Notes: Rangers call up setup help

Notes: Rangers call up setup help

ARLINGTON -- Manager Ron Washington wants to ease some of the workload of his key relievers as the Rangers go down the stretch.

His main concern is with left-handed closer C.J. Wilson and right-handed setup relievers Joaquin Benoit and Frank Francisco. Washington would like to hold them to one inning per outing the rest of the way.

That's one of the reasons why the Rangers brought up Luis Mendoza from Double-A Frisco on Wednesday. Mendoza gives the Rangers an extra long man in the bullpen and Washington is hoping that will allow Wes Littleton, Scott Feldman and John Rheinecker ease the late-inning burden on Wilson, Benoit and Francisco.

"Those three have had the biggest workloads," Washington said. "This time of year, it's not only physical, but mental. Now that we have all these arms in the bullpen, hopefully somebody will pick up the slack. But if we have a chance to win a ballgame, those three still have to toe it up."

Benoit went into Wednesday's game with 72 1/3 innings, third most in the American League, over 60 appearances. He pitched in 79 2/3 innings over 56 games last season, although there is no doubt he has had a much more prominent and grueling role this year.

"Two weeks ago, I felt a little fatigued, but right now I have had a lot of rest," Benoit said. "I haven't pitched much lately. Right now, so far, I'm fine. We as a group have had a lot of innings, so it's a good thing another guy has come up."

Wilson has 62 1/3 innings over 59 appearances. He threw 58 2/3 innings in 57 appearances in 2006. He has also been used for more than one inning in 19 of his 59 appearances and threw 35 pitches in saving Sunday's game against the Angels.

"I've obviously got myself in some odd situations lately," Wilson said. "A slider hits a guy in the leg and I end up throwing an extra 10 pitches. But my workload is not an issue. I stay in great shape, so at the end of the year I finish healthy. I'm prepared to pitch another month. I keep my body strong with the intention that we're going to make the playoffs."

Francisco went into Wednesday's game with 53 appearances after missing most of the past two seasons after Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Otsuka goes on 60: Akinori Otsuka, sidelined with inflammation in his right elbow, was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Mendoza. Otsuka is not going to pitch again this season.

Otsuka tried to throw on flat ground on Wednesday and the session did not go well. Pitching coach Mark Connor said Otsuka, even in the best-case scenario, is still 10 days to two weeks away from being able to pitch off a mound again and time has all but run out on any chance of him pitching in a game.

"Pretty much now you'd say that's a fact," Washington said.

Blalock eyes 3B return: Hank Blalock said the soreness that he felt over the weekend is gone from his right shoulder and he thinks he should be able to play third base on the next road trip.

"The earliest would be the first game in Detroit [on Tuesday] and the latest would be the first game in Oakland [on Thursday]," Blalock said.

Blalock just wants to make sure he can make two tough throws. One is charging on a slow roller and throwing on the run. The other is making a play to his left and twisting to throw to first.

"Those are the two throws [that are the toughest]," Blalock said. "I need to be able to make those without pain or any mental block. That's probably what I'll work on this weekend."

Roberto Clemente Day: The Rangers honored shortstop Michael Young before Wednesday's game as their nominee for the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award. They also presented a check for $7,500 from Chevrolet to Wipe Out Kids Cancer in Young's name. The Rangers made the presentations as part of the Roberto Clemente Day celebration around Major League Baseball.

For Rangers third baseman Ramon Vazquez, a native of Puerto Rico, the name of the late Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer is still held in high esteem on his native island.

"At one time, the guy was probably the best player in the game," Vazquez said. "Everybody knows who he was. You look at his tapes, he was unbelievable. There was nothing he couldn't do. He could throw, run, hit for power and for average. The guy could do it all.

"He still is and will be the superstar from our island. The sad part is baseball is dying on the island, but nobody will ever forget him. I just wish the sport meant as much as it did when he was playing."

He said it: "This is much better." -- Mendoza, on whether he would rather be with Frisco in the Texas League playoffs or with the Rangers.

Briefly: Marlon Byrd was out of the lineup for the second straight game. Washington said he wanted to give him a three-day break and expects him back in the lineup on Friday. ... David Murphy made his fifth straight start while Nelson Cruz was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game.

Up next: The Rangers open up a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday at Rangers Ballpark. Edinson Volquez pitches against right-hander Dan Haren for the Athletics.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.