MINNEAPOLIS -- Ian Kinsler was sidelined for over a month with a strained left groin muscle. Now that he is off the disabled list and playing again, he found that the time off proved to be a big help to his right ankle.

Kinsler sprained the ankle in Spring Training and missed the first month of the season. But the ankle was still affecting him even when he returned at the end of April. Now, after returning to the Rangers' lineup Friday night, Kinsler said he can tell a big difference after missing a month to deal with the groin injury.

"[Friday] was probably the best I've felt since Spring Training ... since I rolled the ankle in Spring Training," said Kinsler, who was 1-for-4 with a single Friday night. "The ankle is a lot stronger before I went on the disabled list.

"That did a lot for it. I didn't think it would do anything because it wasn't getting any better. But that time off really helped. [Friday] night, I made a couple of plants on the ankle that used to bother me, but now they don't. I feel great right now. It's a lot better than what it was."

Hamilton, Andrus out at least few games

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers are going to be without outfielder Josh Hamilton and shortstop Elvis Andrus for at least a couple of games and possibly more.

Hamilton was back in center field Saturday, one day after being pulled from a game with some tightness in his lower back. But Hamilton couldn't get through Saturday's game either.

Neither could Andrus, who left the game with a tight right hamstring.

Hamilton had to leave this game with bruised ribs on his left side. Hamilton injured himself hitting the wall in the third inning while making a catch on Delmon Young's long fly ball. He left the game after four innings on defense.

X-rays were negative. But Hamilton described this as the same thing as what happened in April 2009, when he injured his ribcage running into a wall in Toronto. He ended up on the disabled list and missed 13 games.

"X-rays were negative ... nothing is broke," Hamilton said. "It's so very similar to what I had in Toronto. I pinned my elbow against the ribs. Right now, it's day-to-day. Right now, it's a bruised ribcage."

Hamilton didn't crash into the wall, but hit it awkwardly.

"I went back the wall, felt the track and thought I was closer to the wall than I was," Hamilton said. "I rolled my ankle and fell into the wall rather than running into it."

Hamilton will not play Sunday. Manager Ron Washington is also planning on not playing him at least the first game in Toronto. Hamilton is also dealing with a sore right knee and the biggest concern is keeping him healthy for the rest of the season, plus the playoffs.

"I'm going to hurt," Hamilton said. "That's the way it is. If you're playing all the time, you're going to hurt. There is a difference between hurting and playing, and being injured and playing. Over the last three years I've figured out how to deal with it."

Andrus has been dealing with a tight hamstring for the last couple of days and the Rangers pulled him from Saturday's game after three innings on defense. Washington said Andrus will not play on Sunday and, like Hamilton, probably won't play on Monday in Toronto.

"I'm probably going to give both those guys a couple of days," Washington said.

Francoeur gets start against right-hander

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeff Francoeur was in the Rangers' lineup on Saturday even though the right-hander Carl Pavano was starting for the Twins. Francoeur was supposed to start on Sunday against left-hander Brian Duensing and the original plan was to start him exclusively against left-handers.

But Duensing had to be used in relief Thursday in a 13-inning game and has been pushed back in Minnesota's rotation. Right-hander Nick Blackburn is starting Sunday instead.

Manager Ron Washington did not want Francoeur, who was acquired from the Mets earlier this week, sitting around for three days and not playing, especially since the Rangers expect to see some left-handed pitching in Toronto next week. Ricky Romero is pitching Monday and Marc Rzepczynski is scheduled for Thursday.

"I decided to get Francoeur some at-bats before we go to Toronto," Washington said. "Otherwise he would have been sitting for a week. This is a chance for him to see some pitches."

The Rangers went with an outfield of Nelson Cruz in left, Josh Hamilton in center and Francoeur in right. It may be the single best throwing outfield ever for the Rangers. Francoeur is a Gold Glove winner who has been either first or second in outfield assists over in the National League for each of the past six seasons.

"I've never seen a guy stop a running game like Frenchy," veteran infielder Alex Cora said. "You talk about run prevention, with those arms, we have it."

Club still lacking pinch-runner

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers have reinforced their bench and bullpen with some September callups, but are still lacking a late-inning pinch-runner. That's one role that contenders usually address with September callups, but the Rangers have not done that.

"We're going to have to discuss that," manager Ron Washington admitted.

There are two possibilities at Triple-A in infielder Esteban German and outfielder Willy Taveras. But neither are on Texas' 40-man roster.

The Rangers used Alex Cora in the ninth inning Friday, but he was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Julio Borbon's single. Washington said he used Cora in that situation because he likes his experience.

"I felt like his experience would come into play," Washington said. "I like his aggressiveness, but you just have to make sure when you do something like that in that situation, you have to be 100 percent sure you can make it."