Ray feels he's ready for prime-time role
Feeling healthy, former closer can fill in as eighth-inning reliever
BOSTON -- Chris Ray has given up two runs in seven appearances. One run was on a home run in his second outing of the season. The other was on Tuesday night, when left fielder Josh Hamilton misplayed a fly ball.
But opponents are hitting just .182 off Ray, and he said his stuff is as good as it was in 2006, when he saved 33 games for the Orioles. If the Rangers need a power right-handed-throwing reliever for the eighth inning, Ray believes he can fill that vital role.
"I'm right where I need to be," said Ray, who missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John surgery. "I'm not thinking about mechanics. It feels completely different than last year. It feels like I was before I was injured. I'm confident in any situation. I've done it all -- close, setup, middle relief. When they call down, I'm ready to go."
Andrus takes lead in drawing walks
BOSTON -- The Rangers went into Thursday's game with a surprising leader in walks. Shortstop Elvis Andrus had 11, one more than Josh Hamilton.
Andrus was sixth on the team in walks last year. But going into Thursday's games, he was also tied for seventh most in the American League. Andrus' walk total is just one more reason why he fits in the Rangers' leadoff spot.
"My main goal coming into the season was to go deeper in counts," Andrus said. "You go deep into counts, you're going to get a chance to get more walks."
Andrus also leads the Rangers with 4.30 pitches per plate appearance. Last year, he was 10th on the team with 3.78 pitches per plate appearances.
"I like it," Andrus said. "I'm learning more as a hitter. I know the pitchers better and I know what they're trying to do to me. It's exciting. I want to keep doing the same things."
Vlad gets first night off
BOSTON -- Vladimir Guerrero, with three hits in his past 20 at-bats and hitting .194 on the road trip, was out of the lineup for the first time this season on Thursday night. David Murphy started in right field and Nelson Cruz was the designated hitter.
"I've been running Vlad out there regularly. I figured it was time for him to have a day," manager Ron Washington said. "He's available if I need him in certain situations."
Cruz had to leave both Tuesday and Wednesday's games because of a sore right hamstring, but Texas felt he was healthy enough to be the DH.
Washington also decided to use Andres Blanco at second base and Taylor Teagarden at catcher on Thursday, even though they are a combined 0-for-27 on the season. They replace Matt Treanor and Joaquin Arias, who are a combined 20-for-63. That's a .317 average.
"I don't see them as automatic outs," Washington said. "Teagarden is struggling, but Blanco gives you a good at-bat. I don't see them as automatic outs. When I put them in the lineup, I'm confident they are going to get something done."
Harrison weak, but forges ahead to next start
BOSTON -- Matt Harrison was still physically "weak" on Thursday, but he plodded through his normal work routine one day after getting hit by a stomach virus in his start against the Red Sox. Harrison said he fully expects to make his next start on Monday against the Tigers.
Harrison felt sick during the day on Wednesday, but he came to the ballpark, got some medicine and felt good enough to make his start. He ended up going four-plus innings, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks. He gave up three home runs, including a grand slam to J.D. Drew.
"Late in the game, my legs got really weak," Harrison said. "I tried to keep us in the game, pitch some innings and save the bullpen. But in that fourth inning, I just ran out of energy."
Rangers celebrating Elvis this weekend
BOSTON -- It will be Elvis Weekend at the Ballpark in Arlington, starring Elvis Andrus. The following events are planned:
• There is an Elvis Look-a-Like contest on Friday, and Andrus will help judge the winners. The top five get to watch the postgame fireworks from the field with Andrus. The Wheeling Elvi cycle team will also perform.
• Friday's postgame fireworks will be set to Elvis Presley music.
• The first 20,000 fans on Saturday receive an Andrus bobblehead doll courtesy of Medical Center of Arlington.
• On Sunday, the first 8,500 fans 13 and under get an Andrus red replica jersey.
The Rangers did not have an extended spring game on Thursday, so Ian Kinsler (sprained right ankle) took batting practice and fielded a few grounders. The plan is for him to be used at designated hitter and lead off every inning in a game on Friday. ... The Rangers had three more stolen bases on Wednesday night. That's 12 in two games, the most in a two-game span in club history. Texas has been successful on 14 consecutive stolen bases. ... Tommy Hunter, on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle in his left rib cage, threw a second round of batting practice on Wednesday without any problems. He is rehabbing in Arizona and will likely throw in a game on Saturday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.