Rangers actively looking to improve bullpen
Club likes what newcomers Kirkman, Tateyama bring
MINNEAPOLIS -- The First-Year Player Draft is over and the non-waiver Trade Deadline is the next marquee event for a team's front office. The Rangers' hope is to improve their relief corps."The focus of our team is to solidify the bullpen," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said before Saturday's game with the Twins. "We have tried a number of different combinations and now we feel some guys in the bullpen are gaining some momentum. But that has been our focus coming out of Spring Training, getting a seven-man unit gelling and returning to the form we had in 2010." Rangers relievers went into Saturday's game with a record of 7-14 with a 4.26 ERA -- the fifth-highest in the American League. The two hurlers gaining momentum are right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama and left-hander Michael Kirkman. Kirkman has a 2.70 ERA in five games since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, while Tateyama has a 2.89 ERA. "I like what they have started to do," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "Tateyama has come in aggressive and thrown the ball in the strike zone. He gives them a different look. Kirkman has got great velocity on his fastball and a swing-and-miss breaking ball. The key with Kirkman is consistently hitting the strike zone." Tateyama could give the Rangers another right-handed setup reliever to go with Mark Lowe in the late innings. Kirkman is being used in middle relief, while Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are the Rangers' late-inning left-handed options. The biggest concern with Rhodes is that he is struggling to get right-handed hitters out. Left-handed hitters are batting .208 off him, while right-handers are hitting .371. Right now, Rhodes will be used as a situational left-hander and is likely to be used only against left-handed hitters. The Rangers could be searching for both left-handed and right-handed relief as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches -- July 31 at 3 p.m. CT -- and they are in conversations with multiple teams. "What you find is it's very challenging to make a trade in June," Levine said. "Teams are still hopeful of contending in 2011 and it is very difficult for a team to trade a winning piece and send a message of concession in July. At this point, you'll see more conversations and movement in July when teams have a better feel for the landscape."
Kinsler returns, hopes to solve road woes
MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Ian Kinsler was back with the Rangers and in the lineup on Saturday afternoon after missing three games on paternity leave. His wife, Tess, gave birth to son Jack on Wednesday."Awesome ... everyone is healthy, everyone is fine," Kinsler said. Chris Davis was optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock before the game against the Twins. Kinsler is back just in time for the final eight games of a 10-game roadtrip. He does so with one of the most extreme splits that can be found in baseball. Kinsler is hitting .333 at the Ballpark in Arlington and .123 on the road. His home batting average, going into Saturday's action, was the 11th-highest in the Major Leagues. The .123 road batting average was the lowest. Dan Uggla of the Braves had the second-lowest at .159. "Pretty bizarre," Kinsler said. "My wife has been pregnant all year, that's the only thing I can think of. My wife being pregnant before has been no problem. I don't know what it is. It has been a weird year on the road. Being with your family at home is easier, but between the lines, it has no effect." Manager Ron Washington had a suggestion. "Should we stop playing him on the road?" Washington joked. "I don't have an answer. He's no dumb kid. He'll figure it out." Kinsler is hitting .235 overall, but he leads the team in walks and has a .356 on-base percentage entering Saturday -- matching his career on-base percentage coming into the season. The 38 walks and his 40 runs scored are both tied for seventh-best in the American League. "What I'm hoping for is the days off he had will rejuventate him," Washington said. "I don't think having a paternity leave will fix anything, but I'm hoping the days off rejuventate him ... make him stop getting underneath the ball and stay on top of it."
Double-A outfielder Martin placed on DL
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers have placed outfielder Leonys Martin on the disabled list at Double-A Frisco with a slightly herniated disk in his back. Martin will likely be down for seven to 10 days before being allowed to resume baseball activities."Talking to our medical staff, they say it's a minor herniation and it should be a 7-10 day window," said Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine. "The way he plays the game, he's a high-intensity player. He didn't have much of a Spring Training, so to think he would not come out of it with some bumps and bruises was not realistic." Martin, who defected from Cuba last year, was signed to a $15.5 million contract earlier this season and was hitting .357 with 19 runs scored, three home runs and 18 RBIs in 22 games at Frisco. He has eight stolen bases, a .444 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage.
Rangers doing some things right on defense
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers made it through Friday's rain-soaked game without making an error on defense. They had committed six in their six previous games and still have 50 on the season, the most by any team in the American League. They are also ranked last in team defense."We are better than the numbers say," said manager Ron Washington. "Sometimes you put yourself in a hole and don't dig yourself out as fast as you would like. There are teams in front of us who play good defense, and there are teams in front of us who are not as good as we are. "Hopefully before the year is out, we'll get out of there." The Rangers have done some things well defensively. The club still leads the AL with 78 double plays, five more than the next team. Texas catchers are second in the league in throwing out base-stealers. The Orioles have thrown out 35.6 percent, while the Rangers are second at 33.3 percent.
With C.J. Wilson's victory on Friday, Rangers starters now have 29 wins. That is tied with the Phillies for the most in the Major Leagues. Scott Feldman (knee surgery) is scheduled to pitch three to four innings on a medical rehab assignment Saturday at Double-A Frisco. The Rangers released pitcher Michael Thomas from the Minor Leagues. One of three acquired from the Red Sox in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade on July 31, the Rangers tried to convert him from a catcher to a pitcher.
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.