ANAHEIM -- The Rangers are growing optimistic that Josh Hamilton, who has been sidelined with small fractures in his right rib cage, could be ready for the last few games of the regular season and postseason as well.

If so, manager Ron Washington still intends to get Hamilton back in the outfield, rather than limiting him to designated-hitter duty. That's still Vladimir Guerrero's role, and Washington wants it to be that way in the playoffs.

"I'll probably start [Hamilton] in left field," Washington said. "But I'm not sitting here and saying that I won't put him in center field. I'll put him in left field to start with, but he's a baseball player. He's going to play baseball."

Hamilton plays left when Julio Borbon is in center. But when Washington wants David Murphy in the lineup, he puts him in left and moves Hamilton center. With the way Murphy has been hitting lately, it may be difficult to keep him out of the lineup.

"I'm going to put my best lineup out there if we find ourselves in the playoffs," Washington said. "If that means Josh is in center field, he'll be in center field. If that's my best lineup.

"When I put him out there, I expect him to play. There is certainly not a blueprint on how I want him to play. He's a baseball player. He's smart. This is a competitive business. When you're out there, you play."

Scuffling Andrus puts in extra work

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers were on the field about five hours before Tuesday's game with the Angels for early batting practice, and Elvis Andrus was among them.

Early batting practice -- as opposed to the regular BP that early arriving fans get to see -- is usually for reserve players trying to stay sharp. But Andrus joined in on Tuesday.

"Have you seen my swing lately," Andrus said.

The numbers aren't good to look at either. Andrus, going into Tuesday's game, had one hit in his last 20 at-bats and was hitting .197 in his last 18 games. That is reason enough to get extra work.

"I've got a couple of things I need to work on that I've lost and need to get back," Andrus said. "Just some things I need to work on in my swing."

There have been times lately that Andrus has appeared frustrated at the plate but insisted that's not the case.

"It might look like that, but it's because I always want to be on base and help my team," Andrus said. "Things just don't go right and I really want it to happen. It's more like I want to do my job."

Andrus missed five games earlier this month with a tight right hamstring but, with the help of some days off last week, said he is fine physically.

"My body feels good," Andrus said. "Couple of weeks left, you've got to throw it out there. I can't wait until we make our goal and reality and clinch the playoffs. We need to go out and make it happen."

Francisco begins throwing program

ANAHEIM -- Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco, who has been sidelined since Aug. 28 with a strained right rib cage muscle, finally resumed his throwing program by playing catch before Tuesday's game against the Angels.

Francisco made about 25 throws without problem. The Rangers will gradually increase his distance until he starts long-tossing from 120 feet. If that goes well, he will move up to the mound.

With two weeks remaining before the playoffs, it still looks like it could be tough for Francisco to get ready in time.

"Progress will be the telling point," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I don't know what kind of setbacks he will have. We'll just stay with the process and see how it moves along."

Rapada sets new Rangers hitless record

ANAHEIM -- Rangers reliever Clay Rapada, as it turns out, set a new club record on Monday night in his one-batter relief appearance for the Rangers. Rapada, in getting Bobby Abreu on a fly to center, has now pitched 5 1/3 innings with the Rangers without giving up a hit.

That's the most hitless relief innings to start a season by a Rangers pitcher since Darold Knowles went five frames without giving up a hit in 1977. So, the question is if nine hitless relief innings constitutes a no-hitter.

"I would say no," Rapada opined. "It's not a nine-inning game."

He could at least try.

"Yeah, why not," Rapada said. "Let's give them something to talk about."

Rapada already has. He is a left-handed sidearming reliever whose Major League season began when he was called up to the Rangers in September. Texas wanted a left-handed relief specialist who could get out left-handed hitters.

He has done that. So far, lefties are 0-for-13 with two strikeouts. Right-handed hitters are 0-for-3.

He is making the Rangers wonder if he should be on their postseason roster. It will likely come down to one of the last spots in the bullpen and if the Rangers want a power left-handed arm with some length -- Michael Kirkman or Derek Holland -- or a highly effective specialist like Rapada.

"Everybody in this locker room would like to be playing after Oct. 3," Rapada said. "We're all competitors and we all want to be a part of the roster. It would be another reward for my season."

Worth noting

Rangers manager Ron Washington likes what he has seen from Chris Davis since his return to the big leagues, saying, "He's acting more mature and working awfully hard. The one thing I've noticed is he's been very patient at the plate. He has been getting some good hacks." ... The Rangers had gone 209 pinch-hit at-bats without a home run before Davis went deep as a pinch-hitter on Monday night. ... David Murphy's .397 average in September is the second-highest mark in the American League.