ARLINGTON -- Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak will be given the day off for the first time since being called up, and Joaquin Arias will start his first career Major League game at first in his place."It's a long year and you're going to have some days off every now and then. But of course you don't want them," Smoak said. "It's part of the game and I got some work in today to get ready for the game in case I need to come up late in the game." The Rangers will be opposed by left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz of Baltimore tonight, and Smoak is just 1-for-25 against lefties so far this season. He participated in a simulated game with left-hander Matt Harrison prior to the game. "It's always a help to see more left-handed pitching. You don't see it as much throughout the year," Smoak said. "You have ups and downs but you can't be too far down. We'll see what happens. Of course, I have to start playing better and working harder everyday and hope for the best." It's Arias' first career game at first base, and he just purchased a glove to play the position just 10 days ago. But he's been working there for around 20 minutes every day. "Catch the ball, man," Arias said of playing the position. "I played shortstop a long time. But I'll play whatever position ... I just want to help the team out." "He knows when he's holding a runner off he's got to come off. But he's working on all that," Washington said. "Dave [Anderson]'s gotta do some quick teaching, although we've been over it already. But he's going to have to do it a lot more as the game progresses."
Harrison pleased with first bullpen session
ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison threw live batting practice on Thursday afternoon with positive results, the left-hander's first action since being placed on the disabled list on May 12."It feels good to be back out there pitching. The first two or three were kind of wild ... I guess a little bit of jitters," Harrison said. "But after that I was pretty much locked in. I was keeping the ball down, using all my pitches and throwing everything for strikes." Harrison, who went on the DL with biceps tendinitis, is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Saturday and is scheduled to pitch Monday and Wednesday with Double-A Frisco. "I'm going to let it go 100 percent and make sure everything is out of there and good to go," Harrison said. It's still unclear what Harrison's role will be when he returns. His replacement, left-handed pitcher Derek Holland, is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his first two starts and Harrison could return as a reliever rather than as a starter. But Rangers manager Ron Washington hasn't reached a decision on that just yet. The team could know something by the weekend, however. "Right now, the only decision that we've made is that he threw 30 out there today in a simulated game," Washington said. "Once he finishes his bullpen on Saturday I think we'll sit down and decide where he's going to fit." Harrison doesn't have much experience working out of the bullpen, but is willing to do whatever it takes to return to the team. "I've pitched in the bullpen a couple of times but I've never pitched in the bullpen in a situation where I didn't know when I was going pitch," Harrison said. "I've always had time to get ready and what inning I was going into. So it will be a little bit different."
Smoak reunites with former teammate
ARLINGTON -- Two former high school teammates reunited at the Major League level for the first time Wednesday night.Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak and Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, who played together at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, S.C., took the field together in Texas' 4-3 victory last night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "It was good. Obviously it's a dream come true for both of us," Smoak said. "That was great. It just makes you proud knowing that somebody you grew up with got here just like you did." The two hadn't played on the same field since their high school days in 2004. Wieters elected to attend college at Georgia Tech while Smoak headed to the University of South Carolina. Wieters was selected fifth overall by Baltimore in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and Smoak followed as the 11th overall selection by Texas in 2008. The two didn't do much in the early portion of the game, prompting Wieters to speak with Smoak as he came to bat later in the game. "I think it was later on in the game, [Wieters] said: 'One of us has gotta do Goose Creek proud somehow,'" Smoak said. "He ended up getting a hit but we ended up winning the game."
Taking stock of the pitching staff
ARLINGTON -- A brief overview on the pitching staff: Rangers relievers have thrown 135 2/3 innings over 41 games, the most in the American League. It's becoming a concern. "At some point our starting staff has to start getting us deeper into the game," manager Ron Washington said. Washington confirmed that Rich Harden is staying in the rotation. Both he and Scott Feldman are scheduled to pitch during the two-game series with the Royals next week in Kansas City. The Rangers have three off-days during an eight-game stretch that would allow them to drop a starter for a two-week period. But the plan is still to stay in the five-man rotation. Tommy Hunter, who strained a ribcage muscle in Spring Training and lost his spot in the starting rotation, is scheduled to make his fourth start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday night. Hunter pitched five innings in his last start. There are no plans to bring Hunter to the big leagues but he is sufficiently stretched out to be considered an option if the Rangers have a need for a starting pitcher. Frank Francisco has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his last four outings. He has not allowed a hit, walked one and struck out eight. Said Washington, ""His velocity is creeping up, he's hitting his spots, he's getting his secondary pitches over and he's down in the zone."
ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said that Justin Smoak could be a defensive substitution at first base late in the game but center fielder Julio Borbon, also sitting with a left-hander on the mound, would not. ... Since Sunday, Texas relievers have a 0.63 ERA and now have a season ERA of 3.78, the fourth-best in the American League. ... The rotation, however, has an 8.51 ERA over the last six games with no quality starts. ... Frank Francisco recorded his team-leading fifth win Wednesday night, two more than any other Ranger and matching his career high. ... The Rangers posted their fourth walk-off of the season Wednesday. Only three other teams have four or more walk-off wins this season.
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.