Right-hander Tommy Hunter has a Grade 2 strain of his right groin and could miss up to the first six weeks of the season, assistant general manager Thad Levine said.
Hunter was forced to leave his start Thursday after two-plus innings after feeling discomfort. He will return to Arlington for an injection of his own blood platelets into the strain in hopes of hastening his recovery. To put the injury into perspective, third baseman Adrian Beltre suffered a Grade 1 strain of his right calf earlier this spring and missed more than two weeks.
Hunter said he worked out in a SwimEx pool today and has been icing the injury. He remains hopeful that he won't be out too long. He suffered a groin strain in spring training 2009 and missed 10 weeks.
"I don't think it's as bad," Hunter said. "You don't know how bad it is until you're able to start doing things."
The Rangers likely wouldn't put Hunter on the disabled list until closer to Opening Day, but it appears certain that he will start the season on the DL for the third straight year.
"I hope not, but if it happens, that's something you must do," Hunter said. "It's definitely a possibility, but at this time we just don't know."
Dave Bush and Michael Kirkman become the top candidates to replace him, though Bush could be the front-runner. He can opt out of his minor-league deal Sunday, and putting him in the rotation over Kirkman would allow for the Rangers to keep their depth in the minors. Kirkman was optioned to Triple A on Thursday.
If Kirkman is the choice, the Rangers could try to convince Bush to start in Round Rock. If he didn't and Kirkman was recalled, the Triple A rotation/big-league reinforcements would be Eric Hurley, Tanner Scheppers, Zach Jackson and two others.
Brett Tomko could go to Triple A, but he remains a candidate for the long-relief job. The out on his minor-league contract doesn't arrive until June 1.
-- Jeff Wilson