ARLINGTON -- Willie Eyre's 2008 season -- and career -- took a severe hit on Thursday when an MRI revealed he would need to have Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery. Eyre was in the middle of his first breakout season in the Major Leagues, carving a niche as a middle reliever in the Rangers' bullpen. "It's real frustrating because I worked my whole career to put a step through that door," Eyre said. "To have this setback, it's going to be hard." Eyre has already talked with his older brother, Scott, who had Tommy John surgery 12 years ago. Scott recovered and is currently a reliever with the Cubs.
Current Rangers pitchers C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman and Frank Francisco have also undergone the surgery and made successful returns. The success rate of the surgery is reported to be 85 percent. "They said you'll feel real good, but your arm is not ready until after 15 months," Eyre said. "They told me to just be careful and take your time. Don't push yourself too hard." Eyre experienced pain in his elbow the past month, with it progressively getting worse. "The last two weeks it was unbearable," Eyre said. "When I came out of the games, it was just killing me." Eyre, who will have surgery on Monday, said he'd like to return with the Rangers in 2009. He was 4-6 with a 5.16 ERA in 33 games before going on the disabled list Aug. 17. "We're going to miss him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Willie had a big workload for us -- he saved us many times. It's best he gets it done now." Cat confident: Frank Catalanotto had Saturday off, but he is finally playing the way Washington knew he could. Catalanotto is hitting .400 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in August. "We're seeing the real Cat now," Washington said. "He's hitting balls down the left-field line, popping them down the right-field line, hitting them in the left-center alley, hitting them up the middle, chopping them through the holes ... that's Cat." It's a complete contrast from how Catalanotto began the season, hitting .230 with six home runs and 22 RBIs before the All-Star break. "I finally got some confidence and got some hits to fall," Catalanotto said. "Even though this is my 10th year in the big leagues, you still sometimes lose confidence when you're not performing at the level you want to." His recent hot streak has also come from the leadoff spot. In his last 16 starts when he's leading off, Catalanotto is hitting .373 (25-for-67) with two home runs and 13 RBIs. Murphy making his case: David Murphy, who was acquired from the Red Sox in the Eric Gagne trade, has been making the most of his opportunity since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma. He is hitting .481 (12-for-25) with four doubles, a home run and five RBIs in 11 games. Murphy is trying to become a lock for next season's roster as the No. 4 outfielder. "I think I'm better than [a No. 4 outfielder]. I would love to start," Murphy said. "But it comes down to I'm playing for a spot on the team." Rotation changes: The Rangers moved Kevin Millwood's next start back a day to Thursday against the White Sox. Millwood was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but after going 8 2/3 innings on Friday, Washington decided to give him an extra day. The Rangers will use Kameron Loe on Wednesday against the White Sox, and keep John Rheinecker in the bullpen. September callups: Washington said reliever A.J. Murray was the only guaranteed September callup. Chris Stewart is also a likely candidate to come up as the traditional No. 3 catcher. He said it: "We got young kids experiencing things for the first time. They're seeing pitches for the first time they may have never seen in their life. They're seeing [Felix] Hernandez, they saw [Erik] Bedard, they saw [Johan] Santana. They might have faced a John Doe that was bad in the Minor Leagues, but if he was that bad, he wouldn't be down there. It's a growing up-type experience, and we'll figure out who the men and the boys are." -- Washington, on the Rangers' young players' high strikeout numbers Friday's Minor League stars: Gold: Left-hander Derek Lee allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings, leading Triple-A Oklahoma past Nashville, 3-2. With the win, the RedHawks moved into a tie for first place in the Pacific Coast League. Silver: Right-hander Ryan Tatusko allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings as Class A Spokane lost to Everett, 1-0. Bronze: Outfielder Freddy Guzman went 4-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored in Oklahoma's victory. Up next: The Rangers take on the Mariners in the series finale Sunday at 7:35 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Right-hander Vicente Padilla (3-9, 6.55 ERA) pitches for Texas against left-hander Jarrod Washburn (9-10, 4.11) of Seattle.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.