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Notes: Lofton returns to Cleveland

Notes: Lofton returns to Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Kenny Lofton has played in 479 games at Jacobs Field, but it may be awhile before he plays in No. 480.

Lofton wasn't in the lineup on Wednesday with left-hander C.C. Sabathia on the mound for the Cleveland Indians, and Thursday's game has a serious chance of being postponed because of rain.

Lofton still enjoys being back at Jacobs Field, his former ballpark where he established himself as one of the top leadoff hitters and center fielders in the game.

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"This is the city that jump-started my career and I'll never forget it," Lofton said.

Lofton, traded by the Houston Astros earlier in his career, played for the Indians from 1992-96. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 1997, but re-signed with the Indians after the season, and stayed in Cleveland for four more years.

He played on five division championship teams, including the 1995 squad that beat the Seattle Mariners in the American League Championship Series, and took the Indians back to the World Series for the first time in 41 years. Among his teammates were Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez.

"We had some good teams, and we knew we had a good team," Lofton said. "It was awesome. We had a lot of confidence, and we had a lot of fun. I talk to people about [manager] Mike Hargrove, and I tell them that Mike Hargrove had a tough job.

"He had to deal with some crazy players. We were nuts. Guys would be wrestling with each other in the clubhouse the night before the game, but 45 minutes before the game started, it would all come to a stop. You went from a party to a morgue. You could tell it was almost game time. It was awesome."

Lofton started 17 of the Rangers' first 19 games, but manager Ron Washington wanted to use Jerry Hairston in center on Wednesday against Sabathia, a tough left-hander.

"It's always a good to get a day off, and let the body rest," Lofton said. "On this team, you've got guys you have to get in the lineup because you never know when you'll need them. Everybody has to feel like they're not too rusty, so that when they're called on in big situations, they feel comfortable.

"If a guy sits for two weeks and then is called on to pinch-hit, they're not ready. Ron's doing it the right way, keeping guys in there."

Getting his chance: Hairston was in the starting lineup on Wednesday for the sixth time in 20 games. He started in just eight games for the Rangers in the final two months of last season.

But Washington continues to look for opportunities to get him in the lineup. Hairston entered Wednesday's game hitting .294 with a .381 on-base percentage.

"That's what we got him for," Washington said. "He handles tough left-handers, and does a lot of things. He can field, run and he gives you a good at-bat. I'm not giving Kenny a day off against all lefties, but there was a good chance to get Jerry in there."

Willie Mays is here: Willie Mays Hayes played center field for the Indians in the movie "Major League." He was a fictional character. Willie Mays Eyre is a real person. He is a relief pitcher for the Rangers. His first name is William, but his mom really did add Mays as the middle name after the Giants' Hall of Fame center fielder.

"I was named after my uncle," Eyre explained. "My mom couldn't think of a middle name, but she was a big baseball fan so she said, 'How about Mays.'"

She did so, even though she was a Dodgers fan. Calling somebody Willie Mays could add a lot of pressure, but Eyre said very few people knew his middle name growing up or even after he starting playing professional baseball.

"My mom called me 'Say Hey' when I was young but that was about it," Eyre said.

Low ERA: Rangers reliever Akinori Otsuka, going into Wednesday's game, had a 2.36 ERA as a Major League pitcher. That's the lowest ERA among the 11 Major League pitchers who were born in Japan and have pitched at least 100 innings in the big leagues.

Tuesday's Minor stars: The top performances from the Rangers' Minor League games on Tuesday are:

Gold: Class A Clinton infielder Jose Vallejo went 3-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI in a 7-1 victory over South Bend.

Silver: Clinton relievers Jonathan Hollis and Tim Gudex combined for four scoreless innings. They gave up two hits and struck out four.

Bronze: Catcher Kevin Richardson hit a three-run home run to help lift Double-A Frisco to a 5-4 victory over San Antonio.

He said it: "That's our problem. Guys aren't even hitting good against guys they hit good against." -- Washington, going over his players' histories against opposing pitchers

Briefly: Brad Wilkerson was the only left-handed hitter in the Rangers lineup on Wednesday, his first start since missing a week because of a sore left knee. "He needs to start seeing some pitches and lefties don't bother him," said Washington. ... The Rangers went into Wednesday's game hitting .181 on the road, as opposed to .272 at home. That's the largest home/road difference in the Major Leagues. ... Hairston received a nominal fine from the Commissioner's office for being ejected from last Wednesday's game with the Chicago White Sox.

Up next: Right-hander Kameron Loe pitches for the Rangers against right-hander Paul Byrd for the Cleveland Indians on Thursday at 11:05 a.m. CT. The weather forecast for the game is not promising.

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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