ARLINGTON -- As the calendar turned to September, manager Ron Washington reflected on the performance of his rotation, and reaffirmed his confidence in his starters.Washington said that Alexi Ogando is still in line to make the start on Monday in St. Petersburg but that the decision has not been made yet. "Right now, [Matt] Harrison's definitely throwing Sunday, and we're giving Ogando a chance to catch his breath," Washington said. "We haven't made any decisions on it."
If the Rangers are to win the pennant, their young starters, Ogando, Harrison and Derek Holland, cannot allow fatigue to get in their way, and they must pitch the way they have for much of the season."We are where we are because of our starting rotation," Washington said. "They're the ones that got us here. We just recently fixed the bullpen to the point where now if they give us six or seven innings, we can do some things. But they're the ones that got us here, and they're going to have to figure out a way to take us the rest of the way." Washington emphasized that this season is a much larger challenge on the trio than it was last season. "Now they know what it's like to be in a pennant race when it's on their shoulders," he said. "The last two years when they were in it, it wasn't on their shoulders. It's on their shoulders now, and they're going to be better for it." When the team broke Spring Training, it was assumed that Ogando was a placeholder for Tommy Hunter and that Scott Feldman or Brandon Webb could take spots in the rotation if the young starters didn't prove up to the task.
But all three pitched well enough that Hunter is now a starter for the Orioles, shipped out in exchange for relief help, and Feldman is a spot starter."When we left Spring Training, we wasn't sure, because things went and got into a flux there at the end. We weren't sure," Washington said. "We knew that these guys had potential, but potential doesn't win ballgames. You've got to go between the lines and do it. They have risen to what expectations are, even though there's been hiccups."
Rangers get a boost with Beltre's return
ARLINGTON -- After returning from the disabled list, Adrian Beltre made his presence felt almost as soon as he stepped into the box for his first at-bat in the second inning of Thursday's game, a 7-2 win over the Rays.Beltre lined a 2-0 pitch from Jeff Niemann down the right-field line for a single. But the true test of his strained left hamstring came with the next batter, David Murphy, who doubled into the left-field gap. Beltre scored all the way from first. "I was trying to take short steps, but Murphy hit it far enough where I could still score easily," Beltre said. Manager Ron Washington has said that the key to avoiding a re-injury of the hamstring will be to make sure Beltre does not put undue stress on it. And after watching the slugger run the bases, Washington sees no reason to be concerned.
"I was just paying attention to his strides, and he was under control, he wasn't trying to push it," Washington said. "David hit it in the right part of the ballpark to give him an opportunity to make it around the bags."Beltre's only opportunity in the field came in the eighth, when he caught a Johnny Damon liner. Beltre, who went on the DL on July 23, looked as though he was going to become the third Ranger this season to homer in his first game back from a DL stint when he lofted a deep fly ball to right field in the bottom of the eighth, but Matt Joyce leaped over the wall to rob Beltre of the home run. "It was gone until he caught it," Beltre said. "Obviously, I didn't hit it hard enough. But he made a nice catch."
Kinsler has been anything but average
ARLINGTON -- Ian Kinsler has experienced a strange season so far. He has done everything manager Ron Washington could want from his leadoff man, except hit for a high average."This year he didn't hit for an average," Washington said. "He's scoring runs, he's got more walks than strikeouts, he's stealing bags, he's punching the ball out of the ballpark from the leadoff spot, which is good, he's playing tremendous defense, the only thing missing is his average. There will be some years where that just doesn't come together." Part of the reason could be that Kinsler has been rather unlucky. He is batting just .238 on balls hit in play, the fifth-lowest average in baseball among all batters with 350 or more at-bats. It is also the lowest figure of his career, lower than his 2009 average, .241. "It's just one of those things," Washington said. "He's been good, but not Kinsler good."
Rangers' clubhouse welcomes new faces
ARLINGTON -- The locker room got a little more crowded before Thursday's game against the Rays.Not only did Adrian Beltre and Andres Blanco return from rehab assignments, the team welcomed four faces. Matt Treanor, Mike Gonzalez, Esteban German and Merkin Valdez are all with the team for the first time this season. German and Valdez came from Triple-A Round Rock, Treanor from the Royals and Gonzalez from the Orioles.
Manager Ron Washington said that each player was brought in to give the Rangers more options during any given game.Gonzalez, who resides in Deer Park, Texas, said that joining the Rangers is a natural transition for him, and he enjoys being in a pennant race. "From worst to first, you better be loving it," Gonzalez said. "It's obviously a great opportunity for me to come here and just take advantage of it." Gonzalez joins Koji Uehara as relievers who began the year with the Orioles but now find themselves in Arlington. Former Rangers pitcher Tommy Hunter gave Texas a glowing review. "I've heard nothing but great things," Gonzalez said. "Tommy Hunter was here, and he talked to me about the chemistry and the way the guys go about their business here. That's something I want to be a part of, and I'm lucky to be a part of it." But Gonzalez's excitement pales in comparison with that of Matt Treanor, who spent last season with Texas and finds himself back with his former teammates. "I really didn't think this would happen this late in the season," Treanor said. "I thought if it did happen, it would be closer to the middle part of the year, but as far as having an opportunity to come back over here, this is even better." Though the addition of Treanor means that Washington could play Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba in the same lineup without worrying about catching duties, Treanor hasn't heard anything about his role. "I haven't been told anything specific," Treanor said. "Wash knows ... I come ready to play, and I'm sure we'll talk. For the most part, I'm here, ready to play and help out these guys any way I can."
Nadel, Holtz on ballot for Frick Award
ARLINGTON -- Voting for the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually for excellence in broadcasting, began on Thursday.Voting, which can be done by clicking here, concludes on Sept. 30. Fans choose three of the 10 names that make it onto the final ballot. The requirement for candidacy is a minimum of 10 consecutive years of broadcast service with a ballclub or network. Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz are representing the Rangers on the ballot. Nadel, who was on the final ballot in 2010, is in his 33rd season broadcasting Rangers baseball, including the last 17 on the radio. He has the second-longest continuous tenure with one team in the American League, second only to the Royals' Denny Matthews, the 2007 Frick Award winner. Holtz served as broadcaster for the Rangers for 17 seasons before passing away in September 1997. He is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
Robbie Ross, who is playing for Double-A Frisco, was named the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Year for his performance in Myrtle Beach. Mike Olt, Ryan Strausborger and Jared Prince were all named to the Postseason All-Star team. The Rangers' 2011 home attendance entering Thursday's game was 2,550,462, the most in any season since 2001, and there are 10 home dates remaining. Every starter other than C.J. Wilson exited the month of August with an ERA of 4.91 or higher.
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.