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04/20/07 6:46 PM ET

Notes: Wilkerson out with sore knee

Outfielder replaced in Friday's game by Cruz

ARLINGTON -- Brad Wilkerson was scratched from the Rangers' original lineup on Friday because of more soreness in his left knee.

Wilkerson, who had a cortisone injection on Wednesday, came to the ballpark feeling good enough to play and had no problems during batting practice. But then he went through his stretching exercises and the knee grabbed at him again.

"Usually it takes three days for a cortisone injection to take effect," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "[Friday] was just the second full day, so hopefully tomorrow we'll see more improvement."

Wilkerson has missed three straight games and probably won't play on Saturday with left-hander Joe Kennedy on the mound, although he is 2-for-3 against lefties this season. Nelson Cruz started on Friday.

The Rangers are still saying that the soreness in Wilkerson's knee is not that serious and they are not considering the possibility of putting him on the disabled list.

"The trainers haven't indicated to me that it's serious," Daniels said. "So I'm not looking at it that way."

Daniels said the injury is similar to what Mark Teixeira went through in Spring Training.

Tight division: The Rangers went into Friday's game in last place in the American League West. But they were tied with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they were only two games behind Oakland.

That's the closest to first place of any last place team in any division. Washington, Philadelphia and Kansas City were all six games back. Rangers shortstop Michael Young said he expects the A.L. West to be tight all year.

"We're sitting here hitting (.217) as a team, and that won't last," Young said. "There have been a couple of key injuries on other teams around the division, but I still think it's going to be that close. The team that gets hot and plays the most consistent baseball will be the last one standing. Hopefully that will be us."

The Rangers haven't been hot yet. They have not been above .500 and they are the only one of four teams who hasn't been in first place.

Wright better: Pitcher Jamey Wright said his shoulder is feeling much better, but he has not begun his throwing program. He did some light throwing before Friday's game and said he still felt a little discomfort.

"I still feel it a little bit but it feels a lot better," Wright said. "We just want to let the inflammation get out of there, let it rest and let it heal."

Kameron Loe pitches in Wright's spot and the Rangers expect him to make at least three starts.

Washington sticks with Laird: Manager Ron Washington had Gerald Laird back in the lineup on Friday. Laird was hitting .132 going into Friday's start while Chris Stewart was 3-for-9 in his three starts, but that hasn't changed anybody's roles.

"Gerald is my guy," Washington said. "Gerald has always been my guy."

As for Stewart, Washington said, "I'll try to get him in there whenever I can. Every time he has had the opportunity, he has done a very good job. When I feel like playing him, I will. It could be twice a week, it could be once."

He said it: "That's the kind of situation that makes baseball fun. I'll learn from it and next time out make better pitches." -- Reliever Scott Feldman, the losing pitcher in Thursday's 6-3 loss to the White Sox.

Thursday's Minor Stars: Top performances from the Rangers Minor League teams on Thursday.

Gold: Class A Clinton pitchers Zach Phillips, Brennan Garr and Jonathan Hollis combined on a four-hitter in a 3-0 victory over West Michigan. They walked eight but struck out 11.

Silver: Triple-A Oklahoma pitcher Alfredo Simon allowed three runs on three hits, walked two, and struck out five over seven innings in a 3-1 loss to Nashville.

Bronze: Marlon Byrd went 3-for-4 with a triple for Oklahoma and is now hitting .358.

Briefly: Washington said he's pulling for the Dallas Mavericks over the Golden State Warriors in their NBA playoff series. But if he was still with the Oakland Athletics, Washington laughed and said, "I would have had Golden State." ... Kenny Lofton was presented with the bag that he stole for his 600th career stolen base on Opening Day in Anaheim. ... All-Star voting began at the Ballpark on Friday. ... The Rangers went into Friday's game hitting .317 with runners in scoring position, highest in the American League.

Up next: Right-hander Kameron Loe returns to the rotation and pitches against the Oakland Athletics at 7:05 p.m. CT Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Left-hander Joe Kennedy pitches for the Athletics and there will be fireworks after the game.

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