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05/04/2013 8:19 PM ET

'True utility guy' Baker impresses Washington

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington had no preconceived ideas about Jeff Baker before the veteran utility man arrived in Texas this spring.

Consider Washington properly impressed so far.

"I don't know what I expected out of Baker because I didn't know anything about him till he got here," Washington said. "He's a pro, a true utility guy."

Washington also has discovered that Baker provides leadership.

"Late in the game on the bench, he starts getting prepared, and the young guys noticed and they start getting ready, too," Washington said.

Playing almost strictly against left-handers, Baker is hitting .333 with three homers and six RBIs. He has made starts for the Rangers at left field, first base, third base and right field.

"He's not a batting-title winner," Washington said, "but he can hit. Since I've been here, we haven't had anyone around here like him."

Murphy out with virus, ordered to keep his distance

ARLINGTON -- It was David Murphy's upset stomach, not his bat, that not only kept him out of the lineup Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox but, except for a brief medical visit, kept him out of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington altogether.

"He's got a stomach virus," manager Ron Washington reported in his pregame news briefing. "He's not even in the ballpark. His whole family is laid up."

Washington said Murphy was fine for Friday night's game but came down with the virus sometime after the Rangers' 7-0 victory in the series opener.

Washington said doctors told Murphy not to come to the park for treatment until later in order to keep him away from other players.

"He'll come in through the back door [after the game starts]," Washington said, "and we'll get him out the back door, too."

Had Murphy been healthy, Washington said he would have started the left-handed-hitting outfielder against Red Sox right-hander John Lackey, just as he does against every right-hander, despite Murphy's .168 average this season. Instead, Washington inserted Craig Gentry in center field and moved Leonys Martin to left.

"The only way [Murphy is] ever going to look good is to face some right-handers and get him back out there," Washington said. "We have to get him ready."

Murphy didn't start against Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront on Friday night but came in defensively for Jeff Baker in the fifth, after the Rangers broke the game open with a five-run fourth. He went 0-for-3 and struck out twice. He has gone 1-for-18 (.056) in his last eight games.

"We all go through it," Gentry said. "We know what he can do when he's right."

Rotation could get boost soon with Lewis, Perez

ARLINGTON -- Not that Rangers pitching isn't more than holding its own, leading the American League with a 3.09 ERA heading into Saturday night's game against the Red Sox, but reinforcements are just around the corner if needed.

Right-hander Colby Lewis, recovering from Tommy John surgery performed July 27, threw 27 pitches in a two-inning stint at extended spring workouts Saturday and had no problems.

Depending on how he feels Sunday, Lewis is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Round Rock in Las Vegas.

Martin Perez, who suffered a broken left wrist in Spring Training, will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco in Midland on Monday night.

Rookies Justin Grimm (2-1, 2.28) and Nick Tepesch (2-2, 3.54) have filled in admirably for the Rangers, to the point where Washington may soon have a glut of riches and some difficult decisions to make.

"Those are the kind of problems you love to have," Washington said, "but these things have a way or working themselves out. "

Worth noting

• Rangers senior special assistant Don Welke was at Cooperstown, N.Y., for the debut of a new interactive exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Diamond Mines" celebrates the contribution of scouts to the game.

• The Rangers' fifth shutout of the season Friday night tied them with five other teams for the Major League lead entering Saturday's games.

• The team's 3.09 ERA (first in the American League) is their lowest in history through 29 games.

• Yu Darvish received his Rangers Player of the Month Award for April in a pregame ceremony Saturday night.

• The Rangers are 9-1 in series openers this season.

Jim Reeves is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.