Rangers happy with trade returns
Gabbard, Saltalamacchia among group of eight players added
CLEVELAND -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be used both at catcher and first base and Kason Gabbard is expected to replace Jamey Wright in the rotation, most likely as early as Thursday.The Rangers are without a closer, but manager Ron Washington said he'll use a committee that will consist of right-handers Joaquin Benoit and Frank Francisco and left-hander C.J. Wilson until Akinori Otsuka comes off the disabled list. Reliever A.J. Murray was called up from Triple A Oklahoma, second baseman Ian Kinsler was activated off the disabled list and second baseman Desi Relaford was designated for assignment. That was the immediate fallout after the Rangers' two big trades on Tuesday, when they sent first baseman Mark Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay to the Atlanta Braves and reliever Eric Gagne to the Boston Red Sox. General manager Jon Daniels is planning to fly to Cleveland on Wednesday to meet with Washington and his staff to discuss the state of the Rangers' active roster. But Washington made it clear that Gabbard is here to start. "He will be in the rotation," Washington said. "We're waiting for him to get here and then we'll decide what to do." Wright is scheduled to pitch on Thursday, but it's likely that Gabbard will take that spot. Washington said John Rheinecker is still going to pitch on Wednesday. Gabbard was acquired along with Minor League outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre from the Red Sox for Gagne on Tuesday. Gabbard began the season at Triple-A Pawtucket and was 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 14 starts. He has been in the Red Sox rotation since the end of June, and is 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA in seven starts. "Kason Gabbard is a youthful left-handed pitcher, with good stuff, above-average curveball, keeps the ball on ground and knows how to pitch," Daniels said. "I think he's a very good fit for our ballpark. It's worth noting that he was the only controllable starting pitcher that was moved at the deadline. It shows what a premium there is in starting pitching." Saltalamacchia was the Rangers' centerpiece of the seven-player trade with the Braves. He is expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday night against the Indians. Saltalamacchia is a catcher who has played some first base. The Rangers already have Gerald Laird as their No. 1 catcher, and Washington said he'll still catch five times a week. Washington said Saltalamacchia will likely start a couple of times a week and play first base the rest of the time. "I talked with Jarrod earlier," Daniels said. "We're aware he's a catcher, that he likes to catch and takes pride in it. But at the same time, we have first base at-bats available. We have a young catcher we're committed to this year. So we look at him as a guy who has the ability to do both, and the opportunity to do both. It gives us some flexibility going forward." Saltalamacchia appeared in 47 games for the Braves and was hitting .284 (40-141) with four home runs and 12 RBIs. The 36th overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, he was ranked as the Braves' top Minor League prospect in each of the past two seasons by Baseball America. "You hate to see him go," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's a legitimate big league catcher right now, and he's a switch-hitter with power. He's only 22. I like him a lot." The Rangers also acquired pitchers Matt Harrison, Beau Jones and Neftali Feliz and shortstop Elvis Andrus from the Braves in exchange of Teixeira and Mahay. Harrison is the second centerpiece of the Braves trade, a left-hander who is 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A Mississippi. He could be a candidate for the Rangers rotation in the next year or so, but there is still a question of health.
Harrison recently had been shut down because of a strained shoulder and that almost held up the deal. The Rangers reviewed his medical records and agreed to the deal only after the Braves added Jones to the mix."It looks like normal wear and tear on the shoulder," Daniels said. "It held up the deal a little bit, but we felt comfortable, with rest and rehab, he would be fine. We're going to have to look at him. It's tough to tell with just an MRI." Murphy, who will be assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma, is the fourth of the eight players who could have an impact at the Major League level in the next year. He is expected to be a September callup and a candidate for the Rangers outfield in 2008. He was the 17th overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of Baylor and is considered a solid defender and a potentially steady left-handed bat. He can play right or center field. He has an above average arm, but his power potential is still unknown. Murphy was hitting .280 with nine home runs, 47 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 100 games for Triple-A Pawtucket. "Bottom line, we're ecstatic about the players we brought in," Daniels said. "We think they'll help us for a long time. This is not a tear down. We believe in the veteran core, believe in them where we feel they can accelerate the process.
"It's not worthwhile putting a timeline on it ... but we feel very good what we accomplished. We had a lot of attractive players and very attractive options, so we feel very confident with the decisions we made."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.