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Notes: Otsuka to miss more games

Notes: Otsuka to miss more games

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ARLINGTON -- Akinori Otsuka remains unavailable out of the Rangers bullpen and it's uncertain if he'll pitch again before the All-Star Game.

Otsuka has been sidelined with some stiffness in his right forearm/elbow area. He said the problem was getting better, but he did some light throwing in the outfield before Thursday's game and his arm did not feel good enough to make him an option for manager Ron Washington.

The Rangers are still hoping that he will be available at some point during the final three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.

"If he continues to improve as much as he has to this point, there's a decent chance," general manager Jon Daniels said. "But I'm not making any predictions. Aki has improved and we'll continue to re-evaluate it day-to-day as far as when he's available."

Otsuka has not pitched since Sunday in Boston when he had to leave the game with two outs in the eighth inning because of the problem. The Rangers are not considering putting Otsuka on the disabled list, which would mean he would miss the first four games after the All-Star break as well.

"We're not looking at that right now," Daniels said.

With Otsuka sidelined, Joaquin Benoit is serving as the Rangers eighth-inning setup reliever and on Wednesday night, he struck out the side to help preserve the Rangers' 4-2 victory.

Benoit, going into Thursday's game, had struck out 21 batters in his last 15 innings and was tied for 10th among American League relievers with 10.02 strikeouts per nine innings. He was also walking 2.86 batters per nine innings. That's down from 4.29 in 2006.

Blalock shoots for Aug. 1: Third baseman Hank Blalock, on the disabled list since May 17 after undergoing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, is shooting for an Aug. 1 return to the lineup.

Blalock has resumed taking batting practice and is in the process of trying to regain his strength. If all goes well he can go on a medical rehabilitation assignment toward the end of the month and then be activated at the beginning of August.

All of this is tentative and based on how much progress he makes in the next three weeks.

"But I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Blalock said. "I'm a little more to the point where I can see myself playing again. Three weeks ago I was just trying to get healthy."

First baseman Mark Teixeira is scheduled to report to Double-A Frisco on a medical rehabilitation assignment on Wednesday. Teixeira would like to play one game with the RoughRiders and then fly with the team on Thursday to Anaheim to begin the second half.

Second-half rotation: The Rangers have not determined their second-half rotation other than Kevin Millwood will lead it off and Vicente Padilla will not pitch in the first road trip after the break.

Washington said Millwood will pitch the first game after the break against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Padilla's schedule calls for him to make two starts on medical rehabilitation assignment -- July 12 and 17. The earliest he would return to the rotation would be July 22 against the Cleveland Indians.

Lofton gets break: Washington talked in Boston about how he was going play Kenny Lofton every day to the All-Star break. That changed on Thursday as Lofton was given a day off.

Lofton has been tending to a sore left knee from the beginning of the season and Washington thought he had an especially taxing game on Wednesday. Lofton grounded out in the eighth inning and Washington used a defensive replacement for him in the ninth inning.

"He wobbled back to the dugout, so I decided to put another defensive player out there," Washington said. "His knee is a little sore."

He said it: "Nothing dangerous. They won't let you do anything dangerous at the zoo." -- Outfielder Frank Catalanotto, who toured the Dallas Zoo on Thursday

Thursday's Minor Stars:
Gold: Double-A pitcher Armando Galarraga threw a shutout in Frisco's 3-0 victory over Arkansas. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out nine.

Silver: Class A Clinton pitcher Kasey Kiker pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven in a 4-0 victory over Quad Cities.

Bronze: Oklahoma's Jason Botts went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to 17 games and Christopher Davis went 3-for-4 for Bakersfield to extend his hitting streak to 24 games.

Briefly: Washington on the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero: "You can't stop him, you can only slow him down. The best thing you can do is get him out of town." ... Michael Young, going into Thursday's game, had not had an extra-base hit since June 15. His last 22 hits have been singles.

Up next: Right-hander Kameron Loe pitches on Friday against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie as the Rangers open a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at 7:35 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

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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