Notes: Less power won't be a problem
With versatile lineup, Texas isn't waiting for the three-run bomb
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In the American League, they don't throw jabs, but haymakers. It is a league of muscle, not finesse. Heavyweights play here, not bantamweights.In 2007, the Rangers ranked fourth in the AL with 179 home runs, fifth with 816 runs, and sixth with a .426 slugging percentage. The Rangers may lack a home run bopper after trading Mark Teixeira -- who hit 30 or more home runs the past four years -- last July to the Braves, but that certainly does not mean they lack punch. "If you go through the lineup, every spot is capable of hitting for some power, top to bottom," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I don't know if we have the classic three-four-five hitters, where they are going to lead the league in home runs. But if Ian Kinsler leads off, he's got more power than the average leadoff guy." Three newcomers to the Rangers' lineup -- outfielders Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley and first baseman Ben Broussard -- all possess power. Hamilton had 18 home runs in 298 at-bats as a rookie last season with the Reds. While Bradley is not the prototypical power hitter, he hit 19 home runs in 2004 for the Dodgers and had a .306 average last year. Broussard hit 21 home runs in 2006. "It doesn't concern me," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Rangers sans a 40-home run hitter. "Everybody likes three-run bombs. We can't sit back and wait for three-run bombs. The personnel they had here in the past, they were able to do that. "We don't have that type of personnel. We may get back to it. It's tough to project, but we do have some guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. I'm not going into the season depending on that, but I'm also not trying to take away from the ballplayers they are." Catching splits: Washington has a new blueprint on how he will use Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird, who are competing for the starting catching job Both will make the trip on Thursday to Tucson, Ariz. Washington plans to piggyback the two against the White Sox and do the same on Friday against the Brewers. "I want to try to see if I can get Gerald and Saltalamacchia two days back-to-back where they are constantly swinging the bat, instead of one day on and a day off," Washington said. "One day, Salty swung the bat well and then he came back and looked like a fish out of water. Right there, that told me I have to try to figure out some kind of way that they get two days back-to-back." Laird, 28, started 114 games last year, while Saltalamacchia, 22, hit 11 home runs in 93 games with the Rangers and Braves.
"Maybe even more important than the at-bats is getting them consistently working behind the plate and getting them working with the pitching staff," Daniels said. "Ron wanted to be able to keep them both somewhat in the flow rather than a day-on, day-off and the ups and downs of doing that. This gives them the ability of a few days in a row of consistent work and obviously mix in a day off. It makes sense to me."Bradley plan: Washington said Bradley, who had right knee surgery on Sept. 27, would likely start DHing in Minor League games beginning March 12. He said Bradley could lead off every inning for two or three days and then DH in the Major League games. "Then we'll judge from there," Washington said. "That's about the timetable we're looking at. I'm OK with that timetable. There's nothing I want to rush with Milton. I want him to be right because if he's right, he's going to be productive. I don't want him coming in worried about anything. We're going to take our time and see where we go." Washington said Bradley would probably play the outfield before the team breaks camp. Blalock still out: Hank Blalock, who was in a car accident on Monday, did not play on Wednesday because of a stiff neck and will not make the trip on Thursday to Tucson. "He's still got whiplash from being hit," Washington said. "He's still got residue from that. We'll just take that a day at a time." Washington said he is hopeful Blalock could DH on Friday. With Blalock absent, Travis Metcalf homered in the fifth in the 12-6 loss to the Brewers. "I'm not really worried about who is in the lineup on what day, I'm just trying to go out and get as many ABs for the season," Metcalf said. "Right now, it's just important for me to get ABs and get ready for the season. No matter what level I end up at, I want to make sure I start the season strong. Anytime you can start and get a lot of ABs to me is 150 times better than coming in the later innings and trying to do it." He said it: "I'm getting a lot of e-mails from guys that think they're funny, saying good luck in the play-in game. I think they've got a chance to be a better seed than that, maybe play up to a 13th or a 14th," -- Daniels, a graduate of Cornell, which won the Ivy League basketball title Briefly: There was a late lineup change with Marlon Byrd replacing Jason Ellison in center. "I did it because I had Marlon going to Tucson, but his family is coming in tomorrow. So, I played him today so he didn't have to go tomorrow," Washington said. ... Washington came out in the eighth inning to check on pitcher Frank Francisco after he landed wrong, but he remained in the game after a few practice tosses. "The [landing] hole was a little odd, so when he hit it, he rolled his ankle a little bit," Washington said. "I think he was scared more than anything else, but he was fine." ... The Rangers out hit the Brewers 14-13 with Ramon Vazquez going 3-for-3. ... The Rangers committed three errors, leading to eight unearned runs. Up next: Right-hander Vicente Padilla will make his second Spring Training start on Thursday against the White Sox in Tucson. Left-hander Bill White and right-hander Elizardo Ramirez are also scheduled to pitch for the Rangers. Gavin Floyd will start for the White Sox.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.