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Notes: Metcalf tries to settle in at third

Notes: Metcalf tries to settle in

PITTSBURGH -- Rookie Travis Metcalf was in the Rangers lineup on Wednesday for his third Major League start. He may not get another one until Tuesday, the next time the Rangers face a left-handed starter.

Manager Ron Washington is still committed to a platoon at third base between Metcalf and Ramon Vazquez, and the Cincinnati Reds have three right-handers scheduled to pitch this weekend.

The Rangers are trying to squeeze as much offense as they can out of third base with Hank Blalock on the disabled list, but their third basemen are hitting .151 with one home run and six RBIs in 73 at-bats in the last 21 games. Metcalf was 0-for-5 going into Wednesday's game.

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"I'm just trying to learn the stuff I need to do," Metcalf said. "Mechanically, I'm just uncomfortable in the box, but [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo] said that comes with more plate appearances when you start to relax and be yourself. I've been pressing to get that first hit and taking myself out of my game rather than doing what I can do."

Metcalf grounded out in his first at-bat on Wednesday but finally picked up his first Major League hit with a sixth-inning home run off Tom Gorzelanny.

Metcalf knows the opportunity is there, as Blalock is still not going to be back for a couple more months. But the Rangers could also use that roster spot for another need and let Jerry Hairston and Vazquez play third base. Metcalf is considered an excellent defensive player, but the Rangers still need offense from the position.

Metcalf was hitting .283 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 54 games at Double-A Frisco when he was recalled for a second time on Saturday.

"There's an opportunity because of the injuries, whether it's to keep me up the rest of the year or getting my name up there as being somebody who can handle the situation, being mature and professional," Metcalf said. "I just need to more or less calm myself and get comfortable, remind myself it's baseball. I can perform. I don't have to get a hit every time and I'm not going to make an out every time. I just need to get to a point where I feel confident in myself."

Volquez moves forward: Edinson Volquez is gone from the Major Leagues but not forgotten, at least by the Rangers. Volquez won his fifth game in six starts for Frisco when he beat Corpus Christi, 6-4, on Wednesday.

Volquez allowed four runs on five hits but did not walk a batter and struck out four. He is now 5-0 with a 3.57 ERA for Frisco and has walked 11 and struck out 28 in 35 1/3 innings.

"He's doing very well in all areas we've asked him to address," general manager Jon Daniels said. "His command is much improved, and so is his situation management -- holding runners, purpose pitches, fielding his position. ... He's more in control of the game, rather than simply relying on his natural ability to overpower guys."

The Rangers still aren't ready to declare Volquez an option for the Major League team if a need arises.

"I'm not going to put a timetable on his progress, but we're pleased with his commitment to the program," Daniels said. "He's at least on schedule, if not ahead."

Millwood, Padilla watch: Vicente Padilla starts on Friday for the Rangers, and he will be without restrictions. He has been bothered by irritation behind his right elbow, but the Rangers will let him go as long as he can go when he starts against the Reds.

"He's probably got a little bit of soreness back there, but I don't think it's as bad as when he missed that one start," Washington said. "It's not anything that affects his pitching."

Kevin Millwood worked on some things in a bullpen session on Thursday with pitching coach Mark Connor in preparation for a start on Sunday against the Reds.

"He had a good bullpen," Connor said. "The location of his fastball was better and he worked on getting the ball down on both sides of the plate. Millwood's stuff is as good as it ever has been. He's just been hurt by his location, especially his fastball."

He said it: "First of all, this is a gorgeous ballpark and the city did an incredible job hosting the All-Star Game. Hopefully there are a lot better things ahead from a team standpoint, but from an individual standpoint, that was a big honor." -- shortstop Michael Young, on his return to PNC Park, where he was the 2006 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player

Wednesday's Minors stars: Gold: Outfielder Kevin Mahar went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored in Triple-A Oklahoma's 11-1 victory over Albuquerque in the first game of a doubleheader.

Silver: Alfredo Simon pitched a seven-inning complete game against Albuquerque, allowing one run on six hits.

Bronze: Outfielder Steve Murphy was 2-for-5 with four RBIs in Frisco's 6-4 victory over Corpus Christi.

Briefly: Sammy Sosa was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game while the Rangers deal with there being no designated hitter in a National League ballpark. But Washington said he expects Sosa to start both Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati. ... Infielder Drew Meyer has been activated from the disabled list at Triple-A Oklahoma.

Up next: The Rangers open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds on Friday at Great American Ballpark. Right-hander Padilla pitches against right-hander Matt Belisle for the Reds. First pitch is schedule for 6:10 p.m. CT.

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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