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08/30/07 10:30 PM ET

Notes: Rheinecker steady in bullpen

Converted starter getting critical outs for Texas as a reliever

ARLINGTON -- There's always a first time for everything -- that's the approach Rangers reliever John Rheinecker took when he came in to face one batter against the White Sox on Wednesday.

The one batter, however, was White Sox slugger Jim Thome. On Tuesday, Thome connected on his 494th career home run in the third inning as he closes in on joining the coveted 500-home run club. Later in the game, Rheinecker came in and gave up a single to Thome.

But on Wednesday, Rheinecker was up to the challenge, striking out Thome in the eighth inning. Before that strikeout, Thome had reached base a remarkable 16 consecutive times against the Rangers this season.

"That's the good thing about having four pitches," Rheinecker said. "[On Tuesday], I stayed away, and last night, I stayed in."

Rheinecker was used primarily as a starter this season, but has moved to the bullpen as a left-handed reliever for the final month of the season. It's a role the Rangers need Rheinecker to fill after Ron Mahay was traded to the Braves and C.J. Wilson became the closer. However, Rheinecker is not sold on the idea that he is a future bullpen reliever.

"I feel fine to go out there and face one batter every game," Rheinecker said. "I'm just feeling it out this last month, and we'll see how it goes."

Thome, who is 1-for-5 with three strikeouts against Rheinecker in his career, is not the only high-profile player to struggle against Rheinecker. Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is 0-for-7 in his career against him.

Cat OK: Outfielder Frank Catalanotto left Wednesday's game after the first inning with a strained right groin. He is listed as day-to-day, but is expected to be fully healthy by Saturday.

With the Rangers facing two left-handers on Thursday and Friday, Catalanotto probably would not have even been in the Rangers' lineup. Still, manager Ron Washington said Catalanotto was available to pinch-hit the next two games.

Catalanotto has been the hottest hitter for the Rangers in August. Pending the conclusion of Thursday's games, he leads the American League with a .413 average and has hit safely in 16 of the 18 games he's played this month.

Laird in two-spot: Gerald Laird batted in the No. 2 spot for just the third time this season on Thursday. Laird is 0-for-7 hitting second, but said his approach remains the same.

"It don't matter," he said. "I just try to have good at-bats."

Laird, who is splitting time at catcher with Jarrod Saltalamacchia the remainder of the season, started for the third straight time behind the plate.

"I enjoy being out there," Laird said. "With the pitchers throwing like they are, it's a good reflection on the catching."

The Rangers are 37-30 since June 14, thanks in large part to the starting rotation posting a 3.94 ERA.

He said it: "It's definitely nice to take two of four from [Seattle], a contending team. Hopefully we can sweep a series [Thursday against the White Sox] and go into Anaheim with a chance to take them out. It's tough to swallow for those teams, but we need to bring it to the table and try and spoil it for someone else." -- Laird, on the Rangers' spoiler role the final month of the season

Wednesday's Minor League stars:

Gold: Right-hander Ken Chenard allowed one run on one hit with 11 strikeouts over five innings to lead Double-A Frisco past Corpus Christi, 4-3.

Silver: Outfielder David Paisano went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored as Class A Clinton defeated Wisconsin, 6-3.

Bronze: Max Ramirez, who started at designated hitter for Class A Bakersfield, went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and run scored as the Blaze topped Modesto, 5-3.

Briefly: The Rangers have added Frisco third baseman Chris Davis to the Arizona Fall League. ... Washington said every reliever in the bullpen was available on Thursday.

Up next: The Rangers begin a three-game road series against the Angels on Friday at 9:05 p.m. CT at Angel Stadium. Right-hander Vicente Padilla (4-9, 6.24 ERA) pitches for the Rangers against left-hander Joe Saunders (7-2, 3.62 ERA) of the Angels.

Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.