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07/27/07 8:48 PM ET
Notes: Byrd hopes to earn his wings
With Lofton gone, Marlon gets his shot to play in center field
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Nelson Cruz re-joined the Rangers on Friday and was given a night off. He'll be in the lineup on Saturday and just about every day after that as the Rangers right fielder.
Marlon Byrd, after Kenny Lofton was traded to Cleveland, will be next to him in center. Manager Ron Washington said both are going to play every day over the final two months of the season to see if they fit in the Rangers' future outfield plans.
Both know what is at stake.
"This is it, do or die for me," Byrd said. "I've never been one to put pressure on myself but this my last best chance to re-establish myself as an everyday player. I definitely feel I can do it. I've done it before. If I couldn't, I'd walk into [Washington's] office and tell them that I'm a fourth outfielder. But I don't believe that. I believe I can play every day."
Byrd was the Phillies regular center fielder in 2003 and hit .303. But he hit .228 in 2004 and has been struggling ever since to re-establish himself. The Rangers want to give him that chance after Byrd hit .350 in his first 54 games since being recalled from Triple-A on May 26.
Byrd has also shown significant defensive improvement, but the Rangers want to see how he stands up to the rigors of playing center field every day.
"It's a tough position," Washington said. "I feel he did a great job on the corners. Now we want to see him in center ... how he does day after day going alley to alley."
Cruz started 34 of 58 games in his first stay with the Rangers before being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma on June 5. Washington was selective in his use of Cruz the first time around but said this will be different.
"He's starting out there tomorrow and will be out there every day until the end," Washington said. "This is a different scenario. His name is going to be in the lineup every day unless he needs a day off. We've got to find out if he can play every day."
Cruz, using a more open stance, was hitting .352 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 45 games with Oklahoma when he was recalled.
Brad Wilkerson started in right field on Friday but will likely see most of his playing time either sharing left field with Frank Catalanotto or at designated hitter with Sammy Sosa. Wilkerson and Sosa will likely be most affected by the decision to play Byrd and Cruz every day.
"It's hard for me to tell you but I'm going to try to get them as many at-bats as I can," Washington said.
Teixeira deal simmers:
The latest on the trade front:
The Rangers continue to have discussions with the Atlanta Braves involving first baseman Mark Teixeira for a package that would include catcher/first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Minor League pitcher Matt Harrison and at least one more prospect.
The Braves have asked about left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson but have been told he is not available. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continue discussions with the Rangers about Teixeira. The Rangers are interested in first baseman Casey Kotchman, but the Angels have not offered much else that's interested them.
The Braves and the Angels have been the most active involving Teixeira. The Los Angeles Dodgers are next. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees aren't completely out of it.
The Rangers still have found little interest in Sosa. They had discussions with the San Diego Padres about Wilkerson, but that has fizzled. The Rangers still hope there could be interest in one of those guys before Tuesday's deadline.
The Rangers had discussions with the Yankees about reliever Eric Gagne, but that didn't go far. The Rangers were hoping to get outfielder Melky Cabrera in return.
He said it: "The great players are the ones who led their team to a championship. If you didn't win a championship, you're put down a notch lower. I don't want to be put down a notch. I want to win a championship."
-- Lofton, on being traded to the Indians
Otsuka gets examined:
Reliever Akinori Otsuka is not going to return to the Ranger bullpen until well into August.
Otsuka was examined in Los Angeles by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who confirmed an earlier diagnosis that the right-hander was suffering from tendinitis in the forearm/elbow area. Like Dr. Keith Meister, Yocum did not find anything structurally wrong with Otsuka but the Rangers are going to slow him down.
Otsuka will undergo treatment for 7-10 days before resuming his throwing program. He is not expected to join the Rangers on their current road trip.
Thursday's Minor Stars:
Gold: Victor Diaz was 5-for-5 with two home runs, including a grand slam, and six RBIs in Oklahoma's 15-4 victory over Portland.
Silver: Class A Spokane pitcher Fabio Castillo allowed two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts over six innings in an 8-4 victory over Everett.
Bronze: Oklahoma pitcher Eric Hurley gave up two runs in five innings and Double-A Frisco pitcher Armando Galarraga allowed one run in five innings in a start against Corpus Christi.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler (stress fracture right foot) began a medical rehabilitation assignment with Oklahoma on Friday. Washington said the plan is for him to play nine innings for three straight games at second base. ... Left-hander John Rheinecker could be in the bullpen as early as Saturday after throwing seven innings in a start against the Mariners on Tuesday. He is scheduled to start next Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays. ... Jerry Hairston (back) is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday at second base.
Right-hander Kevin Millwood pitches for the Rangers at 6:10 p.m. ET on Saturday against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander Odalis Perez pitches for the Royals.