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Notes: GM hopeful of inking top pick

Notes: GM hopeful of inking top pick

ARLINGTON -- The thaw may be breaking on the signing of first-round Draft picks, and that can only help the Rangers get a deal done with pitcher Blake Beavan before Wednesday's deadline.

According to MLB.com, the Braves have reached an agreement with outfielder Jason Heyward, who was the 14th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. That could be the first in a wave of signings leading up to Wednesday's deadline for signing players from this year's Draft.

Heyward is just the 18th of 30 first-round picks to sign. Sixteen have signed for less than what the player picked in the same slot last year received.

Teams have been under pressure from the Commissioner's Office to hold the line on signing bonuses. But the speculation within the industry is that once clubs start signing players for more than "slot" money, it might open up a wave of signings before Wednesday' deadline.

All players must be signed by 10:59 p.m. CT Wednesday or a club loses its rights to those who remain unsigned.

The Rangers have yet to reach a deal with Beavan, a right-hander from nearby Irving High School who was the 17th overall pick, but something could get done in the next 72 hours.

"They're all big days right now," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We've got three days left, and I'm still cautiously optimistic."

The Rangers had five of the first 54 picks in the Draft, but they have signed just two so far: pitchers Michael Main and Tommy Hunter. They have yet to reach an agreement with Tennessee outfielder Julio Borbon, who was the 35th overall pick, and right-hander Neil Ramirez, a high school pitcher from Virginia who was the 44th overall pick.

Ramirez said on Saturday he is close to signing. A deal with Borbon also is expected to get done.

"I'm hopeful that we'll sign all our top picks," Daniels said. "But there's got to be some give and take on both sides."

Main, the 24th overall pick, signed on June 19 and already is being rewarded. After posting a 1.42 ERA in five games in the Arizona Rookie League, Main was promoted to Class A Spokane.

The Rangers have been told they will not sign their fourth-round pick, outfielder Garrett Nash from Draper-Jordan (Utah) High. He is going to Oregon State. The Rangers also are unlikely to sign fifth-round pick John Gast, a high school pitcher from Florida.

Byrd back in lineup: Center fielder Marlon Byrd was back in the lineup after getting a night off on Saturday. Byrd said he was able to use the time off to good use.

"I was able to work in the cage and look at some films and correct some things," Byrd said before Sunday's game with the Devil Rays. "I felt great in the cage [in early batting practice] today."

Byrd went into Sunday's game hitting .313 with four home runs and 41 RBIs in 66 games and 252 at-bats. But he was hitting just .173 since the Rangers traded Kenny Lofton to the Indians and made Byrd their full-time center fielder.

"My whole thing is if I go out and play my game, I'm going to show them I can play," Byrd said. "Sometimes you scuffle, sometimes you don't. This was just bad timing. I'm just trying to finish strong, and the main thing is to help this team win some games."

Pitching watch: Here is the latest on the Rangers' pitchers:

• Vicente Padilla, who is coming off the disabled list and starting Wednesday against the Royals, threw 45 pitches in the bullpen on Sunday, and pitching coach Mark Connor said: "It went good; everything went well. He located all of his pitches real well. It's fair to say he won't pitch more than five innings [Wednesday]."

• Connor said Kameron Loe will be on a 65-pitch limit when he makes a medical rehabilitation assignment start on Monday at Double-A Frisco.

• Akinori Otsuka, on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow/forearm, still is just playing catch on flat ground and admitted it's unlikely he'll be ready to pitch until Wednesday.

Blalock watch: Rangers manager Ron Washington said third baseman Hank Blalock, who has been sidelined for almost three months after undergoing shoulder surgery, is ready to take another step in his recovery.

Blalock, who has been building up arm strength, is ready to start making throws from third to first base. The Rangers want to test him from all different throwing angles, and that could take more than a few days. But once Blalock masters that, he could be ready for the final step -- a rehabilitation assignment in the Minor Leagues.

He said it: "It felt good, just like normal. It's nice to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully, I can build momentum off of it." -- outfielder David Murphy, on Saturday night's double that was his first hit with the Rangers

Saturday's Minor Stars:

Gold: Shortstop Elvis Andrus was 3-for-4 with a run scored in Class A Bakersfield's 3-2 victory over San Jose on Saturday.

Silver: Catcher Taylor Teagarden was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in Frisco's 7-3 win over Wichita. He is hitting .410 since being promoted from Bakersfield.

Bronze: Michael Schlact, who held Wichita to two runs in 6 1/3 innings, is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA since being promoted from Bakersfield.

Briefly: A night after starting in center field, Murphy started in right so Nelson Cruz could get a night off. Washington said it's important the Rangers get a look at Murphy in all three outfield positions. ... Gerald Laird got a night off at catcher, but he went into Sunday's game having thrown out 39.5 percent of attempted basestealers, third-best in the Major Leagues.

Up next: The Rangers are off on Monday before opening a three-game series with the Royals at 7:35 p.m. CT Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas right-hander Kevin Millwood (7-9, 5.90 ERA) will start against righty Kyle Davies (5-8, 5.64 ERA).

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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