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03/30/12 12:17 AM ET

Rangers mulling utility infielder options

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ian Kinsler had the night off Thursday and shortstop Elvis Andrus was sidelined for one more day with tightness in his right hip flexor. That gave the Rangers one more game to look at their two utility infielder candidates, Alberto Gonzalez and Luis Hernandez.

Gonzalez, who started at second base, is expected to get the job. He is 28, he has played in 378 Major League games with the Mets, Nationals and Padres and he has the ability to play steady if not spectacular shortstop. He has never hit much in the Major Leagues -- he has a career average of .242 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .317 slugging percentage -- but he is hitting .314 this spring and can do the little things that manager Ron Washington expects from such players.

Andrus was absent for the second straight game but could play Friday night against the Rockies.

"I'm feeling good but it's Spring Training," Andrus said. "I'll take off all the days they give me in Spring Training."

Rangers still sorting out bullpen

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mark Lowe was asked Thursday to pitch back-to-back games for the first time this spring. It did not go well.

Lowe, pitching an inning in a Triple-A game against the Mariners in Peoria, allowed three runs on three hits and a walk. Lowe has pitched in eight Cactus League games and has allowed four runs over eight innings. He has allowed nine hits, walked three and struck out four.

"He's still fighting for a job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's got tremendous stuff but at times it has been his location. Sometimes he doesn't put it where he wants it. You can say there has been some inconsistency. You just hope he puts it together."

The Rangers officially have eight pitchers competing for the final three spots in the bullpen: right-handers Yoshinori Tateyama, Koji Uehara, Greg Reynolds, Tanner Scheppers and Lowe, and left-handers Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman and Neal Cotts.

Tateyama and Ross have pitched the best among that group, according to Rangers officials. Reynolds will likely begin the season as a starter at Triple-A Round Rock and Scheppers will be in the bullpen there. Kirkman and Cotts are still in the mix for a job as a left-handed reliever.

The Rangers have discussed Lowe and Uehara with other clubs. Lowe, who makes $1.7 million this season, could be moved to open up a spot for either Tateyama or one of the left-handers. But the Rangers are also reluctant to give up a power arm and cut into their potential bullpen depth.

The Reds and the Royals, having both lost their closers to injury this spring, are among the clubs looking for relief help. The Braves are also looking for bullpen help.

Butler gets playing time while Cruz rests

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nelson Cruz was out of the lineup Thursday night while resting a sore right hand. Instead Joey Butler, who is not officially in big league camp but was 6-for-10 in Cactus League games, started in right field.

Butler, who hit .322 with a .493 slugging percentage in 113 games at Triple-A Round Rock last season, is a right-handed-hitting outfielder and the Rangers have been searching for one lately. But Rangers manager Ron Washington insisted that's not why the Rangers started him Thursday.

"He has been doing a good job," Washington said. "We wanted to reward him and let him play."

Butler was a 15th-round pick out of the University of New Orleans in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He hit .317 against right-handers and .302 against left-handers. But he also struck out 138 times in 426 at-bats while walking 43 times.

"The season he had last year was magical," Round Rock manager Bobby Jones said. "They would throw him two breaking pitches in the dirt, he'd swing and miss, then they would throw him a fastball down the middle and he would kill it. He has some ugly hacks and chases pitches but he put some numbers up. What he did last year ... he deserves a shot."

The Rangers have had conversations with other teams and have interest in Toronto outfielder Ben Francisco. But he is filling a similar role for the Blue Jays. The Rangers don't expect to have interest in Aaron Rowand, who was let go by the Marlins on Thursday.

Hamilton inspired by DiMaggio's words

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton's agent sent him a famous Joe DiMaggio quote by text message Thursday.

The quote was: "There's always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best."

Said Hamilton, "That's a great quote. I think it's the truth. That's the way I feel. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. I think I'll put that up on my locker for people who ask me why I play hard all the time."

Worth noting

• The Rangers' opener against the White Sox on April 6 is a complete sellout, while there are approximately 4,500 tickets remaining for April 7 and 10,000 for April 8.

• There are still plenty of tickets remaining for April 9 against the Mariners but the Rangers are expecting those to go quickly now that they have announced Yu Darvish will make his first Major League start that night.

• Darvish's first appearance in Texas will be in the final exhibition game of the spring. He is scheduled to start the Rangers' game against Double-A Frisco on Wednesday at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. That game starts at 2:05 p.m. CT.

• Darvish starts Friday against the Rockies in Scottsdale while Robbie Ross, Yoshinori Tateyama and Michael Kirkman are scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game.

• As of Thursday, the Rangers have sold over 20,650 full-season-ticket equivalents for the upcoming season. It's the first time they have ever sold over 20,000 equivalents for a season and it's up over 7,000 from last year.

• Greg Reynolds allowed eight runs on nine hits and a walk over four innings in a Minor League start against the Mariners on Thursday.

• The Rangers have released outfielder Jared Bolden, pitcher Doug Salinas and infielders Andres James and Renny Osuna from Minor League camp.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.