HOUSTON -- The Rangers' offense took a huge hit with the loss of third baseman Hank Blalock, who is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery on Monday and is expected to be sidelined for 10-12 weeks. Blalock, the Rangers' No. 5 hitter, was batting .285 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 39 games and 144 at-bats. "This is a huge loss," manager Ron Washington said before the Rangers' game with the Houston Astros on Friday. "Just as the same as the loss of [Brad Wilkerson] and the days we have to be without Jerry Hairston. It's a huge loss, especially when Hank was returning to the form he had in the days when he was hitting the ball out of the ballpark and hitting for a high average. We're going to miss him."
The Rangers called up third baseman Travis Metcalf from Double-A Frisco, where he was hitting .294 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 38 games and 136 at-bats. Metcalf is considered an excellent defensive third baseman who is rebounding offensively. He batted just .221 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs at Frisco last year. Metcalf did not start on Friday but will be given a chance to show what he can do. The Rangers right now are saying they prefer to give Metcalf a chance rather than seek outside help. The Astros could possibly be interested in trading Morgan Ensberg, who is hitting .211 with two home runs with 11 RBIs and has lost his job to Mike Lamb and Mark Loretta. He is also making $4.35 million. Others who could be available are Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who has been demoted to Triple-A, and Nationals third baseman Tony Batista. "The solution is hopefully just a 10-week solution," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Travis is going to be given an opportunity. We'll evaluate it over time but for the foreseeable future, Travis will be given an opportunity." Levine said Metcalf, from a defensive standpoint, was ready to play in the Major Leagues two years ago. Offense has been the biggest concern but he has a .363 on-base percentage, which shows he's doing a better job of working counts and taking advantage of counts that are favorable to the hitter. "If there was a veteran third baseman who could have an impact it would be a consideration," Levine said. "But we have faith in our own, especially when the outside alternatives don't represent a significant upgrade. "Defensively, we're very confident that he'll come up and perform. Offensively, we're willing to be patient similar to some of our other guys and let him cut his teeth up here." The Rangers used Nelson Cruz in the fifth spot and veteran utility man Ramon Vazquez in the No. 6 spot in the lineup last night. Washington said he'll use different people in the No. 5 spot, but Frank Catalanotto could be one answer when he comes off the disabled list on Monday. "This is a huge loss offensively," Washington said. "This guy [Metcalf] is supposed to be the glove master. We might lose some offense but we don't lose anything defensively, and I want somebody who can catch the ball. There were times in Spring Training when he put him on the field and he made some plays. He also got some big hits for us." Blalock is suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which has been causing him pain in his right arm. It has been bothering him for some time but he did not seek treatment until after Wednesday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was examined by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas on Friday and by a specialist, Dr. Greg Pearl, at the Baylor Medical Center who will perform the surgery. Blalock has a rib bone that is pressing against a nerve in the right shoulder area between the neck and the arm pit, which is causing the pain. The surgery is similar to what others have had, including former Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers. He underwent the surgery in the second half of the 2001 season and came back stronger than ever. "A number of players have had this surgery and come back and resumed their career without a glitch," Levine said. "It's much more prevalent in pitchers but a few position players have had it as well." The Rangers are hoping Blalock will be able to resume baseball activities in five weeks. "I am extremely disappointed this condition is going to keep me out of action for an extended period of time," Blalock said in a statement through the club. "There is nothing I would rather be doing than helping my teammates try to win tonight and each upcoming game. The sooner I have this surgery means it is one day closer to getting back on the field, and that is what I am focusing on."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.