Notes: Early power play for Kinsler
Rangers to tour Air Force One; Wright set for Double-A tuneup
ANAHEIM -- That didn't take long.After hitting a home run in each of the first two games, Ian Kinsler was moved up to the No. 6 spot in the lineup for Wednesday's game with the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Ron Washington gave Sammy Sosa a day off and decided Kinsler could help fill the void for an offense struggling to score runs. "He's really swinging the bat well," Washington said. "Sammy gets the day off so I'm putting Ian in a spot where he might come up with runners on the bags and he can get the wheel rolling." Kinsler did get 71 at-bats in the No. 6 spot last season, so this is hardly new for him. "I've hit in all positions in the spring except fourth or fifth, so I got a feel for all positions," Kinsler said. "I feel comfortable there." So what about batting cleanup? After all, he has the Rangers' only two home runs. "No, no, not yet," Kinsler said. "I don't think that will ever happen." Perhaps, but after hitting .441 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in Spring Training, Kinsler has not cooled off with the start of the regular season. He is starting to see the positive results of the added weight, muscle and conditioning that he worked on in the offseason. He came in 20 pounds heavier than at the end of last season. "I think so," Kinsler said. "It's been just two games, so it's tough to say for sure, but the way my legs feel, I definitely feel stronger. And, at the end of the games, I feel stronger." Washington has been impressed with what he's seen compared to what he saw from across the diamond with Oakland, where he was a coach last season. "I looked up his numbers and saw he had 20 bombs in the Minors so I knew he had some pop," Washington said. "I threw his batting practice and he had some pop. But it's been better than I thought. He's capable of doing some damage when he's healthy." Air Force One tour: The Rangers are off on Thursday and pitchers Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Mike Wood and C.J. Wilson are spending the day taking a tour of Air Force One. The plane is sitting in Waco, Texas, while President Bush is at his ranch at Crawford and private tours are available by appointment. Rangers media relations director Gregg Elkin set this up for the players. "I thought our airplane was pretty cool when I came to the big leagues," Loe said. "But I'm sure it can't hold a candle to Air Force One." He'll have to leave his pet boa constrictor at home. In this case, there are definitely no snakes on a plane. Wright ready to go: Rangers pitcher Jamey Wright is spending Thursday in Frisco, where he will pitch for the Double-A RoughRiders in their season opener against Arkansas. If all goes as expected, the Rangers will purchase Wright's Minor League contract and he'll join the rotation on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I'd like to stretch it out a little bit," Wright said. "I'm hoping to go six or seven innings and throw 80 pitches." Wright would rather be pitching in the Majors, but the Rangers wanted to keep their other four starters pitching on their regular four days' rest. So for Wright, this is a necessary evil. "I feel like I've been ready to go for a while," he said. "Maybe not to go 110 pitches, but I've been getting stronger every game. My strength and endurance have been better. The hardest part has been sitting around and watching and watching and watching. But that's the first game for those guys so they'll be wired up. I'll go up there and have some fun with those guys." Minor League rotations: The Rangers have set their rotations for each of their four Minor League clubs. All four begin play on Thursday. John Koronka will be the Opening Day starter for Triple-A Oklahoma, followed by Josh Rupe, Alfredo Simon, Doug Mathis and Francisco Cruceta. Ezequiel Astacio could also pitch as a starter. He cleared waivers and was assigned to Oklahoma. Wright is Frisco's Opening Day starter, but the club will eventually settle into a rotation of Eric Hurley, Armando Galarraga, Luis Mendoza, Paul Kometani and Daniel Haigwood. At Class A Bakersfield, the Blaze opens with Michael Schlact, followed by Edinson Volquez, Andrew Walker, Keith Ramsey and Kendy Batista. The Class A Clinton LumberKings start off with Omar Poveda, Zach Phillips, Glenn Swanson and Broc Coffman. He said it: "He looks good to me. As soon as we do something as a team, those at-bats will get better." -- Washington on Sosa. Briefly: Eric Gagne threw 15 pitches without problem in a simulated game in Surprise, Ariz. He will join the Rangers for their Opening Day festivities on Friday, then begin a medical rehabilitation assignment at Frisco that night. ... Both Astacio and catcher Guillermo Quiroz accepted outright assignment to Oklahoma. The Rangers are still talking with other teams about outfielder Marlon Byrd. ... The Rangers had five hits on Monday and four hits on Tuesday. It's the second time in club history they have been held to five hits or less in their first two games of the season. It happened in 1973, too. Up next: The Rangers return home to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for their home opener at 1:05 p.m. CT Friday. Right-hander Robinson Tejeda pitches against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for the Red Sox.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.