220/.234 slash line, the only reliever with more than 20 appearances to have figures that low in all three categories.
"I've gotten more comfortable throwing breaking balls to both sides of the plate and not just having a hitter sit on one side of the plate with a certain pitch," Nathan said. "I've picked up a lot along the way and location is key."
Soria passes another test as return from DL looms
ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said the club will make a decision on Joakim Soria by this weekend. Soria threw a shutout inning both Wednesday and Thursday for Double-A Frisco, passing what should be his last rehab assignment test. Soria threw seven scoreless innings in as many outings while rehabbing, allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts and no walks.
"He did what he had to do," Washington said. "He got his innings in like he was in Spring Training, just the way we would normally do it. We didn't shortcut it. If he's throwing fine, when the next [time] it is for him to throw again and there's no issues, then we'll make our move."
Soria was in the Rangers' clubhouse Friday. He said he feels good following his first back-to-back outings. Soria threw just 14 pitches combined in both appearances.
"It was short innings, but as soon as you build it up going into a game, you throw about 20 pitches in the bullpen," Soria said. "Then you go in with the intensity of the game and all that stuff that comes with a back-to-back. It doesn't matter if I threw six or seven pitches, you just have to be ready when it counts."
Perez's determined outing impresses Washington
ARLINGTON -- Martin Perez wasn't sharp Thursday, but he managed to limit the damage against the Mariners to only one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings. Perez allowed runners to reach scoring position every inning except the first as Texas rallied late to win, 5-4. He benefited from his defense making plays behind him, including a double play with the bases loaded in the second.
"Usually after the third time, that's it; but he was able to make pitches when he had to," manager Ron Washington said. "Those double plays helped him out a lot. He got challenged, and in my opinion, he rose to the challenge. You certainly don't want to see any pitcher have to work as hard as he had to get to the sixth inning, but he did it. He only gave up one run doing it."
Perez had a chance to escape the sixth inning, but Ian Kinsler's error on an attempted double play ended his start. Perez said he missed the zone with his fastball in the first three innings, leading to 87 pitches. He was able to keep the Rangers in the game, and they improved to 3-0 since Perez was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock.
"When I'm good, and like I talked with [Yu] Darvish, when I have my fastball that day, they don't have a chance," Perez said. "But it's part of the game. I just have to continue to do my job and make the adjustments."
• Manny Ramirez will likely make his Triple-A Round Rock debut Sunday. He has worked out with the team since he arrived Thursday.
• Jeff Baker, who sprained his right thumb, said he has to get his range of motion back in his right hand before he resumes any baseball activities. He doesn't wear his splint as much now, only when he sleeps and to "protect yourself from certain things, or in my case, certain people."
• Nelson Cruz has a chance of participating in the Home Run Derby. He competed in the Derby during his first All-Star game in 2009. Washington said: "I don't like them in those home run hitting contests, but I can't stop that. I don't like you constantly swinging for the fences. That's not your normal swing."
• Leonys Martin snapped a streak of six straight games with a stolen base Thursday. He has been successful in his last 16 stolen base attempts.
Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.