Notes: Loe is pitching wild card

Notes: Loe is pitching wild card

KANSAS CITY -- Whether it's as a starter or reliever, right-hander Kameron Loe has proven his worth to the Rangers this season.

He figures in the Major League mix for 2006, but whether it will be as a member of the rotation or a key link in the bullpen remains to be seen.

The Rangers have an entire offseason to sort out the pitching riddle. Depending on who is added through trades or free agency, Loe could either take the ball every fifth day or be counted on for pressure situations at the back end of a game.

For now, Loe will work as a September starter. He'll go against the Twins on Monday, looking for his eighth win. But that doesn't mean Loe will remain in that role.

"He can start this year and could still wind up in our bullpen next year," manager Buck Showalter said. "You want to be as strong as you can both in the rotation and the bullpen. You can't have one without the other."

If he had his druthers, Loe would prefer to work as a starter. He allowed just four hits and two runs over six innings in a win over the White Sox last Wednesday.

"I love starting," Loe said. "It's what I've always known. I know exactly when I'm going to pitch, so my preparation is the same all the time. I like to know who I'm going to face. From high school to college and on through the Minor Leagues, I've been a starter. When I made my first start after being in the bullpen this year, I felt like I was at home."

Right-field woes: For the second year in a row, a Rangers free agent acquisition expected to anchor right field has had a disappointing season.

Richard Hidalgo, who has been on the disabled list for the last month because of a wrist injury, appears to have faded completely out of the Texas picture for 2005.

In response to a question about Hidalgo's status, Showalter checked with the medical staff on Sunday and was told Hidalgo is going through his rehabilitation daily and making some progress. But with just four weeks remaining, it would seem that the clock is working against a Hidalgo return.

If he doesn't play again this season, Hidalgo will finish the year with a .221 batting average. He has 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 88 games.

Hidalgo signed a one-year, $5 million deal last winter in hopes of having a big year and regaining free agent prominence. But Hidalgo never really hit his stride with the Rangers. The previous year, veteran free agent Brian Jordan struggled in right field while trying to come back with a surgically repaired knee.

Around the horn: Veteran left-hander Ron Mahay, who is trying to make the transition to a starter, picked up his first win for Double-A Frisco on Saturday. Mahay went five innings and allowed four hits and one run. ... The Rangers are moving Double-A pitchers Thomas Diamond and Tim Crabtree to Triple-A Oklahoma as the RedHawks zero in on the Pacific Coast League playoffs. ... While there are no guarantees, Showalter has high hopes that righty Frank Francisco can return at some point next year and make an impact for the Texas bullpen. Francisco is coming back from Tommy John surgery. "We like where he is with it," Showalter said. "He has been killing it with the rehab work."

Coming up: Loe will be looking for his third consecutive win when he takes on the Twins on Monday afternoon at the Metrodome. Minnesota will go with right-hander Carlos Silva, who has allowed just eight walks in 180 1/3 innings.

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.