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07/05/10 7:26 PM ET

Rangers focus on improving rotation

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are still interested in Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee. They know they have the Minor League talent to make a trade but also realize that, given their ownership situation, the financial challenges will be tough to overcome.

So right now the Rangers are more concerned about getting their own pitchers healthy rather than getting excited about what other starting pitchers that might be available as the Trade Deadline approaches.

"We're very focused on improving the rotation internally right now," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Monday. "From a health standpoint we've got a couple of guys that we'd like to get back after the All-Star break. A lot depends on how both proceed this week."

Rich Harden, 3-3 with a 5.68 ERA in 13 starts, is on the disabled list with a strained lower back muscle and is scheduled to throw live batting practice tomorrow. He could be ready for a medical rehabilitation assignment at some point later this week or early next week. That could put him in a position to rejoin the rotation.

Derek Holland, 2-1 with a 4.19 ERA in five outings, is on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder but also has been dealing with a sprained right knee. He is in the long-toss stage of his throwing program but could be close to throwing live batting practice at some point this week. He too could be close to going out on a medical rehabilitation assignment next week.

Both could be options for the rotation after the All-Star break and before the Trade Deadline. Right now the Rangers are trying to get by with Omar Beltre as their fifth starter, but are also concerned about Scott Feldman, who is 5-8 with a 5.51 ERA.

"We're always keeping our finger on the pulse of the trade market," Daniels said. "But if we can get Derek and Rich back, that goes a long way to addressing that issue. I'd like to see Rich when he's healthy and right now he reports he's feeling good."

Holland's shoulder is not considered a problem. The knee has been what's holding him back lately.

"Right now the soreness is mostly out of his knee and he's throwing the ball well," Daniels said.

Lee and Houston's Roy Oswalt have been the most prominently mentioned candidates to be traded before the Deadline. Lee is still at the top of the Rangers' list. Others who could be moved before the Deadline include Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins, Kevin Millwood of the Orioles and Dan Haren of the D-backs.

Hamilton, Guerrero not interested in HR Derby

ARLINGTON -- Rangers sluggers Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero both reiterated on Monday that they will not participate in this year's Home Run Derby. Guerrero won the 2007 Derby and Hamilton was the star of the 2008 affair.

But both just don't want to participate this year.

"When I won in 2007, it took me about 50 at-bats before I hit another home run," Guerrero said. "That's a problem."

Hamilton set a record in 2008 when he hit 28 home runs in the first round alone, but doesn't want to risk injury this time around. He was asked to participate by the Commissioner's Office but is not being pressured to change his mind.

"They called and said, 'We heard you weren't going to do it but just wanted to hear from you,'" Hamilton said. "I just don't want to hurt anything. It has nothing to do with messing with my wing. I just don't want to take a chance. Strange things happen."

Rangers feel Hunter more worthy than Strasburg

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are amused by all the fuss around Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg and the controversy about him being left off the All-Star team. Strasburg is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in six starts for the Nationals.

Rangers starter Tommy Hunter has made six starts, too. He is 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA but nobody is suggesting he should be on the All-Star team. So why Strasburg?

"A lot of guys put it straight," pitcher Colby Lewis said. "The guy has [six] starts in the big leagues. If he continues putting up numbers, he'll be in plenty of All-Star Games. But if he's being considered, why not Tommy Hunter? He's got a better record.

"Granted, Strasburg brings in fans but if a guy goes out and wins games and makes a name for himself, he should bring in fans. It shouldn't be names before numbers. It should be numbers before names."

Rangers not getting involved in international signings

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, having made a big splash in January, are sitting out the current international signing period. As of July 2, clubs are allowed to start signing the latest clash of amateur free agents out of Latin America, but the Rangers aren't getting heavily involved.

The Rangers signed catcher Jorge Alfaro out of Colombia in January for $1.3 million and that will stand as their biggest acquisition this time around. With the uncertainty about their ownership situation still unresolved, the Rangers prefer to direct their limited financial resources toward any possible acquisitions at the Major League level.

The Rangers have often been one of the most active teams in Latin America and spent approximately $2.5 million a year ago to sign shortstops Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas and several other players after the July 2 deadline.

Rangers mull need for a right-handed bat

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are still considering adding a right-handed bat to their lineup. The Rangers would prefer somebody who can play first base and help ease the burden on Justin Smoak, who is a switch-hitter but batting just .135 against left-handed pitchers.

"It's something we may look at," general manager Jon Daniels said. "There may be some guys in Oklahoma City that could fit that spot or somebody externally."

The two leading candidates at Triple-A Oklahoma City are Ryan Garko, who is hitting .254 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 37 games, and Chad Tracy, who is hitting .262 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 76 games. Tracy has an .892 OPS against left-handed pitching, while Garko is 10-for-27 with three home runs against them.

Worth noting

Rangers rookie reliever Alexi Ogando is just one inning away from breaking the club mark of most scoreless innings of relief to begin a Major League career. He has 11 scoreless innings. Jeff Zimmerman had 11 2/3 scoreless innings in 1999. ... Ian Kinsler has walked in seven consecutive games, the longest streak of his career and the longest by a Ranger since Josh Hamilton's seven-game streak in 2008. ... Michael Young is one of just six players in the Majors this season to start every game for his team. ... First baseman Justin Smoak is hitless in his last 23 at-bats and has seen his average drop 23 points in his last 12 games.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.