NEW YORK -- Eric Gagne is back with the Rangers, and he is back in the closer's role. Gagne was activated from the disabled list for Tuesday's game with the New York Yankees after being sidelined for two weeks because of a strained hip muscle. Manager Ron Washington made it clear that Gagne is still the closer, even though he has pitched in just four games and has been on the disabled list twice this season. "He can throw the ball over the plate, and he can do it with more than one pitch," Washington said. "He knows how to close, even though he's been on and off the disabled list. He's got knowledge, and you can't teach that. He knows what he's doing; it's not like he's some kid that we're trying to break in."
After watching Gagne pitch in two simulated games, Washington was convinced that Gagne is ready to go. "I watched him throw, and his stuff is good," Washington said. "He actually looked stronger. He looks like a monster on the mound." Akinori Otsuka has been the Rangers' closer while Gagne has been out, and he has three saves along with a 1.54 ERA. Washington said that he didn't talk to Otsuka after activating Gagne. "What am I going to say, 'Aki, you're going back to setup?'" Washington said. "He knows that. He doesn't need to be told." The Rangers made room for Gagne by optioning right-hander Wes Littleton back to Triple-A Oklahoma. Catalanotto watch: Frank Catalanotto took batting practice on Tuesday for the first time since going on the disabled list with acute biceps tendinitis in his right arm. All signs point to him being ready to come off the disabled list next Tuesday, when he is eligible. "It went well," Catalanotto said. "I felt pretty good. It started to get sore at the end, but that's what I expected. Overall, it was very encouraging." The Rangers are going to miss Catalanotto on Wednesday against the Yankees. He has a career .441 batting average and a .484 on-base percentage against Wednesday's starter, Mike Mussina, the highest of any player with at least 60 plate appearances against the right-hander. Millwood throws: Kevin Millwood, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring muscle, played catch on Tuesday and said that he is feeling much improved. Milwood is still hoping to come off the disabled list in time to start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Monday. Millwood said that he plans on throwing off a mound in the bullpen on both Friday and Saturday, and that will be the final test to see if he's ready. "As long as those go fine, I should be ready to go," Millwood said. Kinsler back to seventh: Second baseman Ian Kinsler went into Tuesday's game averaging one home run for every 10.89 at-bats, third best in the Majors behind Barry Bonds (7.40) and Alex Rodriguez (8.57). But Washington was starting to get concerned that Kinsler's swing was getting out of whack, so he dropped Kinsler back into the No. 7 spot in the order on Tuesday. "When he went into a slump, I thought his swing got bigger," Washington said. "He was in a situation where he could drive in runs, and I don't want him thinking about swinging bigger." Kinsler went into Tuesday's game with three hits in his last 25 at-bats. Teixeira needed: Going into Tuesday's game with the Yankees, first baseman Mark Teixeira was hitting .480 with three home runs, 14 runs scored and 10 RBIs in the Rangers' 13 victories. In their 18 losses, Teixeira was hitting .156 with one home run, five runs and two RBIs. He said it: "I think it's a mind-boggling thing to pay a part-time, partial-season pitcher that much. But good for Roger." -- Rangers owner Tom Hicks, on Roger Clemens signing with the Yankees Monday's Minor stars: Top performances on Monday from the Rangers' Minor League teams: Gold: Right-hander Eric Hurley lowered his ERA to 1.47 by throwing seven scoreless innings in Frisco's 5-4 victory over Midland. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four. Silver: Clinton right-hander Glenn Swanson improved his record to 5-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 6-2 victory over Lansing by allowing just two runs on five hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out six. Bronze: Clinton outfielder Chad Tracy went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs in the victory over Lansing. Briefly: Washington said that his pitchers will start taking batting practice on the next homestand in preparation for Interleague Play. But he said that his pitchers had better be ready to bunt, because he's not going to let them do much swinging. ... Kenny Lofton's home runs on Saturday and Sunday marked the 15th time in his career he has hit a home run in consecutive games. Only once has he hit a home run in three consecutive games. Up next: Robinson Tejeda (3-2, 3.89 ERA) will face Mussina (1-1, 5.73 ERA) and the Yankees at 6:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday in the second game of the Rangers' three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.