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03/24/07 1:40 AM ET

Notes: Loe doing much better

Padilla pitches in Minor League game; Gagne gets rare start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Kameron Loe left Angel, his seven-foot boa constrictor, back in Texas. He hasn't had her wrapped around his neck since the start of Spring Training.

He was joking that was the cause of the spasms in his neck and back.

"That's it," Loe said. "I can't wait to get back home to her. That's my girl."

Loe reported significant improvement Friday and was able to do some light throwing off the mound. The Rangers are planning to start him Sunday against the Chicago White Sox in Tucson.

"He's good to go," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Loe, battling Jamey Wright and Bruce Chen for the fifth starter spot, was supposed to start Thursday against the Angels but was scratched because of the spasms that developed Wednesday. He wouldn't have pitched long anyway because that game was cut short by rain and Mike Wood pitched just one inning.

"I'm glad it happened," Loe said. "I wouldn't want to waste an outing. To tell you the truth, it worked out great. Right now I'm feeling fine. There is just the slightest bit of soreness, but once I get warmed up, I'm fine. I've got no worries."

Padilla pitches again: Vicente Padilla, who was scratched in his last start Sunday because of some elbow soreness, returned to the mound Friday and pitched five controlled innings in a Minor League intrasquad game.

He had minor soreness afterward, but the Rangers still believe he's back on track.

"I was happy with him," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "He threw the ball well. He threw 67 pitches. He could have gone further, but I didn't want him to. His command of his pitches wasn't good, but his third and fourth innings were good. He worked on his curve and change a lot. I was glad to see him get his work in without a problem."

Padilla's last start of the spring is scheduled for Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners. Connor wants to see him one more time before he's sure Padilla is ready for the start of the season.

"He really didn't pump up the intensity level," Connor said. "But I didn't want him to. That's why we pitched him in this game."

Gagne gets start: On a night of threatening weather, the Rangers let Eric Gagne start Friday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers and get his one inning of work done. It was his second appearance in an "A" game.

Rickie Weeks led off the inning with a single but was picked off by catcher Gerald Laird. Gagne then walked J.J. Hardy but struck out Kevin Mench and Bill Hall. Gagne has not started a game in the Major Leagues since Oct. 3, 2001.

"I felt fine," Gagne said. "The difference was I really pitched tonight. I could set up hitters. To me that was huge."

Spring Training
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Tejeda gets home opener: Washington confirmed that Robinson Tejeda, as the Rangers' fourth starter, will pitch the home opener April 6 against the Boston Red Sox.

"I think he will handle it well," Washington said. "He's got the stuff not to be afraid of anything. He's bubbling with confidence. With the stuff he's got, you never know, one day he'll be a No. 1 starter."

Opening Day is sold out except for season-ticket packages.

Stewart impresses: Catcher Chris Stewart, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the offseason, is pushing hard to be the No. 2 catcher. His bat (6-for-10) and game-calling have improved as the spring has progressed, and his throwing was impressive from the beginning of spring.

"His arm is a weapon," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

The Rangers have had talks with other teams about backup catchers, but Daniels said, "I expect we'll pick from one of the guys we have in camp."

He said it: "Good hitters learn from outs. Bad hitters complain about them." -- Washington

Roster moves: The Rangers have sent infielders Drew Meyer and Desi Relaford and outfielders Freddy Guzman and Victor Diaz back to the Minor Leagues. Meyer, the Rangers' first-round pick from the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, hit .381 this spring but was caught behind Jerry Hairston, Matt Kata and Ramon Vazquez in the utility infield race. Relaford never really got into the race because of a quadriceps muscle injury that has held him back most of the spring.

Briefly: Akinori Otsuka was supposed to pitch in Friday's game, but was scratched because of slight stiffness in his neck. He's scheduled to pitch on Saturday instead. ... John Rheinecker (back spasms) is expected to throw off a mound Saturday and possibly pitch in his first game Monday. ... C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit both pitched an inning in the Minor League intrasquad games and both were sharp, Connor said. ... The Rangers entered Friday's game with a .322 team batting average, the highest in spring for an American League team and the second highest in the Cactus League. The Rangers have sold pitcher Jose Vargas back to Yucatan of the Mexican League.

Up next: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy pitches for the Rangers at 3:05 p.m. CT Saturday against the Oakland Athletics. The game will be broadcast on FSN Southwest. Former Ranger Esteban Loaiza pitches for the Athletics.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.