05/15/10 4:56 PM ET
Smoak still plugging away
By James Hall / Special to MLB.com
Taken 11th overall by Texas in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Smoak hit a combined 21 home runs while batting .284 between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009.
While many expected him to arrive closer to midseason, Chris Davis' early struggles -- batting .188 with 17 strikeouts in 48 at-bats -- and eventual demotion to Oklahoma City, paved the way for Smoak to crack the starting lineup in late April.
Since his promotion, Smoak has hit the baseball with conviction -- he's smacked four home runs -- and demonstrated patience at the plate -- he's drawn 13 walks compared to 13 strikeouts -- but has not reached base at an appropriate Major League level, hitting only .186 with a .310 on-base percentage.
"I'm seeing the ball well right now," Smoak said. "I feel great at the plate, and I feel like I'm hitting some balls hard. Hopefully, I get some breaks here soon."
Although the sample size remains small, the switch-hitting Smoak has particularly struggled batting from the right side against left-handed pitching, compiling a .056 batting average over 18 at-bats. Rangers manager Ron Washington said that hitting the panic button has not even entered his mind.
"It's no concern," Washington said. "I think if [Smoak] had some luck, he would be doing much more. The guy has been hitting the ball hard and getting nothing for it.
"We're going to give him a chance to swing the bat."
Smoak was in the starting lineup on Saturday, batting seventh against Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero.
Rangers' bullpen could use some relief
TORONTO -- The Rangers bullpen was pushed to the limit heading into Saturday's contest against the Blue Jays, throwing 20 1/3 innings over their previous four games, including 6 1/3 frames on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
Manager Ron Washington insisted this is a trend that must change immediately.
"We just got to get our starter to take us deep in the game," Washington said. "You take us deep in the game, our winning pieces are down there and we'll be able to maneuver. But if we have to jump into that bullpen early, of course it's going to affect us."
In Friday's 16-10 loss to the Jays, the bullpen was tagged for nine runs, eight off reliever Doug Mathis in just 1 1/3 innings, to raise the relief corps' combined ERA from 3.59 to 4.10. The nine runs allowed by the 'pen were the most they have surrendered since the Tigers plated 12 on September 17, 2008.
Although Washington said that everyone in the bullpen is available for Saturday's contest, he suggested that it is highly unlikely he will use reliever Dustin Nippert, who threw three innings on Friday. As for Chris Ray, who has pitched three times in the past five days, Washington said he will not hesitate to call upon him once more.
The mounting tired arms have also prompted the Rangers to make some roster moves, promoting right-handed relievers Guillermo Moscoso and Pedro Strop from Triple-A Oklahoma City, while optioning outfielder Craig Gentry and reliever Mathis.
Moscoso boasted a 2.95 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings with Oklahoma City. Strop was equally as impressive, showcasing a 2.63 ERA with four saves in 13 2/3 frames.
The move came moments before game time, somewhat reminiscent of the Darren O'Day situation last season, when the right-hander showed up midway through an April 22nd game against, coincidentally enough, the Blue Jays, and pitched the 11th inning in an 8-7 losing effort. O'Day's arrival was so sudden, he had to don the jersey of former Rangers starter Kason Gabbard in a rush to get on the field.
Fortunately for Moscoso and Strop, they will have their own jerseys this time around.
TORONTO -- Left-hander Matt Harrison, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 7th with left bicep tendinitis will throw a bullpen on Sunday. Manager Ron Washington said if all goes well, "pretty soon we'll get him out here pitching competitively." Harrison is eligible to come off the DL on May 22nd, when the club takes on the Cubs. ... Outfielder Julio Borbon was kept out of the lineup on Saturday for a second straight game, with David Murphy receiving the start. ... The Blue Jays led the Rangers, 15-10, at the end of the fourth inning on Friday night and went on to win the game, 16-10. It was only the second Major League game in the past 67 seasons in which two teams combined for 25 (or more) runs through four innings. The other was the Phillies' 23-22 extra-innings win at Wrigley Field in 1979, in which Philadelphia led Chicago, 17-9, through four innings. ... Joaquin Arias, who was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, was not activated, as Washington opted instead for extra relief help. ... Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus saw his Major League-leading hitting streak end at 14 games on Saturday.
James Hall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.