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08/11/07 1:56 AM ET
Battle behind the plate in Texas
Laird and Saltalamacchia to platoon for rest of season
By Drew Davison / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Gerald Laird scored a run in the Rangers' 7-4 victory against the Devil Rays on Friday night, but it wasn't a day for the former No. 1 catcher to celebrate. Laird was informed before the game by manager Ron Washington, bench coach Art Howe and third-base coach Don Wakamatsu that he and newly acquired catcher/first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia will split time behind the plate for the rest of the season. "I want to play every day. I'm not ready to sit back and platoon with someone," Laird said. Washington insisted that Laird was still "his guy" and the Rangers just needed to evaluate Saltalamacchia the last month and a half. "If I'm his catcher, I'm going to be splitting time, so I don't know what that means," Laird said. "I'm going to be battling for my job. If it's going to be here, who knows? I've always had to battle since I've been in Texas, so it's nothing new." Laird started Friday going 0-for-4, but reached base in the sixth on an error. He scored on a Frank Catalanotto two-run single. Laird is scheduled to start on Saturday, but knows his offense needs to improve if he wants to remain in the Rangers' future plans. He is currently hitting .231 with six home runs and 35 RBIs this season. "I need to do better offensively, get with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo] and get things going and get back to where I was last year," Laird said. "It's been a real tough mental year for me, I got to continue to play and work hard." Last season, Laird hit .296 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 78 games (243 at-bats). The 22-year-old Saltalamacchia was the Braves' No. 1 overall prospect the past two seasons and came to the Rangers in the trade for Mark Teixeira. "I'm glad to get the opportunity to play. Catching is my No. 1 love," the 22-year-old Saltalamacchia said. "At the same time, it's not a competition to me. Gerald is a great catcher, it's an honor to get to play a couple more games a week." Saltalamacchia will catch newly acquired pitcher and high school teammate Kason Gabbard on Sunday. Washington said he was unsure how he would rotate the catchers for the rest of the season. When he is not catching, Saltalamacchia will still play first base. Laird might get some games at designated hitter, but his playing time will be cut significantly. "It's surprising when the organization tells you one thing a week earlier and then they change it a week later," Laird said. "It's something I should've expected because you hear the hints that he wants to catch and they made a big trade for him, so I figured it would be coming." Washington said of the catcher competition, "Anytime you're in the big leagues, you're competing. This is the Major Leagues, it's not the Minor Leagues." Saltalamacchia has hit .264 with three RBIs since joining the Rangers. He was hitting .284 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 47 games with Atlanta. He scored two runs in Friday's victory, in the fifth on Catalanotto's three-run home run and the other on Catalanotto's two-run single in the sixth.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.