ANAHEIM -- A rundown of the state of the Texas relief corps:
Frank Francisco, on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right rib cage, played catch for the second straight day at 90 feet on Wednesday. The Rangers still have hope that he might be able to be ready for the playoffs."It's going to be tight time-wise," general manager Jon Daniels said, "but we're not ruling it out. The biggest thing is he feels good." Closer Neftali Feliz hasn't pitched in a week and hasn't had a save in 10 days. Darren O'Day hasn't pitched since Sept. 10. He has been dealing with some back issues but threw a bullpen session on Wednesday in Anaheim. "He's been available a couple of times but [manager Ron Washington] wants to be cautious with him," Daniels said.
Andrus, Cruz, Moreland get a breather
ANAHEIM -- Rangers manager Ron Washington, with his offense struggling, made three significant changes to the lineup on Wednesday, giving shortstop Elvis Andrus, outfielder Nelson Cruz and first baseman Mitch Moreland a night off.Washington decided to go with Andres Blanco at shortstop, Chris Davis at first base and Jeff Francoeur in right field. Francoeur normally starts only against left-handers, but Washington wanted to give Cruz a day off. Cruz was 0-for-3 in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Angels, snapping a 12-game hitting streak. This was his first time he hasn't started since being activated off the disabled list on Aug. 30, and Washington felt it was time. He felt the same way about Andrus, who had a bunt single in four at-bats on Tuesday but still has just two hits in his last 24 at-bats. Washington also thought he was looking a step slow in the field and decided to give him a breather. Andrus at first joked he never needs a day off but added, "They're good. They are always good. It gives me a chance to take a break with my mind and my body. But if they need me to play -- pinch-run or pinch-hit -- I'll be ready to go." The Rangers were shut out on Tuesday for only the fourth time this season, leaving them with a .171 batting average with 12 runs scored in the first five games of this road trip. Third baseman Michael Young said it's a combination of the Rangers facing good pitching and not getting the job done offensively. Young said he didn't think the Rangers were pressing too much trying to get the division clinched. "No, not at all," Young said. "If we go out and stick to our approach, we're going to get results. This team has done a good job all year of not pressing. We ran into a rough stretch [on the last road trip], but we got it together. "We've run into some good pitching on this trip but we have to take responsibility for our offense. The guys we've faced have thrown the ball well, but our job is to find a way to push runs across. We know we have the capability of scoring runs against anybody. That's what we're focused on."
Moreland to sit for four games
ANAHEIM -- Chris Davis started at first base for the Rangers on Wednesday. It was his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sept. 15. Mitch Moreland was 4-for-24 with 10 strikeouts in his last seven games, so manager Ron Washington decided to give him a day off."It looks like the game is moving a little fast for him right now," Washington said, referring to Moreland. "I want to give him a chance to gather himself and a chance for Chris to get a game." Moreland has been the Rangers' left-handed-hitting first baseman since being recalled from Oklahoma City on July 29. Davis had the role prior to that. The question now is if he'll get a chance to regain that role. "That's not anything I've thought about yet," Washington said. "I made the move today. I've had no more thought process about it. I can't answer that with any certainty." Neither will start the next three games. The Rangers will face three left-handers in the first three games in Oakland, and Washington said Jorge Cantu will start at first base. The Rangers acquired Cantu at the Trade Deadline to be their right-handed-hitting first baseman, and they are committed to that even though he is hitting .206 with no home runs or RBIs since he arrived. "It's a commitment to our team," Washington said. "We brought him in here for a purpose. Now he gets an opportunity to get his bat together. We know what he can do, this is an opportunity for him to do that."
Hamilton aiming for final weekend of season
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton rode the stationary bicycle for 20 minutes and did some light exercises on Wednesday, one day after receiving anti-inflammatory and nerve-deadening injections to help with the pain and discomfort from two small fractures in his right rib cage.Dr. Robert Watkins wanted Hamilton to have one more light day of work on Wednesday while letting the injections do their work. "It's just day-to-day," Hamilton said. "Dr. Watkins wanted me to get one more day of limited exercise. After that, it will be to the limits of my tolerance." Hamilton said he is still at least a couple of days away from resuming baseball activities, including swinging a bat. "My goal right now is I'm looking for the last three games of the year," Hamilton said. "That's reasonable, but that's still a fast ramp-up. Again, it's day-to-day. If it feels like it's making me go backward, we'll back off. But there is a bunch of stuff I have to do before I do baseball stuff." Three games would give him 12-15 at-bats to get ready for postseason. He's not sure if that will be enough for postseason. "I'd be lying if I said I knew, but I don't know," Hamilton said. "Baseball is such a strange game. I could come back regular or not in a groove. It's just one way or another."
Hunter: Clinching is not easy
ANAHEIM -- The Rangers, with four losses in their last five games going into Wednesday's game, are stumbling just a little bit going to the finish line. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter says that might be expected.Hunter has been in postseason six times in his career with the Twins and Angels, and he knows how tough it can be to clinch a division. "It's tough to clinch," Hunter said. "I know. I've been there. You have the lead and you're so close, and you're playing teams that are loose. Guys are playing for jobs and raises, trying to make an impression on the manager. They've got incentives, too. And they don't want you to clinch against them, especially if they're at home. "This is when you have to fight through it, just find a way to get it done. But it's not easy. When you start throwing champagne in your face, you can relax. Then you want to get three or four days before the playoffs to get playoff at-bats, to get yourself ready. But until you clinch, you can't really relax -- and that's the advantage the other teams have that are eliminated. They're playing free, without any worries."
Saturday's game to be televised
ANAHEIM -- Saturday's game against the Athletics will be television back in North Texas on KDFW Ch. 4. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT.
The game was originally not going to be broadcast but has been added because there is a possibility the Rangers could clinch the division that day. Other FOX affiliates in Texas-Oklahoma and parts of Louisiana could pick up the game as well.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.