Notes: Rangers eager to see Volquez
Blalock to test his arm on Saturday; Washington looks back
MINNEAPOLIS -- Officially, the Rangers are undecided on Tuesday's starter against the Baltimore Orioles.Unofficially, it will likely be Edinson Volquez. The Rangers just want to make sure they get through the weekend without any significant health issues. Kason Gabbard, Friday's starter, had to come out of his last start with forearm stiffness, and Kameron Loe makes his first start on Saturday after spending two weeks on the disabled list because of back spasms. The Rangers also want to be fair with John Rheinecker, who has a 3.38 ERA in his last two starts. Volquez would be replacing Rheinecker if he pitches Tuesday. "We'll make sure these guys get through the weekend and then make a decision," manager Ron Washington said. "We've talked about Volquez and we've talked about Rheinecker, but we haven't made a decision." But the Rangers are increasingly eager to see Volquez, who started the season at Class A Bakersfield and has pitched his way back up the Minor League ladder. He started out 0-4 with a 7.13 ERA in seven games at Bakersfield but was 8-1 with a 3.55 ERA at Double-A Frisco and is now 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six starts at Triple-A Oklahoma. He has also done a much better job of commanding his pitches, controlling his emotions and preparing for starts. All were issues that the Rangers wanted him to address, and he has done that as well as could be expected. "He has upheld everything we asked him to do and performed well pitching," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "It's coming close for us to uphold our end of the bargain." Blalock watch: Third baseman Hank Blalock, on the disabled list while recovering from shoulder surgery, continues to progress toward playing again. Saturday will be a big day. Blalock has received extensive instruction on his fielding technique from Washington and has been building arm strength. His biggest challenge is incorporating the new fielding techniques with a proper throwing motion, and on Friday he said he figured out some things with his footwork that will allow him to get more on his throw from third base. He'll test it out on Saturday. Being able to make strong throws from all angles at third base is the final hurdle for Blalock before he goes on medical rehabilitation assignment. "I've been getting the job done," Blalock said. "It's been 50/50. Some throws have been getting there, some have been dying. But I think I figured out something with the feet and hopefully we'll improve on that. The accuracy is there, I just have to be able to carry the throw." Memories of '87: The Minnesota Twins are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 1987 world championship this weekend, and it gives Washington a chance to see many old teammates. Washington played for the Twins in 1981-86 but missed out on the 1987 season. He was in Spring Training but was released at the end when the Twins decided to go with Al Newman as their utility infielder. "It's still a good weekend," Washington said. "It's just nice to see the guys again. I was here when we were getting a tail-whipping and then those guys won a World Series. But that's the way baseball goes. I was here for six years and gave them my heart. I was certainly an influence on a lot of guys. I was there. I may not have been there in body, but I was there." Washington had his most influence on center fielder Kirby Puckett, who passed away in March 2006. Washington was one of the first people Puckett thanked in his Hall of Fame speech, referring to him as "my big league father." He said it: "I've got to show them something and I intend to do that."
-- Loe, who is coming off the disabled list on Saturday and starting against the Twins Minor Stars: Gold: Right-hander Eric Hurley allowed one run on three hits in seven innings in Triple-A Oklahoma's 5-1 victory over Memphis. He walked two and struck out six. Silver: Bakersfield outfielder Craig Gentry was 2-for-3 with a double, home run, three runs scored and three RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Rancho Cucamonga. Bronze: Arizona Rookie League outfielder Engel Beltre was 3-for-3 with a run scored in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. He is .283 in 13 games for the Rangers since being acquired from the Red Sox. Briefly: Shortstop Joaquin Arias, sidelined for much of the year with a shoulder injury, is unlikely to play again this season. He is still doing rehab work in Arizona but the Rangers are hoping that he can play a combination of Instructional League, Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Said Levine, "We're trying to get him as many at-bats and game experience as we can." ... Josh Rupe (elbow) is also doing rehab work in Arizona and the Rangers hope he can make up for lost time by pitching winter ball. ... Washington said catcher Gerald Laird will start at least four of the next five games. He is scheduled to start on Saturday and Sunday and the two games in Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Orioles pitch a left-hander. Washington said he wants Laird in the lineup against left-handers. Up next: Loe comes off the disabled list and pitches against the Twins at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Metrodome. Right-hander Boof Bonser pitches for the Twins.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.