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03/29/07 7:15 PM ET

Notes: Rangers really need Loe in 'pen

Right-hander likely will be used in important late-inning role

ARLINGTON -- There is a good reason why the Rangers have put Kameron Loe in the bullpen.

They really need him there, especially now that Eric Gagne will start the season on the disabled list and Akinori Otsuka will be the closer. Loe wants to be in the starting rotation, but he likely will be used in the crucial seventh and eighth innings to help make up for the loss of Gagne.

"They told me I was in a more valuable position in the bullpen and that's where I can help the club the most," Loe said. "I may get more innings out of the bullpen than the starting rotation. I'm just glad I'm breaking with the team and will be there on Opening Day, and I'm excited about being in the Major Leagues again."

Right now, the Rangers' Opening Day bullpen includes Otsuka, Loe, right-handers Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman and left-handers C.J. Wilson and Ron Mahay. If the Rangers stick to their plan of opening with an eight-man bullpen, the final two spots will go to Bruce Chen and Mike Wood.

If so, Texas would be left to choose between infielder Matt Kata and outfielder Marlon Byrd for the final spot on the bench. The other option would be to go with seven relievers and keep both Kata and Byrd.

"We haven't decided that yet," manager Ron Washington said.

Kata has had one of the best camps of any player. He was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple on Thursday, and he is hitting .396 on the spring.

Wood also has had a terrific spring, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He has not allowed a run in his last 11 2/3 innings.

The Rangers also haven't named a backup catcher. They like Miguel Ojeda's experience, but Chris Stewart has come on strong this camp. Stewart is 9-for-19 at the plate, has improved his game calling and receiving over the course of the spring and has impressed with his throwing ability.

Out of Arizona: The Rangers left Arizona with a three-game losing streak, but they saw three positive developments in a 7-5 loss to the Royals on Thursday.

Sammy Sosa, after missing three games because of stomach flu, returned to the lineup and hit his fifth home run of the spring.

"He looked strong," Washington said. "Of all his at-bats today, the best was his walk after he got behind, two strikes."

Brandon McCarthy finished the spring strong, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings. His only big mistake was a fastball that Mike Sweeney crushed for a two-run home run in the sixth.

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"He tried to sneak the cheese by the rat," Washington said. "Not many are going to sneak the cheese by him, especially when he's healthy."

Otherwise, McCarthy said: "I felt a lot better today. Everything was right there where I needed it. It was definitely a positive way to go into the season. Now I just need to get in there and have everything on the line with each pitch. It will be fun when the games mean something and there's intensity with each pitch."

Also, Wilson and Mahay combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Roster moves: The Rangers continue to whittle down their roster.

Joaquin Arias and John Rheinecker (back) both were placed on the disabled list to start the season. Arias has been bothered by a sore right shoulder all spring, but he officially was placed on the disabled list because of his infected right finger. When he is healthy, he will play regularly at shortstop at Triple-A Oklahoma.

Outfielder Jason Botts and infielder Ramon Vazquez have been sent to Triple-A. Botts will continue to play left field down there.

Pitcher Francisco Cruceta has been taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to Oklahoma.

Feldman fine: Feldman threw on the side Thursday and had no trouble with a bruise on the triceps muscle of his right arm. Feldman was whacked by a line drive in Wednesday's game against the Mariners.

"I'm lucky it didn't hit the elbow," Feldman said. "I felt great today."

Landing at home: This time the Rangers are coming home to Arlington, not DFW or Dallas Love Field.

For the first time in franchise history, the Rangers will return from Spring Training and have their plane land at the Arlington Municipal Airport. The Rangers' Boeing 727-200 jet is expected to arrive at approximately 9 p.m. CT.

Over 700 ticket holders are expected to attend a soldout event that starts with a Welcome Home barbecue at 7:30 p.m. in the Harrison Aviation hangar. The event is being made possible by the recent improvements to the Arlington Municipal Airport, a full-service general aviation facility.

He said it: "I'm excited to be a part of this. I think I'll be a big help to this team and it will be a huge season." -- Rangers pitcher Jamey Wright

Up next: The Rangers return to Texas to play the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Right-hander Robinson Tejeda will pitch against Milwaukee righty Jeff Suppan. The game will be broadcast by KRLD 1080-AM.

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