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Notes: Murray heads to Oklahoma

Notes: Murray heads to Oklahoma

BALTIMORE -- Left-handed pitcher A.J. Murray was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma on Wednesday.

He went down as a reliever and will likely return in September to work out of the bullpen, but his future could still be as a starting pitcher, pitching coach Mark Connor said.

"From what I've seen, I look at him and see him as a starter," Connor said before the Rangers' doubleheader with the Orioles on Wednesday. "I don't see a guy with one or two outstanding pitches that most relievers have that allows them to pitch out of the bullpen.

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"As a starter, he's going to be able to use all four of his pitches and implement them all rather than rely on just two pitches. I see A.J. as a starter next year."

Murray, 25, went down after pitching three scoreless innings on Tuesday against the Orioles and has a 5.00 ERA in eight Major League appearances. He has been a starter for most of his Minor League career, but his development was held back by shoulder surgery that forced him to miss both 2004 and '06.

That's why the Rangers have been careful this year by using him as a reliever and building up his innings. He'll likely end up with 60-65 innings before the season is over. Next year the Rangers could build that up to 130-140 innings, most likely at Oklahoma.

"He needs to pitch every fifth day," Connor said. "The thing about A.J. is he has the feel for pitching and he has command of his pitches. To me, that's a starter. He's pretty athletic and I think he's a quick learner."

Young back in lineup: The Rangers called up third baseman Travis Metcalf from Triple-A Oklahoma on Wednesday because of concerns about shortstop Michael Young's back.

Young, with the weather cold and windy, had to come out of Tuesday's game because of the back but was in the starting lineup for Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader.

"It's fine," Young said. "I don't mind it being sore as long as I can get it loosened up. But last night I couldn't get it loose. I couldn't get full range of motion."

Young wanted to stay in the game, but manager Ron Washington pulled him out.

"Looking back, I can't say I disagreed," Young said.

Metcalf replaced Murray, leaving the Rangers with six relievers. One of them -- Mike Wood or Jamey Wright -- has to start on Saturday, and Washington admitted the Rangers will have to call up another reliever by then.

Otsuka may have surgery: For the first time since Akinori Otsuka went on the disabled list, the Rangers are talking about the possibility that he might need surgery.

Otsuka was examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday and the diagnosis was similar to what was found in previous examinations by Dr. Keith Meister and Lewis Yocum.

"Dr. Andrews found some wear and tear that's consistent with a pitcher who is 35 and has pitched the number of innings Aki has," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "There are no structural issues and he should be able to pitch through this. There's nothing imminent that would keep him from pitching."

Otsuka has been sidelined with discomfort in the elbow/forearm area since the end of June. Levine said surgery might become an option if the problem persists but it's not planned now and probably won't be major if it does come to that.

Levine said the Rangers still hope Otsuka will pitch again this season even if it looks increasingly doubtful. Much will be up to Otsuka.

"We'll continue to listen to what Aki says," Levine said. "He'll let us know when he's ready to pitch."

Catalanotto at first: Frank Catalanotto, for Game 1 of the doubleheader, started at first base for the first time this year. Washington said it was a way of keeping his bat in the lineup while starting David Murphy in left field.

Catalanotto's last start at first base was July 30, 2003, while with Toronto. This was his 94th game at first base, but all but two of those came from 1998-2003.

Catalanotto could play more first base as the season winds down, giving the Rangers more of a chance to look at Murphy. That would cut into Brad Wilkerson's playing time. But Washington doesn't see Catalanotto as a candidate to be the Rangers' regular first baseman in 2008.

"I want a natural first baseman," Washington said. "We've got to find a natural first baseman and not a first baseman that we have to turn into a first baseman."

He said it: "Least amount of service time ever for a player representative. Do I get an award for that?"
-- Pitcher C.J. Wilson, who is taking over from Mark Teixeira as the Rangers' union representative

Tuesday's Minor Stars: Gold: Edinson Volquez threw seven scoreless innings in Triple-A Oklahoma's 10-2 victory over New Orleans. He allowed two singles, walked three and struck out eight. He is now 6-1 with a 1.60 ERA at Triple-A.

Silver: Volquez was the star for the RedHawks, but Nate Gold was 3-for-5 with a home run and has now hit safely in seven straight games. During his streak he is hitting .444 (12-for-27) with two doubles, five home runs and nine RBIs.

Bronze: Arizona Rookie League catching prodigy Cristian Santana was 3-for-4 with a triple in a 10-4 victory over the Royals. He has an eight-game hitting streaking going in which he is 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, two triples, a home run and five RBIs.

Briefly: Marlon Byrd went into the doubleheader hitting .348 in night games. That's the second-highest average (minimum 200 plate appearances) for night games in Rangers history. Rusty Greer hit .358 in 1996. ... The last time the Rangers started two left-handers in a doubleheader was Sept. 10, 1993, when Charlie Leibrandt and Kenny Rogers did so against the Minnesota Twins. The Rangers had gone 20 doubleheaders without two lefties pitching until Kason Gabbard and John Rheinecker started on Wednesday. ... The Rangers' .242 batting average on the road, going into the doubleheader, is their lowest for one season since 1988.

Up next: The Rangers open a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners at 7:35 p.m. CT on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Kameron Loe pitches against Jeff Weaver.

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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