© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

10/02/10 7:45 PM ET

Ailing Murphy coming around

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder David Murphy, who is trying to recover quickly from a strained left groin, said on Saturday he has improved mightily over the past 24 hours.

He took 35-40 swings on Saturday, splitting between hitting off a tee and soft toss. He threw for about 10 minutes from 120 feet. He rode an elliptical machine for 10 minutes.

Murphy said the ultimate test will be running, and he hopes to ramp things up on Sunday. But he probably won't test his groin full speed until Tuesday, the day before the Rangers' American League Division Series opener.

"I'm more optimistic, yes," Murphy said. "Like I said, running is going to be the ultimate test. I don't know if I'll do that full speed until Tuesday, but so far, so good."

Murphy was asked if he could play Saturday if he absolutely had to.

"I don't know if I could run full speed today," Murphy said.

Healthy Hamilton eager for ALDS

ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton said on Saturday that he came out of Friday's night first game back from a rib cage injury feeling confident that everything is a go for next week's American League Division Series.

Hamilton, who played six innings in center field, went 0-for-3 against Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver and survived a fall, not a dive, in the outfield.

"It's clarification that everything is going to be all right," Hamilton said. "I'm a lot less sore than I thought I was going to be.

"I felt everything was a good test. If you want to call that a mental boost, then I guess you could say that."

Hamilton, who had been sidelined since Sept. 4 with two small fractures in his right rib cage, was slated to be the designated hitter for Saturday's game. He'll play nine innings in left field in Sunday's season finale.

Hamilton said he will continue to wear padding on his ribs to protect himself if he falls down, runs into a wall or gets hit by a pitch.

Bullpen spots still up for grabs

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went into Saturday's contest with the Angels with four locks for their postseason bullpen and three spots still in play.

Manager Ron Washington said Neftali Feliz, Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day and Alexi Ogando are in the 'pen for the American League Division Series and will be protected the next two days. Feliz will get a chance for his 40th save if the Rangers are in a close game in the ninth inning.

"We're protecting right now, going down the stretch, Oliver, O'Day, Ogando, Feliz," Washington said. "So, we'll let these [other candidates] have these innings from now on."

Right-hander Dustin Nippert is a front-runner to make the ALDS bullpen because Washington wants two long relievers for the final three spots. Left-hander Michael Kirkman has been consistent and is an option as a situational left-hander, along with Clay Rapada.

Derek Holland, who has come on strong in the past week, has moved up the pecking order because he's left-handed and can throw multiple innings.

The Rangers will give Spring Training-like looks to a list of other candidates. Kirkman, left-hander Matt Harrison and right-hander Mark Lowe all gave up runs in Friday's loss to the Angels.

Rangers meet to go over signs

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a meeting with their position players before Saturday's game to go over signs to make sure everyone was up to speed heading into the American League Division Series.

The Rangers had a snafu in Friday's game and that alerted manager Ron Washington five days away from the playoff opener.

"We need to make sure everything is tightened up," Washington said.

Worth noting

Chris Davis was the only Rangers player still sick on Saturday after a couple of illnesses made their way through the clubhouse. First baseman Jorge Cantu and outfielder Jeff Francoeur had both recovered and were available off the bench. ... Outfielder David Murphy was the unanimous selection as Rangers Player of the Month in voting by the club's traveling writers and broadcasters.

Todd Wills is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.