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Rangers tab Lee to start Game 1 in playoffs

Rangers tab Lee to start Game 1 in playoffs

OAKLAND -- Manager Ron Washington has set his rotation for the playoffs, one day after the Rangers clinched their first postseason berth since 1999.

The Rangers will go with Cliff Lee in Game 1, followed by C.J. Wilson in Game 2 and Colby Lewis in Game 3. If there is a Game 4, the Rangers expect to go with Lee on three days of rest. Lee has never pitched on three days' rest in his entire career.

"If we have a chance to put this thing away and we feel good about Cliff going again, we'll do that," Washington said.

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The Rangers still don't know if they will play the New York Yankees or the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round. But the first two games will be on the road, scheduled for Oct. 6-7. Oct. 8 is a travel day, and then Games 3 and 4 will be Oct. 9-10 at the Ballpark in Arlington. Game 5 will be on Oct. 12 at the opposing city. Wilson would start that game on four days' rest.

The Rangers will still have Tommy Hunter on the postseason roster. He'll be in the bullpen if needed and could still be the fourth starter if the Rangers decide not to push Lee.

There was no doubt the Rangers were going to go with Lee and Wilson to begin the series.

"We've got to finish the season first. I've got another start to make," Lee said. "But it's the first game, you want to win the first one, and I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win."

The biggest decision was choosing between Lewis and Hunter for the third spot. The Rangers decided to go with Lewis.

"Just his experience," Washington said. "He has been here since Day 1 and has earned that right. Not that Tommy hasn't, but we can only go with three, and Colby is it."

The other big decision is pending. The Rangers are now mulling the possibility of Chris Davis being their left-handed-hitting first baseman over Mitch Moreland. Both were in the lineup on Sunday, but Davis was at first base and Moreland manned right field.

Moreland has been the Rangers' left-handed-hitting first baseman for the past two months, but he went into Sunday's game just 4-for-25 with 11 strikeouts in his past eight games. Davis went into Sunday's game 4-for-9 with a double and a home run since being called up on Sept. 11.

Washington said Davis will play as much as possible in the final week while the Rangers decide what to do at first base.

"I haven't made that decision yet," Washington said. "I've got an opportunity to get him some at-bats, so I'm going to do that."

Jorge Cantu will be the Rangers' right-handed-hitting first baseman for the playoffs. He has struggled at the plate since being acquired from the Marlins at the Trade Deadline, but he was 3-for-4 with a go-ahead home run on Saturday.

"I have been committed to Cantu since he got here," Washington said.

The Rangers are also committed to Jeff Francoeur being on the postseason roster as a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Both he and Cantu could be in the Game 1 lineup if the Rangers are facing Yankees ace CC Sabathia or the Rays' No. 1 starter, David Price.

The final decisions for the roster will be concerning the bullpen, and the Rangers are still waiting to see if Frank Francisco will be ready. He has been sidelined since Aug. 28 with a strained muscle in his right ribcage and he has been limited to throwing long toss on flat ground.

Washington said he has "no clue yet" if Francisco will be ready for the playoffs.

"Fifty percent is not going to get it," Washington said. "We'll wait and see if he makes progress. A lot depends on when he can start airing it out and have no problems."

Without Francisco, the Rangers will have a bullpen that includes closer Neftali Feliz, right-handed relievers Darren O'Day and Alexi Ogando and left-handers Darren Oliver and Matt Harrison. That would leave two spots. Dustin Nippert is likely to be one. The other would likely be a left-hander, either Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman or Clay Rapada. Hunter would also be in the bullpen.

The Rangers still have seven games left, and they rested their most prominent regulars for Sunday's finale with the A's. Third baseman Michael Young, second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus, designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero and outfielder Nelson Cruz were all on the bench.

Kinsler was not available at all. He decided to drop an appeal of a one-game suspension and sit out Sunday altogether. Kinsler was suspended by Major League Baseball for returning to the field after being ejected from a game on Sept. 10. Kinsler returned from the clubhouse to join his teammates in celebration after Cruz's game-winning home run.

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

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