ARLINGTON -- Brad Wilkerson started at first base on Wednesday, and very likely could have been making his final appearance at the Ballpark in Arlington in a Rangers uniform.

Wilkerson can be a free agent after the season and it doesn't seem likely that the Rangers will re-sign him, bringing an end to two tumultuous years with the club. Wilkerson was one of three players acquired from the Washington Nationals for Alfonso Soriano on Dec. 12, 2005, and had a difficult time living up to high expectations.

Shoulder surgery in 2006 and missing more than three weeks with a hamstring injury this year did not help.

"This year was harder, more so than last year," Wilkerson said. "Last year was a learning experience, this year was a lot harder. I felt like I was ready to do great things this year. I'm just disappointed the way it ended."

Wilkerson went into Wednesday's game hitting .233 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs while spending much of the second half in a part-time role. Wednesday was his first start in a week. His six previous appearances had been as a defensive replacement.

Rangers fans never saw the same player who hit .255, but with 32 home runs, 112 runs scored, 106 walks and a .374 on-base percentage for the Montreal Expos in 2004.

"I think they saw glimpses of me," Wilkerson said. "I thought I was coming back to where I wanted to be earlier this season, I'm just disappointed that it came to a halt."

The Rangers haven't ruled out re-signing Wilkerson, but they seem to have other priorities. Manager Ron Washington has made it clear that he would like a "natural" first baseman while others in the organization look at Frank Catalanotto as a possibility.

The outfield is already crowded, and the Rangers will look outside the organization for both a center fielder and a big bat that might fit in one of the corner spots.

"At the end of the year, we'll sit down with our scouts and staff and look at all our options, whether it's the outfield, DH or first base," general manager Jon Daniels. "Outside of when he hurt his hamstring in Orlando [in May], Brad has had a very under-the-radar productive season. He probably hasn't played as much lately as he'd like ... but he filled in admirably for [Mark Teixeira] when he went down.

"I like what Brad brings to the team. He's a good teammate, he's a professional and he plays the game the right way."

Wright wants back: Wilkerson is one of potential free agents on the roster. The others are Sammy Sosa, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jamey Wright.

Wright has been a starter for his entire career but has made a case for coming back next year as a reliever. He has a 2.05 ERA in 11 relief appearances for the Rangers and said that he would be willing to come back to the Rangers next year as a reliever.

"If I were to come back here, I'd do whatever I'm asked to do," Wright said. "I enjoy pitching here and in this ballpark. I'll talk to my agent about it. My first love is starting, absolutely. I love starting but if I can be an effective bullpen guy here, I'd really enjoy that.

"I'm trying to learn what it takes to be effective in that role and I think now, rather than being a deer in the headlights, I think I have an idea of what I'm doing. In the end it's all about pitching and getting outs."

Sunday starter: The Rangers are still waiting to see if Brandon McCarthy can start Sunday's game against the Mariners. But the Rangers also want to see Vicente Padilla pitch one more time.

His suspension came to an end on Wednesday.

"We're paying him a lot of money and he's missed seven days already," manager Ron Washington said. "We'd like to see him pitch one more time before he heads home for the winter."

Washington said it's unlikely that Armando Galarraga or A.J. Murray will make that start even though the Rangers liked what they saw from both earlier this week.

He said it : "The one thing I can take out of the season is there wasn't one single day where these guys didn't give me their all for nine innings."
-- Washington, on the 2007 Rangers.

Briefly: Sammy Sosa was in the lineup on Thursday and will probably get one more start on Saturday in Seattle. ... Washington said Michael Young will stay in the lineup until he gets 200 hits but he is hoping to use a lineup on Sunday that includes outfielder Freddy Guzman and catcher Guillermo Quiroz. ... The Rangers went into Wednesday's game having turned 175 double plays. The club record is 176, set in 1975.

Up next: Right-hander Edinson Volquez pitches for the Rangers at 9:05 p.m. CT on Friday against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Right-hander Jeff Weaver pitches for the Mariners.