ARLINGTON -- The Rangers gave Tommy Hunter an early birthday present on Friday, calling him up from a lengthy rehabilitation stint two days before his 25th birthday.

"First things first, he's healthy and has been for some time," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

Even though Hunter has been a starter for his entire professional career, he was a closer for Alabama in college. He has been pitching exclusively out of the bullpen since June 22.

"We're looking at Tommy as part of the 'pen right now," Daniels said. "His stuff really played up out of the bullpen in Triple-A [Round Rock], similar to how it did [before]. We're going to see how it continues. He's going to have a chance to prove himself in that role, and see if he can be part of a winning formula for [manager] Ron [Washington's] bullpen."

Hunter's fastball touched 97 mph on Thursday for Round Rock, and he collected the save by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.

  • 131 wins
  • 121 wins

"It was fun," Hunter said of the opportunity to close. "You throw it as hard as you can, hope it goes over the plate, hope the umpire calls it a strike, and hope they don't hit it."

For his part, Washington doesn't know how Hunter will fit into the bullpen. His lack of experience in a relief role serves as a blank slate from which Washington can work.

"Whichever way I deem necessary," Washington said on how Hunter will be used. "If I need him to take us from start to finish and get to the back of the bullpen, he'll do that. If I need him right now to get us some outs in the eighth inning, I won't hesitate to do that. We'll just see."

Even though the Rangers designated long reliever Dave Bush for assignment, that does not necessarily mean that Hunter will be utilized as the long man.

"We've still got [Michael] Kirkman," Washington said. "[Yoshinori Tateyama] can give us three if we need three."

Even though Hunter didn't appear in back-to-back games out of the bullpen on his rehab stint and pitched Thursday, Washington said he was available to pitch Friday.

"There's a chance. He has to do it sometime. That's certainly something we talked about, that he hadn't gone back-to-back."

Rehabbing O'Day could be back by Sunday

ARLINGTON -- Darren O'Day pitched two innings for Triple-A Round Rock in Nashville on Thursday, and the reliever tabbed his return date as "very soon."

Rangers manager Ron Washington seemed to suggest that in all likelihood, O'Day -- who is recovering from hip surgery -- would be back either on Saturday or Sunday.

"He threw pretty good [Thursday]," Washington said. "Maybe we might see him sometime this weekend. I don't know. But the weekend doesn't end until Sunday. I'm not willing to say my plan yet."

O'Day also pitched on Wednesday, so he simply may not be available to pitch on Friday, thus making any potential roster move premature.

O'Day has been a workhorse out of the bullpen for the Rangers for the last two years, logging 64 and 72 appearances, respectively.

The Texas bullpen owned the third-highest ERA in the American League entering Friday, and it was tied for the most losses in the league, which has O'Day chomping at the bit to get back.

"It's been tough, because I couldn't be here to help," O'Day said. "The right move was to get healthy, because if I was struggling, I wouldn't be helping. I know these guys are good pitchers, and I think we're starting to get things figured out."

Fans can get taste of Wilson's other passion

ARLINGTON -- For Friday and Saturday's games, C.J. Wilson's two passions -- baseball and car racing -- will intersect at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Wilson's racing trailer and Mazda Miata are between the first and home-plate gates for Rangers fans to check out. Fans will also be able to pick up a C.J. Wilson Racing shirt, the proceeds of which will benefit C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities.

The left-hander also thinks racing could be a future career for him.

"We'll see what the future holds," Wilson said. "The window for driving is a lot longer than the window for pitching. So when I'm done with baseball, that will be something I will be able to attack with my intense preparation skills."

Along with being a pitcher for the Rangers, Wilson also owns C.J. Wilson Racing. He said the move, made earlier this year, was a short leap.

"It really wasn't that big of a jump," Wilson said. "I already owned my own cars, so it was really just buying a rig. The hardest thing was making the logo. It's the logo I use for my charity stuff anyways, but I had a lot of help."

The cars are available to be viewed from 3-8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Rangers hope to make noise on homestand

ARLINGTON -- One game past the halfway point of the 2011 season, the Rangers are hoping to improve on their 43-39 mark over the course of a 10-game homestand that began with Friday's contest against the Marlins.

The homestand dovetails with the All-Star Break, so Texas players who are not chosen by Rangers -- and American League All-Star -- manager Ron Washington stand to have nearly two weeks in the comfort of their own homes.

"Hopefully we can get some momentum leading into the second half," Michael Young said. "We always play well in our own park, and we played good ball in Houston, so I think it's important to us to get some momentum."

With the calendar turning to July, the Rangers are in first place in the AL West, despite some uneven play, particularly away from Arlington.

"We've spent a lot of the first half on the road, had a lot of road trips, and we've been alright," Young said. "Hopefully we can take advantage of the time at home."

Worth noting

• Rangers prospect Neil Ramirez was placed on the Triple-A Round Rock disabled list with right-shoulder fatigue.

• 30-year-old Rangers farmhand Brian Barden left the organization using a July 1 opt-out clause that was written into his contract. He batted .357 for Round Rock, and had been named a starter in the Triple-A All-Star Game.

• Michael Young entered Friday's game with an eight-game home hit streak.

• Texas has won eight of its last 13 games against National League opponents.