09/16/06 9:01 PM ET
Notes: Laird ready, willing to lay it down
Catcher leads Major Leagues in bunt singles by a backstop
By Andy Friedlander / Special to MLB.com
Bunt single ... Catcher?
OK, those two things don't go together -- unless the catcher in question is the Rangers' Gerald Laird, who on Friday night recorded his seventh bunt single of the season, the most among Major League catchers and tied for fifth among all American League batters. Since 1974, the only catcher with more in a season is Ron Karkovice, who beat out nine bunt hits for the White Sox in 1989.
"It's not anything special," Laird said. "I see the third baseman playing deep on me -- they figure I'm a catcher, so I can't run -- so I just lay it down. I know if I lay it down good, I'm going to beat it out, because I've got pretty good speed. I'm a little faster than the average catcher. I just kind of take my time and try to put the bunt down and make the third baseman make a play."
The bunts have helped in a number of ways. For one thing, it gives the stocky 6-foot-1, 225-pound catcher another way to get on base -- seven extra hits hasn't hurt his batting average, which was a healthy .319 heading into Saturday night's game against the Angels.
And a bunt can be a valuable tool when the Rangers are trailing and need men on base.
"It helps me get out of situations," said Laird, who said he has only been thrown out once or twice trying to bunt for a hit this season. "If I'm struggling with the bat a little bit, I can lay one down and feel good about myself by getting a hit.
And I always know in the back of my mind that if we need runners on, it's an easy knock if I can get it down. Like [on Friday] night, it was a tie game in the eighth, so I laid it down to try to get something going.
"I think the bunt is a huge part of baseball that gets overlooked sometimes."
Day of rest: Rookie second baseman Ian Kinsler was left out of the lineup on Saturday to give him "a mental day off as much as anything," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's been playing regularly since June. Physically, he's fine, but the whole mental grind ... It'll be good for him to have a day off."
In his place, Showalter started 39-year-old utility man Eric Young, who hadn't started since a Sept. 4 game against Oakland, his only start since joining the Rangers on Aug. 25.
And that was welcome news to Young, who greeted it with his characteristic grin.
"It's really good," Young said. "[It] gives me a chance to move around a little bit. ... You can't keep the old man down there for long. You get real, real old and can't move them bones or anything. You get stiff. Got to loosen them up a little bit."
Hurricane warning: Reserve catcher Miguel Ojeda might take some time away from the Rangers to attend to personal matters after Hurricane Lane made landfall near his home in Mazatlan in western Mexico. Showalter said Ojeda's wife, Alma, had come to Texas to be with him, but their son, Leonardo, remained behind.
"He may have to go home to his family," Showalter said. "I've got to talk to him and see what he wants to do. I wanted to play him in a game on the road. Hopefully, he can get this taken care of. Right now, he's more worried about his kid and the fact that his house is under water back there."
Blistering fastball? Right-hander Robinson Tejeda developed a small blood blister on the index finger of his pitching hand, but Showalter said it isn't likely to bother him in his next start, scheduled for Wednesday against Seattle.
The blister did, however, remind Showalter of a pet peeve: the fact that the Major Leagues use different baseballs than are used in Triple A, and pitchers who are called up so often have trouble adjusting.
"[Edinson] Volquez had the same thing," the manager said. "All these guys who come up from Triple-A talk about the difference in the baseballs. Tell me why we use a different baseball in Triple-A than we do in the big leagues.
"They all talk about it when they come up here -- the breaking balls, the blisters. It's amazing. All the guys who come up from Triple-A go through a blister period."
More to come: Showalter said he plans to play everyone on the Rangers' expanded roster before the end of the season, but he has been reluctant to make wholesale changes during the current series with the Angels because "we're trying to be fair to Oakland." The Angels came into Saturday trailing the first-place Athletics by five games in the AL West race.
Doubling up: The Rangers hit three doubles on Friday night to give them 333 for the season, breaking the franchise record of 330, set in 2000.
Entering Saturday's game, the Rangers had three players with 40 or more doubles -- Michael Young (48), Gary Matthews Jr, (43) and Mark Teixeira (41) -- while Mark DeRosa had 39. If DeRosa hits one more, the Rangers will become the first team since 1932 with four 40-double players. The only teams ever to do that are the 1929 Tigers and the 1932 Phillies.
Next up: The Rangers complete their four-game series with the Angels at 1:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Ameriquest Field. Right-hander Vicente Padilla (13-9) will face Los Angeles righty Ervin Santana (14-7).
Andy Friedlander is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.