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Notes: Rangers starters struggling

Notes: Rangers starters struggling

OAKLAND -- The Rangers' pitching struggles have not been easy on veteran pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. But they have the support and backing of manager Ron Washington.

"Mark and Dom are at the ballpark every day at one o'clock working their tails off," Washington said Tuesday before the Rangers' game with the Oakland Athletics. "At some point, the accountability has be on the guys who are out there on the mound.

The Rangers went into Tuesday's game with a 5.26 ERA, the second highest in the American League.

"Mark is out there working with these guys every day," Washington said. "He's spending a lot of time with these guys. Sometimes the experience and the wisdom and the knowledge that you're trying to give doesn't kick in as quickly as you'd like, but you don't stop pounding and you don't stop preaching."

Washington's main frustration is the Rangers, going into Tuesday's game, led the American League with 214 walks.

"All I can say is we need to throw the ball over the plate," Washington said. "You stop walks by throwing the ball over the plate. I'd rather get hit around the yard rather than put guys on the bag."

The Rangers' main problem is a starting rotation that has a 6.32 ERA, the highest in the Major Leagues. Their starters have pitched at least six innings in just 23 of their first 51 games. Their 18 quality starts are the fewest in the Major Leagues.

The Rangers have had just four quality starts from Vicente Padilla and two from Kevin Millwood, who has pretty much missed a month because of a hamstring injury.

Millwood was fourth in the American League with 22 quality starts in 2006, while Padilla was tied for fifth with 20.

"Taking Millwood out of the rotation was a big hit for us," Connor said. "He's the leader of the rotation. He has his moments where he struggles, but he's still the guy that people look for to pitch innings and win ballgames.

"We haven't had our rotation intact for two turns, if that. We had Jamey Wight for one start, then Kam Loe took over and then Millwood went out. When that happens, other people have to pick up the slack, and that hasn't happened. We've had a couple of stretches where we've pitched very well as a rotation for five, six, seven games, but it hasn't happened as much as we've wanted."

Catalanotto ready for field: Frank Catalanotto is expected to play in the outfield on Wednesday, his first start there since he injured his arm on April 29 in Toronto. Catalanotto went on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis and has been limited to designated hitter duties since he returned on May 21.

That has forced Washington to use Sammy Sosa in the outfield more than desired when a right-hander is on the mound. But Sosa will be back at DH on Wednesday when the Rangers face right-hander Dan Haren now that Catalanotto is able to throw from the outfield again.

"For the most part, I'm letting it go and it's feeling good," Catalanotto said.

Wilkerson watch: Brad Wilkerson, on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring muscle, reported to Triple-A Oklahoma on Tuesday to begin a medical rehabilitation assignment. His first game is on Wednesday, and the Rangers won't rush him back.

"It will be at least five days, and it could be as many as 10," Washington said. "It depends on the hamstring. He's not coming back if he's not sure he'll make it the rest of the year."

McCarthy watch: John Koronka starts for the Rangers on Wednesday in place of Brandon McCarthy, who is sidelined with a blister on his right middle finger.

McCarthy is not going on the disabled list, and the Rangers are hoping he'll be able to start next Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers. Because they are off on Monday, the Rangers could push him back as far as June 9. But right now they are aiming for Tuesday.

"He's figured it out and is pitching well, so you want him back as soon as possible," Washington said.

He said it: "We feel like all these guys are quality Major League starters, but the results haven't been there. They've all demonstrated the ability to do better than they've done." -- general manager Jon Daniels on the Rangers' rotation

Monday's Minor stars: Top performances from Monday's Minor League games:

Gold: Class A Clinton pitcher Zachary Phillips threw seven scoreless innings against Burlington, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out four. He was not involved in the decision as Clinton lost, 3-0.

Silver: Outfielder Freddy Guzman was 3-for-5 with an RBI for Triple-A Oklahoma in a 7-2 loss to Iowa.

Bronze: Reliever A.J. Murray threw three scoreless innings for the RedHawks against Iowa.

Briefly: The Rangers have traded Minor League outfielder Jake Blalock to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later. He's the brother of injured third baseman Hank Blalock. ... Willie Eyre's six strikeouts on Monday was a career high and the most by a Rangers reliever since Ron Mahay struck out seven on Aug. 18, 2003. ... Ian Kinsler, going into Tuesday's game, is one of 14 players who have stolen at least five bases without getting caught. He was 7-for-7.

Up next: Koronka is being called up from Okahoma and pitches for the Rangers at 2:35 p.m. CT on Wednesday against the Athletics. Right-hander Dan Haren, who leads the American League in ERA at 1.70, pitches for the Athletics.

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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