Notes: Rangers have to shuffle rotation
Mendoza hopes to get starts; bullpen careful with innings
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers will have to make some adjustments to their starting rotation after learning on Tuesday that Vicente Padilla has been suspended for seven games by Major League Baseball.Padilla is appealing the suspension and is still scheduled to pitch on Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins. That may be his last start of the season. Regardless of what happens with the appeal, Padilla probably wouldn't be able to pitch again until the final weekend of the season in Seattle. But Edinson Volquez, Kevin Millwood and Brandon McCarthy are scheduled to pitch that weekend, and manager Ron Washington said he doesn't foresee skipping one of those three for Padilla. Right now, the Rangers are looking at Luis Mendoza getting two starts before the season is over. He is scheduled to pitch on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles, and that spot comes around again next Wednesday against the Angels. The Rangers don't have anybody they want to see more than Mendoza. "This guy has turbo-sink on his fastball," Washington said. "He throws it up there 90 mph with movement. That's natural stuff. You can't teach it." Mendoza is replacing Kason Gabbard in the rotation. The Rangers will likely need another starter on Monday, unless Padilla's appeal is still pending. If he doesn't pitch, the Rangers would likely choose from a group that includes A.J. Murray, Jamey Wright and Armando Galarraga. "It doesn't matter who it is, as long as they go out and give us some innings," Washington said. "Right now we're only concerned about tomorrow. Sometimes appeals take time, and sometimes they try to expedite it." Bullpen watch: The Rangers went into Tuesday's game hoping to give Joaquin Benoit and C.J. Wilson the night off. Benoit had pitched in three of the previous four games, throwing a total of 74 pitches. The Rangers wanted to give him a night off but aren't worried about late-season fatigue. "He's still firing up there at 95-96 mph," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He threw 97 the other day." The Rangers appear more concerned about Wilson. Washington said he is seeing some signs of fatigue, although Connor liked what he saw in Monday's outing against the Twins. "I thought he was good," Connor said. "I thought he was throwing as good as he has in the past couple of weeks." Laird still out: Jarrod Saltalamacchia returned to the Rangers lineup on Tuesday, one day after missing a game because of stiffness in his neck. Saltalamacchia started at catcher because Gerald Laird remains sidelined with a sore right knee. "It has been bugging me for the past couple of weeks, and gradually it got worse," Laird said. "Basically, when I squat is when I really feel it." Laird said he thought he hurt the knee while bunting a ball on a squeeze play Aug. 25 against the Mariners. Saltalamacchia hurt his neck during Sunday's altercation with the Athletics. Blalock over Sosa: Hank Blalock was also ready to return to the lineup Tuesday after missing Monday's game with a sore neck. But he is still not ready to resume throwing and there is still no indication of when he might return to the field. He started at designated hitter on Tuesday. Washington had planned on using Sammy Sosa at that spot, but decided to go with Blalock. Sosa won't start again until the Rangers return to Arlington. Washington is planning to go with Michael Young at designated hitter on Wednesday. Botts in left: With Sosa and Blalock sharing designated hitter duties, the Rangers have been able to get a good look at Jason Botts in left field. Washington likes what he sees. It's unlikely that Botts will play regularly in the outfield next year, and Washington is still going to use a defensive replacement for him late in the game. But Washington said Botts has shown he can handle the position on at least a semi-regular basis. That was an unknown when Botts came to the big leagues at the beginning of August. "His approach is better, his technique, he's keeping his feet under him and he's reading the ball off the bat better," Washington said. "He's more comfortable out there. All that is because he worked at it. He's shown he we can put him out there." Botts went into Tuesday's game hitting .281 (18-for-64) when playing left field and .194 (12-for-62) as the designated hitter. "I love it out there," Botts said. "It's fun. It's kind of nice to be more into the game and have something to do besides worrying about your at-bats." Botts made a terrific running catch of Joe Mauer's first-inning line drive in Tuesday's game, having to race back toward the wall and reach high over his head to snag it.
He said it: "I just went and told him that's the most important out of the game. The winning run is at third base, just secure it. Don't take it for granted. He was feeling bad, I just told him you can't take anything for granted in this game." -- Washington, on talking to second baseman Ian Kinsler after Monday's game-ending drop of a popupBriefly: Kameron Loe (elbow inflammation) had a short bullpen session on Tuesday, throwing 17 fastballs without problem. He'll throw again on Thursday. ... The Rangers went into Tuesday's game on pace to score 173 runs this month. That would be a new club record for September. They scored 162 in September 1999. Up next: The Rangers complete a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday at the Metrodome. Padilla pitches against right-hander Matt Garza 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.