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09/29/09 10:00 PM ET
Teagarden still waiting in background
Rangers catcher wrapping up first season as backup
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Rangers went into Tuesday's game with a fading sliver of hope that they could still win the Wild Card. They also had a real chance of clinching second place in the American League West. That's why Ivan Rodriguez was in the starting lineup on Tuesday for the 26th time in 35 games. Three of those were as designated hitter, but Rodriguez has been the Rangers' No. 1 catcher petty much from the time that he was acquired from the Astros on Aug. 18. Taylor Teagarden has had to sit in the background and appears to be still doing that as his first full season in the Majors comes to an uneventful conclusion. "It's been tough," Teagarden said. "I've been primarily a backup, and that's something new to me. Offensively, I didn't live up to expectations. Defensively, I felt good for the most part, and I was happy with the way I felt physically, for the most part. I was available for every game. "There are still a lot of things I can work on. I learned a lot of things playing against every team and learning the league. But I definitely expect a lot more out of myself next season." He will be back to battling for playing time and the Rangers' catching situation is quite murky at this point. Jarrod Saltalamacchia underwent shoulder surgery earlier this month and will need three or four months of rehabilitation. He is expected to be back at full strength for Spring Training, but his physical issues make him a bit of a question mark. Max Ramirez was once a top prospect, but he's coming off a disappointing season in the Minor Leagues. The uncertainty surrounding the position is why the Rangers are strongly considering bringing back Rodriguez for another season. That's still far from settled, but it would leave Teagarden third on the depth chart. His goal is to be an everyday catcher, but the Rangers remain uncertain about that possibility. "I can't consider that, because I have seen him catch every day," manager Ron Washington said. "Right now, he is one of our backups. He has been a guy who is used to being on the field on a regular basis. I know he expects more. We do, too. He kept himself in shape and stayed ready. He proved he can be a Major League catcher, but he's got to get better. We expect him to get better." Teagarden went into Tuesday's game hitting .214 on the season. That's the fourth lowest among all 51 Major League catchers who played in 50 games. He had six home runs and 22 RBIs in 182 at-bats. "With one year under my belt, I have a good idea of what I can improve upon," Teagarden said. "Offensively, I'm way below what I'm capable of. Defensively, I just need to keep getting to know the pitching staff and work with them, build on that, continue to grow into a leadership role and fit better in the clubhouse." Teagarden is pondering the possibility of going to the Caribbean and playing winter ball. That would allow him to get some extra at-bats and playing time that he didn't get as backup to Saltalamacchia and Rodriguez. "I'm going to talk to the coaches and figure out what the best plan is to get my offseason work in and be ready for Spring Training," Teagarden said. "I've never done winter ball. I've heard multiple things from different players, but the bottom line is to do the best I can to be ready to go once I get to Spring Training."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.