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Notes: Rangers swap third basemen

Notes: Rangers swap third basemen

ARLINGTON -- On Saturday, Travis Metcalf was the Rangers' internal solution at third base.

On Monday, he was on his way back to Double-A Frisco when the Rangers activated Frank Catalanotto from the disabled list. The Rangers are looking at a platoon of Ramon Vazquez and Matt Kata at third base while Hank Blalock is sidelined for 10-12 weeks because of shoulder surgery.

Metcalf was 0-for-2 with two walks before being optioned on Monday.

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"He's a young kid we brought in from Double-A and it doesn't make sense for him to sit around just to pinch-run, pinch-hit or go in on defense," manager Ron Washington said. "We want him to continue to grow because he has a bright future with the Rangers."

Vazquez, a left-handed hitter who went 6-for-8 with two home runs in the three-game series with the Astros, started at third base on Monday against right-hander Carlos Silva. Washington said Kata, a switch-hitter, will start there on Tuesday against left-hander Johan Santana.

"We know Vazquez is not going to hit .800 the rest of the year," Washington said. "But he knows how to play the game and he has been in the big leagues. He knows what he's doing."

The Rangers signed Vazquez to a Minor League contract in the offseason. Vazquez, 30, has spent all or parts of the past six seasons in the Major Leagues with the Mariners, Padres, Red Sox and Indians. Coming into the season, he had a career Major League average of .255 with seven home runs in 386 games and 1,147 at-bats.

"I'm feeling good at the plate and getting good pitches to hit," Vazquez said. "You don't want a guy like Hank Blalock to go down. We all know what he is capable of doing. I'm just happy to be in there, have fun and help the team win games. I'll take it whenever they throw me out there and do whatever I can to help us win a game."

Catalanotto finishes rehab: Catalanotto had a walk and a double in his final game with Oklahoma on medical rehabilitation assignment Sunday and finished 5-for-13 with two walks in his four games there.

The Rangers hope that's a portent of things to come. Catalanotto was hitting .140 (8-for-57) before going on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, and that's one reason Rangers outfielders went into Monday's game with the lowest combined batting average and on-base percentage of any outfield in the American League.

"I'm not putting any pressure on myself, but I know I have to step it up," Catalanotto said. "The games in Oklahoma, I felt like the old Catalanotto. Hopefully I'm back. I feel good. It was nice to get some nice at-bats, face live pitching and get my confidence up when I can see I can still hit the ball hard."

Catalanotto hit .300 the past two seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays, which is why the Rangers signed him to a three-year contract as a free agent in the offseason.

Catalanotto was at designated hitter on Monday night. He'll get Tuesday off, be used at DH on Wednesday and then the Rangers hope he'll be ready to play the outfield this weekend against the Boston Red Sox.

Hairston ready: Jerry Hairston, on the disabled list with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder/neck area, said he feels good enough to play again even though he has missed just five games and still has 10 days left on the disabled list. But he said he understands why the Rangers put him on the disabled list Saturday.

"Obviously, you never want to go on the disabled list," Hairston said. "But they had lost something like five guys in three or four days and they didn't want to be caught short, especially in a National League park."

Word was that Hairston hurt himself diving after a ball in last Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But Hairston said the problem had been bothering him for a month since an April series in Chicago. He finally had a cortisone shot on Thursday.

"It was something that has been bothering me for a while and we couldn't figure it out," Hairston said. "I was trying to get treatment, but it wouldn't settle down so we decided to do something about it and get a cortisone shot. Now it feels a lot better."

Home run dependent: The Rangers went into Monday's game with 217 runs scored, and 96 of them have been driven in by 61 home runs. That's 44.2 percent of the Rangers' runs, the highest ratio in the Major Leagues.

"That's not surprising, because these guys know how to bang," Washington said. "The problem is, let's get people on the bags so we can get more than one run when we do get a bang."

He said it: "I'm not thinking about it. It's going to come. It's going to happen. I'm just focusing on each at-bat." -- Outfielder Sammy Sosa, on his 600th home run approaching.

Sunday's Minor stars: Here are the top performances from Sunday's Minor League games ...

Gold: Right-hander Edinson Volquez threw seven shutout innings for Double-A Frisco in a 6-0 victory over San Antonio. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out five.

Silver: Clinton first baseman Mauro Gomez was 3-for-3 with a two-run home run in leading the LumberKings to a 7-1 victory over Dayton.

Bronze: Emerson Frostad was 4-for-4 with a double and two runs scored for Frisco.

Briefly: Oklahoma outfielder Jason Botts was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week after batting .524 with one home run, five runs scored and nine RBIs. ... Kenny Lofton was thrown out twice trying to steal in Sunday's game against the Houston Astros. That's only happened to him twice previously in his career, the last coming on May 9, 1997, when he was with the Atlanta Braves. ... Vas Rutten of the International Fighting League was a pregame on-field guest of the Rangers before Monday's game.

Up next: Right-hander Kameron Loe pitches for the Rangers at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Santana pitches for the Twins.

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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