Notes: Nix's stock up, Volquez's down

Rangers notes: Nix up, Volquez down

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rookie pitcher Edinson Volquez didn't do much to help his chances of winning the fifth starter spot, but outfielder Laynce Nix certainly made his long-awaited presence felt Monday night.

Nix, who has been brought along slowly all spring after undergoing surgery on both shoulders last year, smashed two home runs, including a grand slam, and added a two-run double in the Rangers' exhibition game against the Seattle Mariners Monday night.

"Laynce had a good night," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "He didn't make any mistakes."

Nix, playing only his fourth game in center field, entered the game hitting .190 for the spring before going 3-for-4 and finishing with eight RBIs. He had been limited to designated hitter duty for much of the spring while building up strength and endurance in his left shoulder.

"I'm feeling more comfortable in the field, and tonight I had my rhythm and timing at the plate," Nix said. "I'm getting more and more comfortable in the box. Tonight, I've felt something I haven't felt all spring. I hope I can keep it going."

Nix hit a grand slam in the first inning and teamed up with Kevin Mench to hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth off reliever Julio Mateo. He also went the other way in the eighth with a two-run double off the left-field wall.

"I would love to see a healthy Laynce Nix this year," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "To get him back to 100 percent would do a lot for our ballclub."

Volquez gave up six runs in the first inning, when he gave up hits to seven of the first eight batters he faced. He then retired eight of the next 10 hitters he faced.

"It got away from him a little bit," Showalter said. "But I was proud of the way he came back. He had some bumps; hopefully he'll learn from it."

Volquez is still in the running for the fifth starter spot but it appears that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has the inside track. Dickey pitches Tuesday against the Athletics, and then is scheduled to pitch again this weekend when the Rangers return home to Texas. That would put him in line to start the fifth game of the season against the Detroit Tigers.

Wilkerson in, Matthews out: While Gary Matthews Jr. is expected to start the season on the disabled list, the Rangers are hopeful that Brad Wilkerson will be ready for the opener.

Wilkerson received a cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder on Sunday, returned to camp on Monday, and said he should be good to go on Opening Day.

"I'm doing much better," Wilkerson said. "I got the MRI out of the way, and we've got it figured out how to attack this and deal with it for the whole season. I feel better knowing what's going on.

"This has been bad timing, but it's something we have to deal with. Hopefully, on Opening Day, I'll be ready, and I'll get off to a good start and not get frustrated. It might take time, but I'm going to be there."

Matthews remains sidelined with a strained ribcage muscle. He is taking batting practice and was "encouraged" by the way he feels, but he has still not played in an exhibition game and there are no plans to get him in a Minor League game.

"I haven't heard anything that makes me believe that will happen," Showalter said.

As far as Matthews being ready for Opening Day, Showalter said, "It doesn't look like that will happen."

Preparing to negotiate: Rangers players got a reminder of baseball reality on Monday. Donald Fehr, head of the Players Association, made his annual visit to camp on Monday, and the primary topic of the meeting was the upcoming CBA negotiations.

Teixeira, the Rangers' player representative, said one of the primary issues is making sure players' salaries keep up with the significant economic growth of the game.

"This sport is generating tremendous revenues," Teixeira said. "As the reason for the revenues, players should be compensated."

The players hope for the best, but have already put aside money in case there is a work stoppage. The current CBA expires in December.

"The players and union have made plenty of plans for lengthy and tough negotiations," Teixeira said, but added, "We're all feeling positive. This is the best the game has ever been. We want to grow the game. The owners and the players should work together. I've never gotten into a fight with Mr. Hicks. There's a good relationship between owners and players. We need to keep it going."

Pride to sing Anthem: Country music legend Charley Pride will sing the Star-Spangled Banner on Opening Day at Ameriquest Field on April 3, when the Rangers play the Boston Red Sox.

Pride will be part of ceremonies that will honor the 2005 national champion Texas Longhorns football team. Head coach Mack Brown and former coach Darrell Royal, who led the Longhorns to three national titles, will be honored in first-pitch ceremonies.

The Texas Longhorns marching band will be part of the pregame ceremonies, which will also include colors presented by the Arlington Police Department and a flyover of F-18's from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.

Briefly: Third baseman Hank Blalock was scratched from Monday's lineup with stiffness in his back. He remains day-to-day. ... The Red Sox are scheduled to pitch Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett in their opening three-game series against the Rangers. ... Josh Rupe is scheduled to have his right elbow examined by Meister on Wednesday. He still hasn't resumed throwing 12 days after being coming down with a sore elbow.

Coming up: Right-hander Juan Dominguez and Dickey pitch for the Rangers at 1:05 p.m. MT on Tuesday against Joe Blanton and the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Kevin Millwood, C.J. Wilson and Francisco Cordero pitch in Minor League games back in Surprise.

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