ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-handed reliever Frank Francisco, sidelined with a strained muscle in his right rib cage, will not be ready for the first round of the playoffs. Right-hander Mark Lowe, who was activated off the disabled list Wednesday, is emerging as a possible candidate to replace him.Francisco, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 28, had an MRI on Tuesday, and the results showed some improvement but not enough to get him back on the mound immediately. Dr. Keith Meister advised the Rangers to continue to be cautious with him. Francisco has been limited to flat ground since resuming a throwing program eight days ago. He will likely spend the first round of the playoffs continuing his throwing program in Arizona. "We'll see if he's ready for the second round," manager Ron Washington said. Texas wants to see if Lowe is ready for the first round. The Rangers are going to pitch him on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to see if he can be an option for their bullpen. "He's gotten rookie leaguers and some A-ballers out, let's see if he can get some big leaguers out," Washington said. "We want to take a look at his stuff and see how he's recovered. He's been cleared to pitch. We have an opportunity to look at him and we want to do that." Lowe began the season with the Mariners and was 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 games with a back problem. He underwent surgery on June 15 to repair a lumbar disc herniation and then was acquired by the Rangers on July 9 as a second player in a trade for pitcher Cliff Lee. He has been throwing in Arizona and has made two appearances in Instructional League games. Physically, he has had no problems or setbacks with the back. "I haven't thought about my back in months," Lowe said. "After three weeks out of surgery, I was feeling better than I ever have. My stuff is good. I've felt great. The ball is coming out nice and easy. My mechanics are good. I think I can go out and compete." He did so in 2009, when he emerged as a front-line right-handed setup reliever for the Mariners. He was 2-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 80 innings. He allowed 71 hits and 29 walks while striking out 69. His average fastball over the past two years has been 96 mph, putting him in the same class as fellow Texas relievers Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz. He also has excellent movement when right, with a heavy sinker that bores in on right-handed hitters. "During his rehab stints, he was hitting 96 [mph] -- and that was in his first rehab assignment, so stuff-wise, he will be really close to what he's all about," Mariners bullpen coach John Wetteland said. "More than that, he's just a consummate bullpen fit, that kind of piece. He's a character, very level-headed, things don't seem to rattle him, he's very grounded in his routine. [The Rangers] are going to be tough. It's a 'pen full of pretty strong arms. He will be a nice addition for them." The Rangers want to see if that's sooner than later.
Texas' Andrus gets extra time off
ARLINGTON -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus was out of the Rangers' starting lineup Wednesday, giving him back-to-back days off as manager Ron Washington tries to get his second-year star ready for next week's playoffs.
Andrus said he is fine health-wise, and he welcomes the chance to rest up for next Wednesday's American League Division Series.
"It's what I need right now," Andrus said. "I want to get my body ready. I'm feeling it a little bit. I'm not as explosive as I usually am. I want to be 100-percent explosive."
Andrus has struggled at the plate down the stretch, with four hits in his past 41 at-bats. He is batting .155 with a .221 on base percentage for September.
But Washington said his bigger concern is Andrus' range on defense. Both the manager and Andrus said his range has been impacted late in the season by fatigue as the Rangers pushed to wrap up the AL West title.
"He's more important to us on defense than on offense," Washington said. "Where he brings presence for us is on defense, and that's what has been missing down the stretch."The thing is to get him refreshed and get his legs back underneath him. I'm not worried about his offense. I see the way he has been moving defensively. He hasn't been quick, he really hasn't been moving. Physically, he's fine. He just needs to get his legs under him."
The Rangers entered Wednesday having played seven consecutive games without an error, the longest such streak this season and their longest in over two seasons. ... Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero had a second straight day off Wednesday. Outfielder Nelson Cruz also had the day off as manager Ron Washington rests his regulars before the playoffs start next week. ... Chris Davis and Mitch Moreland, thought to be competing for a playoff roster spot, both had Wednesday's game off. ... Washington said he wants to start playing his regulars again this weekend in preparation for the playoffs.
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.