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07/23/07 1:59 AM ET

Tejeda falls flat in finale

Right-hander allows three earned runs over five innings

ARLINGTON -- Robinson Tejeda stood at his locker and spoke softly after an 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday night, the disappointment and frustration evident in his voice.

He knows how long it has been since he won a game, he knows what the problems are and he knows he's not the pitcher that he was in April. Those seven shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in the home opener are an increasingly distant memory.

The biggest question right now is when he will take the mound again. Nobody knows that for sure but it could be awhile.

"I'm trying to stay in the game but it's hard right now," Tejeda said. "The last eight starts or something like that I can't get a win and I can't go deep in the game the way I want. But I want to get better and make this thing stop and try to win a game. It's difficult."

Tejeda made it through five innings but allowed five runs, five hits and five walks. He left trailing 5-0 and the Rangers lost for the third time in four games to the Indians.

"It was more disappointing than frustrating," outfielder Marlon Byrd said after going 3-for-4 with a triple. "Looking at their team, and looking at our team, I thought we were a better team. Going into this series, I thought we were going to win."

The Rangers not only lost the game but also catcher Gerald Laird, at least for a couple of games. He left in the second inning after getting hit by a pitch on his left hand. X-rays were negative but Laird will not play on Monday. The Rangers are hoping he'll be back in the lineup for the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners.

"It's just a bad bruise," Laird said. "Thank God it's not on my throwing hand. I can barely squeeze the ball [with my glove on]. I was just praying it wasn't broken so I didn't have to go on the DL like a couple years ago. I'll be ready to play in a few days."

Tejeda's next start is also unknown and his own troubles on the mound are just part of the problem. There are other factors to be considered.

The Rangers must call up John Rheinecker on Tuesday and Tejeda is a prime candidate to be dropped. That's because the Rangers are off on Thursday and next Monday, meaning they won't need a fifth starter until Aug. 4 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tejeda, 5-9 with a 6.61 ERA, has not created any urgency to keep himself in the rotation. He is 1-6 with an 8.82 ERA in his last 11 starts as he continues to fight an erratic delivery that seems to change from pitch-to-pitch.

"He was better tonight than he was in his last start," manager Ron Washington said. "He's just accumulating too many pitches in the least amount of innings. If he could make his delivery consistent he could get the ball in the strike zone more consistently."

The number of pitches that Tejeda is throwing is staggering. He threw 106 in five innings on Sunday night and is averaging 20.7 per inning over his last 11 starts. He is averaging 18.8 per inning for the season, which would be the highest in the American League if he had enough innings to qualify.

That's not the only category he would be leading.

Tejeda has pitched 95 1/3 innings, which is 3 2/3 innings short of the 98 innings he needs to be listed among league leaders. If so, his 4.91 batters per nine innings and his 6.61 ERA would also be the highest in the league.

"The only thing that keeps bothering me is the walks," Tejeda said. "If I can stop that I'll be all right. But I need to stop it."

The Rangers quite possibly could send Tejeda to the Minors to get more work or they could keep him in the rotation. But the larger picture looms and that is if the Rangers still see Tejeda as a long-term part of the rotation.

"We keep giving him the ball," Washington said. "We haven't given up yet. At some point that will be answered."

Tejeda, surviving a bases-loaded jam in the first, was fine for three innings and the game was scoreless going into the fourth. Then he walked Trot Nixon with one out and third baseman Travis Metcalf couldn't come up with Jason Michael's sharp grounder.

It could have been an inning-ending double play, instead it went for a two-base error to give the Indians runners at second and third. Tejeda struck out Kelly Shoppach but Josh Barfield, the Indians' No. 9 hitter, singled through the left-side hole to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.

The Indians then made it 5-0 in the fifth. Casey Blake led off with a double and scored on a single by Victor Martinez. Tejeda walked Jhonny Peralta with one out, both runners moved up on Nixon's to first and then Michaels singled home two runs.

Tejeda finished the inning by getting Kelly Shoppach on a fly to center and that was the end of his night.

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