BOSTON -- Right-handed pitcher Merkin Valdez has taken a convoluted route back to the big leagues. He wasn't even sure if he would complete the journey."No," he said. "Last year, I had a really bad year. I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I really worked hard and all I can do is take advantage of it." Valdez was a surprise September callup as an extra arm in the bullpen, but he was throwing the ball the best of all the Triple-A Round Rock relievers. He also has Major League experience with the Giants and Blue Jays. Once a top prospect in the Giants' organization, Valdez missed all of 2007 because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. He made it back in 2008 and had a 1.69 ERA in 17 appearances for the Giants. He spent '09 with them and was 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA in 48 games. Then came the odyssey. He was sold to the Blue Jays in the offseason, sent to the Minors after two games and posted a 7.91 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Dodgers signed him to a Minor League contract and sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he was 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA before being released on July 18. The Rangers signed him a week later and sent him to Round Rock, where he was 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 games. In 15 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs on 14 hits, five walks and 14 strikeouts. "He throws hard," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "We had good reports out of Round Rock. He's one of those guys who had to take a hiatus from the Major Leagues. Hopefully this time it clicks in this time around."
Young not thinking about winning batting title
BOSTON -- The Rangers' three-game series against the Red Sox is not only a meeting between two first-place teams, but also the top two hitters in the American League.Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez went into the series leading the league with a .341 average, while Michael Young was second at .335. Young, who won the batting title in 2005, said he hasn't given much thought about winning it a second time. "Not really," Young said. "I'm not trying to downplay it, because it really is a great honor. It's one of those things that I can look back on and be really proud of when my career is over. This is not the time or place. The good thing for Adrian and I is we're both on good teams and we're trying to finish off team business. That makes it much easier to focus on the top priority -- and that's winning." Young won his batting title with a career-best .331 average. He hit .367 in September that year and has a career .310 average for the month. "That was my first time going down that road, and I was just trying to have the best September possible," Young said. "I wasn't thinking about the batting title. I was inexperienced when it came to dealing with it. The last week when I started getting hit with a lot of questions, that's when it hit me what was in front of me." Young is one of three Rangers to win the batting title. Julio Franco won it 1991, and Josh Hamilton did so last season.
Ogando may need mental break from starting
BOSTON -- If the Rangers give Alexi Ogando a break from starting, it may not be because he is physically tired. He may get some time off because of the mental grind from his first season as a starting pitcher."The season is a grind," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "It's a mental grind as much as a physical grind. Experience is a tough teacher. It gives you a test first and the lesson later." Ogando is 1-2 with an 8.34 ERA in his last five starts. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his last start against the Rays on Wednesday. "You go out and see his velocity in the upper 90's, his command is a little wayward. Sometimes a mental break is necessary more than a physical break," Maddux said. Maddux also suggested that opposing teams are becoming more familiar with Ogando as he goes through the league for a second and third time. He has made three starts against the Mariners and the Angels. He held the Mariners to one run over 12 innings in the first two starts before allowing six in 2 2/3 innings against them on Aug. 9. The Angels scored one run in 14 2/3 innings off him in the first two meetings and four in 6 1/3 frames in his last vs. the Halos. "A lot of guys, their first time through the league, you see how people adjust to them," Maddux said. "They've adjusted. A young and inexperienced pitcher has to adjust, too. You say, 'Well, this has always worked.' Well, you still have to make adjustments. It's part of the learning curve." Right now, Ogando is still scheduled to make his next start on Monday against the Rays. Scott Feldman, who stepped in for Matt Harrison on Tuesday, is back in the bullpen. The Rangers still could insert Feldman in for Ogando on Monday, but they haven't made that decision yet. "Right now, Ogando is getting the ball," manager Ron Washington said. "He'll get his work in and then Mike and [bullpen coach Andy Hawkins] will decide. The reason we're where we are is because of our starters."
Wilson says he'll make his next start
BOSTON -- C.J. Wilson said there is still some numbness in his left index finger, but the southpaw said he'll be ready to go for his next start, which is Tuesday against the Rays."It will be fine," Wilson said. "I had the same thing happen in Spring Training a couple of years ago and I still pitched a few days later." Wilson had to come out of Thursday's start against the Rays in the sixth inning after trying to barehand Casey Kotchman's infield single. The ball deflected off the index finger, and Wilson ended up leaving the game with numbness. Third baseman Adrian Beltre made it through Thursday's game without any problems. It was his first start since missing five weeks with a strained left hamstring. Manager Ron Washington said Beltre did a good job "managing" the hamstring, particularly when scoring from first on David Murphy's second-inning double. "He is aware he has to be cautious," Washington said. "He's probably exerting himself at 80 percent. He has more in there, but he has to decide when to kick it back in."
Triple-A Round Rock manager Bobby Jones has been selected as the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year. Round Rock went into Friday's game 83-57 and has won the PCL Southern Division title. Ian Kinsler has been successful on 22 consecutive stolen base attempts, his longest streak in a single season and one short of his overall record of 23 set in 2007-08. He has 129 career steals, third most in Rangers history, and his 86.6 percent success rate is the highest in club history among 14 players with at least 120 attempts. It's the third highest among active players (minimum 120 attempts) behind Chase Utley (89.3 percent) and Carlos Beltran (88.3). Kinsler, with two home runs on Thursday, now has 11 multihomer games in his career, seventh most in club history. Juan Gonzalez had 42, and Rafael Palmeiro had 21.
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.