© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
04/19/08 7:47 PM ET
Duran faces off against Green Monster
First outfield start presents venerable challenge
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BOSTON -- German Duran made his first Major League start in the outfield on Saturday, and manager Ron Washington didn't make it easy on him. Washington wanted to get as many right-handed hitters into the lineup as possible against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, so he started Duran in left field against Boston at Fenway Park. Left field at Fenway Park is considered one of the trickiest in all of baseball to play because of the 37-foot high "Green Monster" wall that runs from the left-field corner out to center field. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who won seven Gold Gloves, was a master at it, but other outfielders have had problems out there because of the varying features, angles and surfaces of the wall. Washington admitted the assignment might be a bit daunting for a rookie just called up from Triple-A earlier in the week and making just his second Major League start. "It probably is," Washington said. "But with the attitude this kid has, he'll go out and do a good job." Duran has been primarily an infielder in the Rangers system since being made their sixth-round pick in the June 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of TCU. He did play the outfield some at Weatherford College and Paschal High School, but that's not quite the same as patroling it in Fenway Park. "I went out there during [early] batting practice and watched how the ball traveled and how it hits off the wall," Duran said. "Some places it hits hard, and some places it doesn't. It will be fun. As long as I'm playing, I'm having fun." The Rangers' unusual lineup also included Gerald Laird starting at designated hitter for the first time in his career. Laird had been used at DH just once in his career, and that was in the final game of the 2006 season when he came in for Mark Teixeira for the final two at-bats of the game. He had one hit. "That's .500, baby," Laird said. Washington wanted to give Laird a day off after catching 14 innings on Wednesday and again the next two nights. But he decided to use Laird as the designated hitter instead to get another right-handed bat in the lineup. Adam Melhuse, a switch-hitter, made his fourth start at catcher. "I think it's kind of cool," Laird said. "I get a day off and still get my at-bats and stay in rhythm. I just don't know what I'll be doing in between innings." Milton Bradley, a switch-hitter, was the only right-handed bat on the bench next to Frank Catalanotto, Ben Broussard and Ramon Vazquez. Bradley had some soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, and Washington wanted to give him a night off. "If I put [Bradley] in the lineup, he wouldn't complain," Washington said. "But we've got to watch him." Starting Laird at designated hitter left the Rangers with no catcher on the bench if something were to happen to Melhuse during the game. But Washington wasn't too worried about that, preferring to go with the extra right-handed hitter against Lester. "We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope nothing happens to Mel," Washington said. "I just decided I wanted to get as many right-handed hitters in the lineup as possible because we are left-handed-heavy."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.