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08/15/08 8:50 PM ET

Rangers option Mendoza to Triple-A

Pitcher had a 10.41 ERA in five starts since All-Star break

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have optioned pitcher Luis Mendoza to Triple-A Oklahoma to make room for Kevin Millwood.

Mendoza was supposed to start next Tuesday against the Tigers, but that slot is now open. One possibility is long reliever Dustin Nippert, but that would depend on whether the Rangers need him in relief this week. Rookie Tommy Hunter is the other possibility.

"We haven't sat down and discussed it yet," manager Ron Washington said.

Mendoza, one of a number of young pitchers who have struggled for the Rangers this year, was sent down after losing his previous two starts while allowing 13 runs in seven innings. He is 1-3 with a 10.41 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break.

He will report to Triple-A Oklahoma and pitch in the RedHawks' rotation.

"We just decided to get him in a more relaxed environment and work some things out," Washington said. "We need to get him going. We're not blaming him but he hasn't been as consistent.

"When I go get the ball and look in his eyes, I see he's not sure. I see he's lost confidence and we don't want him to lose his confidence. We've just got to get him going. That's through the whole pitching staff."

Mendoza is one of seven rookie starters the Rangers have used this year for a combined 33 starts and together, they are 9-13 with an 8.21 ERA. When Matt Harrison takes the hill on Saturday, it will mark the eighth time in 13 games that the Rangers have started a rookie.

"When you talk about our young kids, am I disappointed?" Washington said. "No, I'm not disappointed. I feel sorry they have to go out there and go through this. But they're young and they're inexperienced. These guys have upside but we had a need and we pressed them into action. They're experiencing big league life, now they have to make an adjustment.

"At least they're taking the ball and going out there. I feel for them, but we believe these kids are strong and they'll help us in the long run."

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