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06/07/08 12:28 AM ET
Laird makes emergency start at third
Young injures finger, Vazquez moves to shortstop Friday
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Catcher Gerald Laird was forced to start at third base for the Rangers on Friday night after shortstop Michael Young was scratched from the lineup with a hairline fracture on the tip of the ring finger on his left hand. Young is still expected to miss just one game and not go on the disabled list. It's the first time Laird has started at third base since he was 13 and in the Pony League. He did play one inning there in Class A in the Minor Leagues as part of a game in which he played nine positions in nine innings, but did not have a ball hit to him. "I'm thinking about putting my chest protector under my jersey," Laird said. "I'm looking at it as a big challenge. Playing third base in the big leagues ... it's the hot corner. It's not easy but I'll just do my best." Young, who has a 21-game hitting streak, banged his ring finger while lifting weights after Thursday's game against the Indians. He is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday. The Rangers were caught short-handed after optioning third baseman Travis Metcalf to Triple-A Oklahoma on Wednesday so they could add an extra reliever to their bullpen. Metcalf must remain in the Minor Leagues for a minimum of 10 days. Same goes for German Duran, who was optioned on May 29, and hence, can't be recalled until Sunday. He is expected to join the Rangers on Tuesday in Kansas City. Manager Ron Washington's only other option was to start Frank Catalanotto at third base. He has played 35 games there, but none since 2001. Washington also didn't want to use him with left-hander Scott Kazmir pitching for the Rays. Catalanotto has just four at-bats against left-handers this year. "Cat hasn't seen any left-handers, and his swing is good right now," Washington said. "I don't want to destroy his swing putting him against a left-hander." Chris Shelton can play third base, but Washington wanted him at first. That left Laird as the lone remaining option, with Ramon Vazquez moving over to play shortstop. Laird received a crash course on the position from injured third baseman Hank Blalock before the game. "I figure, if they hit the ball to Gerald, he can catch it and throw it," Washington said. "Hopefully they won't pull anything, but if the ball is hit to Gerald, I think he can catch it and throw it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.