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05/19/07 7:40 PM ET

Notes: Hairston placed on DL

Utility man nursing pinched nerve in right side of neck

HOUSTON -- The Rangers have placed utility man Jerry Hairston on the disabled list to make room for pitcher John Koronka, their starter for Saturday night's game against the Houston Astros.

The Rangers are planning to send Koronka back to Triple-A Oklahoma after Saturday's game and call up reliever Wes Littleton. Then they will activate Frank Catalanotto off the disabled list on Monday.

The Rangers had hoped to hold off putting Hairston on the disabled list. sBut they had to add Koronka and they didn't want to send down a position player. That would have left manager Ron Washington with a short bench against the Astros.

Hairston is back in Arlington with a pinched nerve in the right side of his neck and has been unavailable during the three-game series with the Astros.

"Hopefully, Jerry will be up and running soon," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "But the nature of the injury, we didn't want to rush him back."

Catalanotto, on the disabled list with acute biceps tendinitis in his right arm, was 2-for-7 in his first two games on medical rehabilitation assignment at Oklahoma and has resumed throwing again.

"He made 30 throws [on Friday] and the arm feels better than it has been," Washington said. "The first couple of days, I'm not going to put him back in the outfield. I'm going to DH him and see what the arm is like. After that, we'll get him back in the outfield."

Metcalf ready: Travis Metcalf went right into the lineup Saturday, making his Major League debut against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros. Washington's plan is to start Metcalf against left-handed pitchers and select right-handers. He has both Ramon Vazquez and Matt Kata to keep from over-exposing Metcalf.

"The kid's got game," Washington said. "If they throw it over the plate, he just needs to swing at it and hit it. If they hit the ball to him, he just needs to catch it and throw it."

Metcalf was called up because Hank Blalock is undergoing shoulder surgery on Monday and will be out 10-12 weeks.

"It's a great opportunity," Metcalf said. "When I got the call, I was very surprised and overwhelmed. I'm not sure if I'm going to be here a day, a month or 10 years. I'm just coming up here to help this team get some wins, get my first at-bats and relax in a place where I want to be for awhile.

"It's not about me and it's not about Hank Blalock. I hope Hank recovers as quickly as possible. I don't want him to be out longer than possible. But there's a spot open, they brought me up to help the team and that's what I'm going to do."

Encarnacion has possibilities: If the Rangers decide to look outside the organization for a third baseman, Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion could be the best possibility. Major League officials said he is the one third baseman on the market who appeals to the Rangers.

Encarnacion, who was originally the Rangers' property before being traded to Cincinnati in 2000, hit .276 with 17 home runs and 72 RBIs in 406 at-bats last year. But he was hitting just .218 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 31 games this year when he was sent back to Triple-A Louisville. The Reds wanted to put Ryan Freel at third base, so Josh Hamilton could play regularly in the outfield. Encarnacion also has some defensive issues.

The Reds could use help in their bullpen as they struggle to get out of last place in the National League Central.

Wright, Millwood watch: Kevin Millwood, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, played catch off the mound on Saturday and is hoping to get clearance soon to throw off the mound again. He still has some soreness in the hamstring but it's isolated in one spot.

Jamey Wright and Ron Mahay have been sent to Surprise, Ariz., to continue throwing. Wright will start on Monday and throw 45 pitches over three innings in an extended Spring Training game. He'll pitch every fifth day from that point on, adding 15 pitches for every outing.

John Rheinecker is down in extended Spring Training and threw three shutout innings on Saturday. He is a couple of outings away from being assigned to a Minor League team.

He said it: "It's so sad, Blalock is one of the thunder in our lineup. But when things don't go right, you just have to keep fighting." -- Sammy Sosa, on the loss of Blalock

Friday Minor Stars: Top performances from the Rangers' Minor League teams on Friday:

Gold: Oklahoma's Jason Botts was 3-for-4, scored three runs and drove in five in the RedHawks' 9-3 victory over Iowa. He had a three-run home run among his three-hits.

Silver: Emerson Frostad hit a three-run home run in the top of the 13th inning to give the Double-A Frisco Roughriders a 6-3 victory over San Antonio.

Bronze: Glenn Swanson allowed one hit in seven innings and earned his victory for Class A Bakersfield in a 7-4 win over Stockton.

Briefly: The Rangers have put Triple-A Oklahoma pitcher Josh Rupe on the disabled list with elbow soreness and promoted pitcher Armando Galarraga from Double-A Frisco to take his place. ... Kenny Lofton was out of the lineup for the third time in four games with a left-hander on the mound for the opposing team. Said Washington: "It's just some of the left-handers we've faced, I want to get the right-handers in there. There will be times when he's out there against left-handers."

Up next: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy pitches for the Rangers in the finale of their three-game series with the Houston Astros at 1:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Woody Williams pitches for the Astros.

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