ARLINGTON -- The ballpark was all but empty Saturday morning when Rangers lefty Derek Holland threw three innings of a simulated game -- but in Holland's words, there are "all kinds of eyes" on him as he inches his way closer to returning from offseason knee surgery.
The eyes watching Holland belong to the decision makers in the Rangers organization, among them manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels. At this point, they haven't seen what they need to see to get Holland into a rehab assignment and eventually a return to the rotation.
Washington said Holland is "still dragging his leg" as he moves to field his position, but "there was progress made ... he's able to get off the mound, he's able to get to the ball. There's still a little limp there."
Holland threw 67 pitches and fielded bunts Saturday to test his left knee, which he injured when he fell down the stairs at home in January. Holland will stay back in Arlington when the Rangers go on the road Monday and could go on a rehab assignment before the All-Star Game on July 15.
With the Rangers falling further out of playoff contention, Washington acknowledged there's no imminent need to rush Holland.
Holland, on the other hand, feels like he's ready to go. He hasn't been told he must undergo any medical tests like MRIs or X-rays in order to be cleared. He said his conditioning and treatment routines are essentially back to normal. But he knows exactly what the Rangers need to see before he gets the go-ahead.
"They're watching to see how I bend down, how I field the ball, am I getting that explosive push off my leg, how's my reaction," Holland said. "In my eyes, I want to go. It's just a competitive nature. I'm going to tell myself that I can go out there. What they decide is what happens. I can't overrule Wash or J.D. or any of those guys. Whatever they tell me, I've got to stick to the plan."
So Holland will continue to test his patience while he waits to rejoin his teammates.
"I just want to be part of the team," Holland said. "They're out there in the war and I'm in the emergency room."
Rios gets a break before continuing All-Star bid
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' lineup Saturday was missing something it hadn't in the past 126 games -- Alex Rios.
The right fielder had started every game since Aug. 10, 2013 -- the day he arrived in a trade from the White Sox -- but manager Ron Washington said Rios needed a day off.
Rios was hitless (0-for-14) in his last four games and Washington believed so strongly that Rios needed a break that he sat him in spite of his stellar career numbers against Saturday's Twins starter Phil Hughes. Rios is hitting .481 (13-for-27) with four doubles, a homer and a 1.205 OPS off Hughes.
"I just wanted to give him a day," Washington said. "He's played every single game. He's looked a little sluggish to me. I'm just using my gut on this. … A guy of his caliber, usually all it takes is one day out of competing and he usually comes back re-energized."
Rios has three home runs this year and has averaged a homer every 100.7 at-bats -- far worse than his career average of 35.6 at-bats per homer. His .305 batting average would be a career high, though.
"I thought he would hit for more [power]," Washington said, "but the year isn't over with. He might be a streaky guy."
Rios is 12th in All-Star balloting among American League outfielders, with 742,780 votes as of last Sunday. He trails only Adrian Beltre, who was at more than 1.3 million votes, among Rangers vote-getters.
Rookie Choice still adjusting to Majors
ARLINGTON -- Rookie outfielder Michael Choice continues to try to find his way in the Major Leagues and he's getting plenty of opportunities to do so despite some prolonged troubles at the plate. He started Saturday for the eighth time in the past 10 games, a stretch in which he's hitting .120 with a .214 on-base percentage. For the season, Choice is hitting .183 in 63 games.
His eight homers are the most promising numbers for the 24-year-old UT Arlington product, who knows the learning curve is high at this level.
"Basically it's like a chess game up here," Choice said. "I'm really just focused on swinging on good pitches because you're not going to get very many. There are less mistakes to hit and you just can't miss the ones that are."
Manager Ron Washington said the key is for Choice to learn how to make adjustments at the plate.
"That adjustment can be understanding how they're getting him out on his own without having to tell him," Washington said. "That adjustment can be where he's standing in the box. That adjustment can be where he holds his hands. That adjustment can be what's causing him not to get to certain pitches. There's a lot of things that are going on, I don't care how good of an athlete you are."
• Catcher Geovany Soto, out since the end of Spring Training with a torn meniscus in his left knee, caught in Derek Holland's simulated game Saturday morning. Manager Ron Washington said Soto's currently on pace to return before the All-Star break.
• Entering Saturday's game, the Rangers' 17 wins at home were the second-fewest through 39 games at home since their ballpark opened in 1994. They hadn't won a home series in the past nine tries.
• Shin-Soo Choo hit leadoff again Saturday, his second consecutive game in the top spot after 17 games in a row elsewhere in the lineup.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.