Notes: Sensitive issue hits Rangers

Notes: Sensitive issue hits Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Rangers have had enough trouble with the New York Yankees. They didn't need outside woes to add to their headaches.

But that's what happened on Wednesday.

While Sammy Sosa and Jerry Hairston had to deal with their names being associated with the Mitchell Committee investigation into steroids, Major League Baseball announced that Triple-A Oklahoma pitcher Francisco Cruceta has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Cruceta was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on a waiver claim in the offseason and joined the Rangers in Spring Training. He was outrighted to Oklahoma at the end of spring.

"It's disappointing," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously, we have been pretty clear about performance-enhancing drugs having no place in the game. It's unfortunate."

The Rangers take a number of steps to education their players about performance-enhancing drugs. They have a summer session for players who have just been drafted and joined the organization, and another in Instructional League. There are further sessions with each Minor League team.

"We do as much as we can, but at some point, the players are accountable," Daniels said.

Cruceta is on his own until the suspension is served. Daniels said the Rangers won't add further punishment or release him.

Hairston and Sosa both had their names come up in published reports on Wednesday that said the Mitchell Committee has requested medical records for a number of players. Both played with the Baltimore Orioles, and the franchise seems to be of particular interest to the committee.

"I'm not going to comment," Sosa said. "Go talk to Major League Baseball."

Hairston's name also came up in Spring Training during an investigation into a pharmacy that was involved in the sale of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Hairston made it clear at the time that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I haven't heard anything new," Hairston said. "I addressed everything I needed to address in Spring Training. There is nothing more for me to address."

Daniels said it's "regretful" that names are being brought up before the investigation is completed.

"The intent behind the investigation and our organization's intent is not to comment until Senator Mitchell and his group release their findings," Daniels said. "Any names out there are premature and irresponsible."

Blalock heats up: Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock is hot, and he is showing that can he stay hot against left-handed pitching. Blalock had 10 hits in his last 17 at-bats going into Wednesday's game with the Yankees.

"I'm just going up there trying to hit the ball hard," Blalock said. "If I get a hit, that's awesome."

Blalock also went into Wednesday's game hitting .344 (11-for-32) against left-handed pitching. Blalock hit .216 against southpaws last year but so far is responding to manager Ron Washington's faith in playing him regularly against left-handers.

"That's what I'm talking about," Washington said. "Hank is a player. He may have struggled the last couple of years, but Hank is a player. Anything Hank does, I'm not surprised. It's just that now, Hank knows he's going to play."

Laird sits: Catcher Gerald Laird was out of the lineup on Wednesday night, one day after coming out of Tuesday's game with a bruised left hip. He bruised himself trying to avoid a tag at first base on a bunt attempt in the fifth inning.

Washington said that he expects Laird to be in the lineup on Thursday afternoon.

"I told [Washington] I could go if he needed me," Laird said. "It's just sore. It feels like a knot, but it's starting to loosen up."

He said it: "I don't sense any unusual comfort against them. We realize we have to do all the right things to beat any team." -- Yankees manager Joe Torre, on his team's domination of the Rangers

Tuesday's Minor stars: Top performances from the Rangers' Minor League teams on Tuesday:

Gold: Triple-A Oklahoma outfielder Marlon Byrd was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the RedHawks' 9-5 victory over Las Vegas, and he is now hitting .478 with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last five games.

Silver: Clinton outfielder K.C.Herren was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, and Craig Gentry went 3-for-4 with two runs scored in the LumberKings' 9-2 victory over Burlington.

Bronze: John Mayberry was 2-for-5 with a double, his eighth home run of the season and three RBIs in Bakersfield's 6-5 victory over the Inland Empire in the California League.

Briefly: Frank Catalanotto, on the disabled list with acute biceps tendinitis, had another good day of batting practice, but he hasn't started throwing yet. He said he may do that either Thursday or Friday. ... First baseman Nate Gold has been activated from the disabled list at Double-A Frisco, and pitcher Scott Shoemaker is being promoted from Bakersfield to Oklahoma.

Up next: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy (2-43.89 ERA) will pitch against right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (1-2, 3.98 ERA) of the Yankees at 12:05 p.m. CT on Thursday 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.