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06/21/08 8:49 PM ET

Saltalamacchia gets his chance

Rangers' backup catcher will now start while Laird on DL

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers are putting aside the concept of alternating catchers every two days.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is about to get his chance to be the Rangers' regular catcher. Gerald Laird was officially placed on the disabled list Saturday with a pulled hamstring muscle and Max Ramirez has been called up from Double-A Frisco.

Laird is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to determine how long he is going to be out, but he's not expected back anytime soon. Laird is hoping by the All-Star break, but that may be the best-case scenario. Ramirez will get his chance on occasion.

Right now though, Saltalamacchia is the No. 1 catcher.

"He'll get the bulk of the catching," Washington said. "This is a great opportunity for him."

Saltalamacchia had been alternating roughly every two games with Laird ever since he was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma on April 25. The arrangement allowed him to be in the Major Leagues, but kept him from getting the consistent playing time that all players covet.

As a result, his play was uneven. He went into Saturday's game with just two hits in his last 28 at-bats and was hitting .219 with three home runs and 14 RBIs overall. Defensively, he had thrown out just 2 of 27 baserunners trying to steal on him while committing three passed balls and five errors in 25 games behind the plate. The Rangers were 11-13 in his 24 starts at catcher.

"I hope being in there every single day will help me get in a rhythm and get into a rhythm working with the pitchers," Saltalamacchia said. "I've been working on defense every day whether I play or not: calling pitches, throws to second, blocking balls, getting set, receiving, trying to stay in tune with all that so that I feel like I'm in there every day.

"I've got to take this as an opportunity, just like when I first got called up. Anytime you get into a game, you've got to seize the opportunity. I just need to play and help my team win."

Washington said Saltalamacchia's most important assignment will be working with his pitchers and calling pitches.

"I'm not a big offensive guy from my catchers," Washington said. "He needs to get the pitchers through their innings and keep balls from going to the backstop. As far as throwing, we're working on it and he's getting better at it. But, his job is to get pitchers through the innings and I'll take whatever offense he can give us."

Rangers pitchers, going into Saturday's game, had a 4.93 ERA when Saltalamacchia was behind the plate. They had a 4.83 ERA for Laird.

"Salty is no different from what happens to the rest of the team," Washington said. "There are days when he calls a great ballgame and days when anyone could question his pitch selection. There are days when he's inconsistent and days when he's consistent. I think what we're talking about here is youth. Now I want him to focus on getting pitchers through their innings."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.