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Notes: Pitch counts on skipper's mind

Notes: Pitch counts on skipper's mind

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Millwood went just five innings and threw 82 pitches in his first start for the Rangers on Monday night.

The other four starters aren't likely to go much farther than that the first couple of times through the rotation. Manager Ron Washington said he wants to limit his starting pitchers to 90 pitches in their first start and no more than 100 pitches the second time around.

That's one of the reasons why the Rangers are carrying eight relievers through the early part of the schedule.

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"By the time they get to their third and fourth starts, everything will be predicated on performance," Washington said. "I thought Millwood did a great job. He wasn't ready to come off the field, but we have to look out for him. The bullets we save now will be bullets we have in the gun in August and September."

Millwood's high last year was 115 pitches on Sept. 3, against the Cleveland Indians. Don't look for him to go farther than that. He has thrown more than 120 pitches in a start just seven times in his career and the last time was on July 31, 2002.

Vicente Padilla's high in 2006 was 118 in his final start against the Mariners, and he has thrown more than 120 pitches in just four of 144 career starts.

"You're not going to see any 120- or 130-pitch games," Washington said. "But you'll see 113 pitches, 115 pitches, something like that."

Cruz starts in right: Nelson Cruz started in right field for the Rangers after sitting out the season opener against right-hander John Lackey. Washington made it clear on Tuesday that Cruz will get playing time and his Opening Day caution is only a temporary thing.

"I just didn't want his first game to be a bad experience," Washington said. "Now, like the rest of us, we can all relax and play baseball. At some point he'll face everything the American League has to offer. I'm just trying to ease him into it. We're not going to keep him from any experience he needs to get. He's going to face them all."

Cruz said he had no problems sitting out the first game.

"I told the manager whatever he does is fine with me," Cruz said. "He's going to do what's best for the team."

Laird off and gunning: Rangers catcher Gerald Laird threw out two of three attempted basestealers on Opening Night and has now thrown out 41.5 percent in his career.

That's the third-best rate among active catchers with at least 100 starts in the Major Leagues. Laird trails only Yadier Molina (45.9) and Ivan Rodriguez (44.2).

"The biggest thing is the pitcher giving me a chance," Laird said. "I've always had a pretty good arm and a pretty good exchange; it's a matter of keeping everything in sync and giving me a chance. If I have a shot, I'm going to get the majority of them."

Rodriguez, a 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, is still the standard by which all catchers are measured. He trails Molina but has only started 1,610 more games than him.

"He's the best of all-time," Laird said. "This franchise has had some great catchers, both Pudge and Jim Sundberg [a six-time Gold Glove winner]. Those are the guys I watched growing up. It would be nice to have my name in the same sentence with those guys when my career is over."

Good reports on Gagne: Pitching coach Mark Connor said he continues to get good reports on Eric Gagne's progress in extended Spring Training, and the Rangers still expect him to be activated on April 13 in Seattle.

Gagne has one more outing in Arizona and three more with Double-A Frisco before he's eligible to come off the disabled list.

"The only thing that changes that [is] if he needs more time or he gets hurt," Connor said. "The way things are going, I don't see that happening. He will be on that plane to Seattle."

He said it: "He's kind of a freak of nature. You just do what you can against him. If you don't get the pitch where you want it, he's going to hit it hard. Even when you do put it where you want it, he still hits it hard." -- Millwood, on Vladimir Guerrero

Briefly: The Rangers are expected to face James Shields, Casey Fossum and Edwin Jackson in the three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that starts on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. ... Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista are scheduled to pitch for the Mariners against them April 13-15 in Seattle. ... The Rangers are talking to other clubs about Marlon Byrd. One possibility is the Washington Nationals. They lost outfielder Nook Logan on Opening Day because of a strained left foot. ... Mike Wood threw 2 1/3 innings of relief on Opening Day, the most by a Rangers reliever in the first game since Mike Morgan went three innings against the Tigers in 1999. ... Washington, on pitching to Guerrero, "All I can say is, get him off the plate and then throw offspeed down and away where he can't get the big part of the bat on it. You're not going to stop him completely. The best thing is when he's in situation where he can hurt you, don't pitch to him. I'll put him on the bag before he can hurt us."

Up next: The Rangers play their first day game of the season when they face the Angels at 2:35 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Angel Stadium. Brandon McCarthy makes his first start for the Rangers. The Rangers were 16-22 in day games last year.

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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