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Notes: Salty makes catching debut

Notes: Salty makes catching debut

TORONTO -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia's long-awaited Rangers debut behind the plate finally came on Sunday afternoon.

Saltalamacchia, the key player the Rangers acquired in a deal that sent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves, has already played in four games for Texas, but all of them have come at first base.

"I'm anxiously awaiting like everyone else is," Rangers manager Ron Washington said just prior to Sunday's game against the Blue Jays. "I was anxious to see him play first base -- he showed us he can handle that task. This is his best spot right now, and it's nice to finally see him behind the plate catching."

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Saltalamacchia advanced through Atlanta's system as a catcher and started 25 games for the Braves at that position earlier this season. Washington said the plan in Texas would be to give the 22-year-old rookie an extended look at both positions.

"I'm going to give him time at both spots," Washington said. "Right now, Gerald Laird is our everyday guy [behind the plate]. Saltalamacchia's going to get two days a week catching, and the other days he's going to play first base. Unless he all of a sudden goes behind and looks like Johnny Bench and takes a job from Gerald, Gerald's our catcher."

Saltalamacchia's presence behind the plate was one of four lineup changes made by Washington for Sunday's matchup, as the Rangers look to avoid the three-game sweep in Toronto. Sammy Sosa batted cleanup and got the start at designated hitter for the first time since Tuesday, while Brad Wilkerson got the call at first base and batted sixth.

In the outfield, Jerry Hairston Jr. started in center in place of Marlon Byrd. It's the first day Byrd has had off since the All-Star break, and Washington said it was just time to give him some rest.

"He needed a mental break," Washington said. "Not so much physical, because when you're out there you build up stamina, but he needed a mental break. He needed a break where he doesn't have to worry about going up there and seeing pitches."

Padilla's rehab continues: Vicente Padilla's rehab continues Sunday night when he takes the mound for Double-A Frisco. The veteran last appeared on Thursday, but had his outing cut short after just one inning because of rain. He is expected to throw 45 pitches, which Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor hopes will get his right-hander through two innings and at least started on a third.

Following Sunday's start, Padilla will be given four days off before making another appearance. Connor said after Padilla gets those two outings under his belt, he'll have a better idea of when Padilla will be ready to return to the Major Leagues.

"He might be ready after the next one," Connor said. "Ideally you want him to come back here ready to throw 90 pitches, but he might not be in that situation. He might come back with the ability to throw around 75."

If Padilla needs only two more rehab starts, it's possible he would be ready to return during the Rangers' series against the Royals, Aug. 14-16. Padilla has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 25 with a right triceps irritation.

One more down: The Rangers announced on Sunday that they have come to terms with Mitchell Moreland, their 17th-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Moreland was the Rangers' 21st pick of the Draft and the 530th overall selection. The 21-year-old second baseman played for Mississippi State University last season.

Texas has now signed 26 of its 54 2007 Draft picks. The Rangers will lose the rights to the remainder of their picks if they're not signed by Aug. 15 because of a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement.

He said it: "I think it's great, he deserved to tie it. I've been a Barry Bonds fan for a long time. He has the best hand-eye coordination I've ever seen. He's late into his 40s, but he's still got good hand-eye coordination, and they still respect him because they still put him on the bag." -- Washington, on Barry Bonds tying Hank Aaron's home run record Saturday night

Coming up: John Rheinecker (1-0, 5.74 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Rangers open a three-game series against the Athletics at 7:35 p.m. CT on Monday. Oakland will counter with left-hander Dallas Braden (1-6, 5.53).

Gregor Chisholm 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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