ARLINGTON -- Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has been terrific since coming off the disabled list on May 3 after being sidelined with a torn tendon in a finger on his right hand. The Rangers are hoping they will have Prince Fielder back in the lineup on Tuesday to face him when Seattle and Texas begin a two-game set at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Fielder has missed the last two games with stiffness in his neck caused by a herniated disk.
He had an injection on Saturday morning to help relieve the problem and is expected to rejoin the Rangers on Tuesday after spending the past few days recuperating at home.
Manager Ron Washington will wait until Fielder gets to the ballpark before deciding if he'll be in the lineup.
"That's why we gave him the time off so we'll just wait and see," Washington said.
Fielder has been dealing with the problem since Spring Training and it may have even started last year. The Rangers are hoping that alleviating the stiffness will help restore some of Fielder's power. It has mainly been bothering him on his left side, which is his backside when he swings. Fielder is hitting .247 with three home runs, 16 RBIs and a .360 slugging percentage through 42 games.
"He had a weak backside and the backside is your power," Washington said. "That doesn't mean he's going to come back and start hitting the ball out of the ballpark with regularity. It takes 600 at-bats to hit 30 bombs. But as long as he's not feeling any effects on the backside, progress will be made. You need strength on the backside to lift the ball."
Iwakuma had his own physical problems but has recovered nicely with a 2-0 record and a 1.59 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list with an injury to his right middle finger. In his previous two starts, he tossed eight shutout innings, though in his most recent outing he didn't pick up a win against the Rays because closer Fernando Rodney blew the save in the ninth. This season, Iwakuma is holding opponents to a .179 batting average.
"He's better than I thought," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I knew sitting in the other dugout that he was good. He's better than good."
Iwakuma will be making his ninth start against the Rangers, his most against any team. Including one relief appearance, he is 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA against them. He is 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance in Arlington.
The Rangers will start Colby Lewis, who is 3-2 with a 4.99 ERA in six starts. Lewis, who missed 21 months because of elbow and hip surgery before returning to the rotation in mid-April, pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Astros on Monday, but has yet to pitch six complete innings since his return.
"I'm trying to go as deep as I can in ballgames," Lewis said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out because I get my pitch count up. One of these days I'll get there. I'm not too concerned about it."
Rangers: trying to find work for Soria
The Rangers have been struggling in May and it means closer Joakim Soria has had to sit around for much of the month. Going into Sunday, Soria had appeared in just three games in May with one save opportunity. That came on May 2.
He has still pitched well despite the lack of work. He is 7-for-7 in save opportunities, has a 2.57 ERA and opponents are hitting .125 off him.
"He has been in this role before and he knows how to handle it," manager Ron Washington said. "He knows how to do it in a fashion that keeps him sharp. If you woke him up on Christmas morning and there was snow on the ground, he'd still throw a strike."
Mariners: Franklin could be an option
The Mariners are considering the possibility of recalling infielder Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma, so they have played the youngster in the outfield the last few games to increase his versatility.
Entering Sunday, Franklin, 23, was hitting .376 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 30 games for Tacoma. He hit .125 (2-for-16) in a brief stint with Seattle earlier this year and was the starting second baseman in the second half last year before the club added Robinson Cano.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Franklin has dealt with a back issue recently, but could be an option for a club looking for help at the plate.
"Hopefully his back is healthy and then we'll see where we are," McClendon said Sunday. "Obviously we need offense and he's certainly an option. Jack [Zduriencik] and I have talked about it. We'll see where we are in the next few days. But for him to be able to play a lot of different positions, as I've said before, is important. Because if he's going to be here right now, he's going to have to move around."
The Rangers took three of four from the Mariners in Arlington on April 14-17. The Mariners took two of three from the Rangers on April 25-27 in Seattle. The Rangers are 41-23 against the Mariners since the start of the 2011 season, including 22-10 in Arlington.
• The Rangers expect Alexi Ogando to be available out of the bullpen on Tuesday. He has a bruised right hand after taking a line drive in the palm Saturday night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.