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Notes: Gagne and Otsuka are coveted

Notes: Rangers relievers coveted

PITTSBURGH -- Rangers relievers went into Tuesday's game with a 3.61 ERA, seventh lowest in the Major Leagues and that's just one reason why they are garnering substantial interest from other clubs.

Another reason is the Rangers have two proven closers in Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka, and both will likely be coveted by other clubs. Gagne went into Tuesday's game with a record of 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA and six saves in 17 appearances while Otsuka was 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA and four saves in 25 appearances.

The Philadelphia Phillies and the Cleveland Indians could be most active in pursuing a closer as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, but just about every team is looking for relief help of some kind. The Rangers are in a unique position of having extra relief pitching that has been performing reasonably effectively, which would make them an attractive trade partner for other teams.

"I think they would be [pursued], but I'm not giving them any of them," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Because I believe our starting pitching is going to get better. These guys will be important but the [starting pitching] has to do it soon so we don't wear [the bullpen] out."

Rangers relievers went into Tuesday's game having thrown 236 2/3 innings over 63 games. That's the most innings by any bullpen in the Major Leagues and comes out to approximately 3 2/3 innings per game.

"The bullpen has been very good, especially the back end of it," Washington said. "I think Willie Eyre and Frank Francisco have been doing a good job of getting the ball to the back end. We just have to get more innings out of our starting pitchers so we don't overwork them."

Wright ready to pitch: Jamey Wright rejoined the Rangers on Tuesday in preparation to start on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds. Wright has made just one start for the Rangers in the first month of the season and has been sidelined for two months with inflammation in his right shoulder.

He made his fourth and final start on medical rehabilitation for Triple-A Oklahoma on Sunday and allowed six runs on 10 hits over six innings against Round Rock. But he got up to 113 pitches and said he felt better than his previous start when he allowed one run in five innings against Colorado Springs.

"My arm strength is good," Wright said. "I'm ready to go and to get back out there. If anything, I should be fresher than anybody else. It was just disappointed that I'm with a brand new team and I couldn't pitch from the get-go. I made one start and then became a spectator. Bummer."

Connor on Padilla: Pitching coach Mark Connor said Vicente Padilla had no pain or stiffness behind his throwing elbow during Sunday's start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Padilla threw in the bullpen on Tuesday and is scheduled to go on Friday against the Reds.

Padilla allowed two runs on 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings after missing a start because of what was described as discomfort behind his right elbow. He left the game with a 4-2 lead, but the Rangers ultimately lost in the 12th inning. They are now 2-11 when Padilla pitches.

"He told me the other day he was fine," Connor said. "He battled really well, he just ran out of gas. He threw a few more pitches than I had planned, trying to get him through the fifth and get him a win. It just didn't work out."

Sosa in now, then out: Sammy Sosa started in right field on Tuesday against the Pirates at PNC Park, but, with no designated hitter in the National League city, that will probably be his only start here in Pittsburgh. Washington said Sosa will likely start just once in Cincinnati this weekend.

Washington said Marlon Byrd will likely start in right field on Wednesday and Victor Diaz will likely be out there Thursday. The Pirates throw a right-hander on Wednesday and a left-hander on Thursday.

"I don't want to wear Sammy out," Washington said. "I'm trying to conserve him as much as I possibly can. He may have to become a pinch-hitter for a few days."

Kata elects free agency: Infielder Matt Kata has cleared waivers and has elected to take his free agency. Kata was designated for assignment a week ago after hitting .186 in 31 games for the Rangers.

He said it: "I may not do as much running at first base, but I'm not sure whether that's good or bad. Sometimes it's better for it to be more stretched out." -- Brad Wilkerson, coming off a hamstring injury, on playing first base

Monday's Minor Stars:
Gold: Right-hander Armando Galarraga pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Double-A Frisco's 6-1 victory over Midland. He allowed four hits, walked three and struck out seven.

Silver: Kasey Kiker picked up his second victory by pitching Clinton to a 2-1 victory over Kane County. In five innings, he allowed one hit, walked three and struck out eight.

Bronze: Infielder Casey Benjamin was 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs in Frisco's victory over Midland.

Briefly: Pitcher Eric Hurley was one of six Roughriders named to the play in the Texas League All-Star game. The others are catcher Kevin Richardson, outfielder Anthony Webster, pitcher Doug Mathis, and infielders Casey Benjamin and German Duran. ... Assistant general manager Thad Levine said after the Minor Leagues host their midseason All-Star Games, the Rangers will meet to discuss some possible promotions. Hurley is one who will likely get strong consideration to be moved to Triple-A Oklahoma. Another guy to watch is Class A Clinton third baseman John Whittleman. ... The Rangers have signed eight Draft picks including pitcher Robert Wilkins (6th round), shortstop Davis Stoneburner (9th round), second baseman Matt Lawson (14th round), pitcher Josh Lueke (16th round), catcher Chris Gradoville (24th round), first baseman Michael Ortiz (28th round) and pitcher Ryan Falcon (29th round).

Up next: Right-hander Robinson Tejeda pitches the second game of the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 6:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at PNC Park. Right-hander Ian Snell pitches for the Pirates.

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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