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Notes: Vazquez moved to leadoff spot

Notes: Vazquez moved to leadoff spot

ARLINGTON -- Manager Ron Washington shuffled his lineup on Saturday as he put utility infielder Ramon Vazquez in the leadoff spot for the first time this season against Cleveland. Vazquez was the Padres leadoff man for parts of two years, and, in his career at leadoff, hit .273 with five home runs and 45 RBIs in 150 games. The last time he led off was Sept. 30, 2004 with San Diego.

"I just wanted to get one guy at the top of the lineup who I think can get us some good at-bats with Jerry [Hairston] struggling a little bit," Washington said.

Vazquez was 4-for-7 in the first two games against the Indians, the team he played with in 2006. However, the Rangers lost both games and have a current three-game losing skid.

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"I'd rather go 0-for-4 with no hits and win," Vazquez said. "I'd take more joy in beating them than having more hits."

All-Star shortstop Michael Young returned from his two-day bereavement leave and was back in the lineup, batting second.

Kenny Lofton, who left Friday's game with a bruised big right toe, was questionable for Saturday's game. He is listed as day-to-day.

"If he can get his foot in his shoe and stand the tolerance, he may be available," Washington said. Marlon Byrd started in center on Saturday.

Padilla's progress: Vicente Padilla threw a bullpen session on Saturday. He threw 28 pitches, then took a seven-minute break, and then threw 26-27 pitches.

Padilla, on the disabled list with right triceps irritation, has struggled because his arm stiffens between innings, which is why pitching coach Mark Connor gave Padilla the seven-minute break.

"It was a step in the right direction," Connor said. "He felt good and cut the ball loose real well."

Padilla will make a medical rehab start Tuesday at Double-A Frisco and will be on a 35-pitch count. If everything goes as planned, Connor said he would bump the pitch count up 15 pitches in Padilla's next outing.

Blalock update: Third baseman Hank Blalock continued working on ground-ball drills on Saturday with Washington. There is no target date, but he will not make his original goal of returning from shoulder surgery by Aug. 1. Blalock is still unable to throw from third base to first base.

"He's coming along well, getting his legs in shape, hands in shape, it's just a matter of when he's able to get the ball across the field with no aches and pains," Washington said. "I think when he gets his strength and feeling back in the hands, it'll be normal."

Blalock has been hitting for three weeks, but his defense has been the holdup. Blalock went on the disabled list on May 17 with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which required surgery in the back of his right shoulder.

He said it: "It would be even more special if Sammy can get himself going tonight because we got a lot of lefties coming up. It would be nice if he can get going on Sammy Sosa night." -- Washington on Sosa, who was honored prior to the game for becoming the fifth player to hit 600 home run.

Friday's Minor League stars:

Gold: Triple-A Oklahoma right-hander Alfredo Simon allowed one run on five hits with nine strikeouts through six innings for a 7-1 victory over Round Rock. The Oklahoma pitching staff totaled 17 strikeouts on the night.

Silver: Left-hander Zachary Phillips won his 10th game of the year, throwing five scoreless innings and lifting Class A Clinton past Fort Wayne, 1-0. Phillips allowed four hits with six strikeouts.

Bronze: Outfielder Kevin Mahar went 2-for-3 with an upper-deck home run and two runs scored in the Red Hawks victory over Round Rock.

Up next: The Rangers face the Indians in the series finale Sunday at 7:35 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Right-hander Robinson Tejeda pitches for the Rangers against right-hander Paul Byrd of the Indians.

Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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