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Notes: Team optimistic about Otsuka

Notes: Team optimistic about Otsuka

OAKLAND -- This may have been the most-watched bullpen throwing session of the season.

Akinori Otsuka threw 30 pitches in the bullpen before Monday's game with the Oakland Athletics and the session was attended by pitching coach Mark Connor, bullpen coach Dom Chiti, manager Ron Washington and assistant general manager Thad Levine.

When it was over, the Rangers were expressing optimism that Otsuka will not have to go on the disabled list because of the inflammation in his right elbow/forearm area that has sidelined him for two weeks.

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"He felt stronger as he went along," Levine said. "He started really letting it go with the last 10 pitches or so and at no time did he experience any discomfort. We'll see how he feels tomorrow, but he has shown significant improvement. This is the best he's felt since he first had this setback."

The Rangers have to make a roster move before Tuesday's game because they are calling up Robinson Tejeda to rejoin the rotation. He was optioned to Oklahoma after his last start on July 5, even though he has remained with the Rangers all that time.

If Otsuka does not go on the disabled list, the Rangers would likely send Wes Littleton back to Oklahoma. Otsuka has not pitched since July 1.

A number of clubs are monitoring Otsuka and Eric Gagne as they look for relief help before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. But Levine said the Rangers weren't concerned about Otsuka losing trade value by going on the disabled list.

"We're not looking at it that way," Levine said. "We're looking at his ability to help us win games and be the dominating eighth-inning guy that he is. We're not looking at trade value."

Padilla scratched: Vicente Padilla, on the disabled list since June 25 with inflammation in his right elbow, has been scratched from a second medical rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Frisco on Tuesday.

Padilla, who experienced more discomfort in the elbow at the end of his last start on Thursday, will instead have a bullpen session up in Frisco.

"If that goes well, then we'll have to decide if he's ready to start either Thursday or Friday," Connor said. "If this thing persists, we'll have to decide what to do and if we need to shut him down for a longer period. By that time, we could be in September. Hopefully he'll feel good enough tomorrow.

"I'm encouraged that he didn't feel the pain until he got up to 50-55 pitches. If we can progress that and not let him get fatigued, we'll be fine."

Melhuse returns: Adam Melhuse was at McAfee Coliseum on Monday, his first visit since being traded to the Rangers by the Athletics. Ironically, it came on the same day that the Athletics traded catcher Jason Kendall to the Cubs.

Melhuse spent over two years as Kendall's backup and hardly got to play at all. He has already started eight games for the Rangers, one more than he started with the Athletics. That's why it felt like he was getting out of prison when the Rangers acquired him on June 9.

"That's a great way to put it," Melhuse said. "I don't want to paint a dark picture, because I had good times and good memories. The first couple of years here I got to play. The last couple of years were rough, but overall it was an awesome experience. Now it's time to move on."

Melhuse is expected to start on Wednesday.

Hunter signs: The Rangers have signed right-hander Tommy Hunter, the pitcher from the University of Alabama who was the 54th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. He is expected to receive a "slot-money" signing bonus of $585,000.

Hunter is being assigned to Class A Spokane where he'll likely be used in relief for the rest of the season. But the Rangers haven't decided yet if Hunter's long-term future is as a starter or a reliever.

The Rangers had five of the first 54 picks in the draft and Hunter is the second to sign. They signed pitcher Michael Main (24th overall), but are still having ongoing discussions with pitcher Blake Beavan, who was the 17th overall pick.

He said it: "I want him to be aggressive and attack the strike zone. He'll have to against this club." -- Connor on Tejeda, who starts on Tuesday against the A's

Sunday's Minor League stars: Gold: Right-hander Kendy Batista threw six scoreless innings and third baseman Christopher Davis hit a grand slam to lead Class A Bakersfield over Visalia, 5-4. Davis extended his hitting streak to 33 games with his fourth-inning blast. ... Silver: Double-A Frisco defeated San Antonio, 4-3, as second baseman German Duran went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored. ... Bronze: Right-hander Eric Hurley allowed two runs on seven hits through six innings as Triple-A Oklahoma lost to Round Rock, 6-4. Jason Botts improved his average to .324 by going 2-for-2 with two walks.

Briefly: Banished pitchers Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando, detained by visa problems, can't get into the United States but they are pitching for the Dominican Republic in the Pan Am Games in Brazil. ... Pitcher Josh Rupe, coming off elbow surgery, has begun his throwing program and told Connor that this is the best his elbow has ever felt.

Up next: Tejeda pitches for the first time in 12 days when he faces the Athletics at 9:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at McAfee Coliseum. Right-hander Chad Gaudin 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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