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04/01/07 12:43 AM ET
Notes: Rangers finalize 25-man roster
Kata, Stewart, Chen and Wood earn team's final spots
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Infielder Matt Kata, catcher Chris Stewart and pitchers Bruce Chen and Mike Wood have all won spots on the Rangers' Opening Day roster. Kata won a job as the utility infielder after hitting .382 for the spring and beating out Marlon Byrd for the last spot on the bench. "I feel like Willie Mays Hayes in the movie 'Major League,'" Kata said. "It was a great spring from Day 1. When I signed with these guys, they said the opportunity was going to be there. As a player, that's all you want. I knew I had to battle and compete. ... It's a good feeling." Byrd hit .314 but struggled defensively, and that worked against him. He has been designated for assignment, meaning the Rangers have 10 days to trade him, release him or get him through outright waivers. "At the end he was playing really well," manager Ron Washington said. "Matt Kata is what happened. This guy had a super spring. He pounced on it from the beginning to the end and never had a hiccup. It was a matter of making a decision and Matt won out." Byrd was signed to be the backup center fielder to Kenny Lofton, but that job will likely go to Jerry Hairston Jr., who hit .377 this spring. "Obviously, Kenny has been a great center fielder for a long time," Hairston said. "I'm going to do anything I can to help him out. I pride myself as a defender, and I think I've come a long way playing center field." Stewart was another upset winner. Miguel Ojeda had the inside track at backup catcher, but Stewart was impressive with his throwing from the beginning. He improved his pitch-calling and he hit .450 for the spring. "Overwhelming," Stewart said. "It's awesome." Ojeda was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma while Guillermo Quiroz was designated for assignment. Chen and Wood won the last two spots in the bullpen. Chen agreed to a reworking of his contract and has told the Rangers he would accept an outright assignment to Oklahoma if it comes to that later in the season. The Rangers still have to open up two spots when Eric Gagne and Jamey Wright are added to the 25-man roster later this month. But Washington said it was not preordained as to who would be dropped when that happened. "It's all predicated on performance and who best suits what we're trying to accomplish," Washington said. Wood earned his spot on the roster with a 1.29 ERA in six outings this spring. Pitcher Ezequiel Astacio was designated for assignment, while pitcher Francisco Cruceta and infielder Adam Fox were outrighted to the Minor Leagues. Tejeda finishes strong: The Rangers had some unsettling moments with their starting rotation in the final week of Spring Training, but ended it on the best note possible.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.