ARLINGTON -- Kason Gabbard has a blister on his left thumb. C.J. Wilson has a sore ribcage among other aches and pains. With Brandon McCarthy getting ready to come back from the disabled list, those have become the two most immediate pitching concerns for the Rangers as they go down the stretch. Gabbard was supposed to pitch on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics, but was scratched because of the blister. Pitching coach Mark Connor said the blister has been affecting his fastball command over his last two starts and the results haven't been good.
Gabbard has allowed eight runs on nine hits and eight walks in 10 2/3 innings over his last two starts and wasn't any better throwing on the side since his last outing against the Angels on Sunday. "I was all over the place," Gabbard said. "Obviously, I want to pitch. It's disappointing but what can you do." The Rangers are hoping Gabbard will be able to return to the rotation and pitch on Thursday against the Athletics in Oakland. "I just don't want him going back out there and popping it again," Connor said. "[Trainer] Jamie Reed thinks we can get this nailed down in a week or so, and he'll be fine." Wilson, the Rangers closer, was also unavailable on Saturday, and Connor said they aren't planning on using him again until Tuesday in Detroit. The Rangers aren't ready to shut him down for the season, but they are going to be more careful with him. Connor said they would like to stay away from using Wilson in back-to-back games the rest of the way. Wilson has appeared in 60 games and has pitched 63 1/3 innings as opposed to 57 games 58 2/3 innings in 2006. But he has taken over a more stressful role, and the Rangers are also concerned about some high pitch counts. He has thrown over 20 pitches in five of his last ten outings. "C.J. is the No. 1 guy we're concerned about," Connor said. "This is the first time he has been at the Major League level for an entire year. We're not so concerned with him finishing up strong as much as him coming to Spring Training not worn out. Whatever the right thing is, we're going to do it." Francisco watch: Setup reliever Frank Francisco has also hit a tough stretch lately. Going into Saturday's game he had allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings over his last three appearances. Francisco missed most of the last two seasons with Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery but the Rangers don't think he is experiencing any late-season fatigue. Francisco said he is fine physically. "My stuff is there, I have just have been getting behind in the count a few times," Francisco said. "My stuff is there. We'll see how it goes but hopefully I can finish strong." Saltalamacchia stays low: Jarrod Saltalamacchia went into Saturday's game hitting .362 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last 12 games. But that hasn't been enough to get him moved up in the Rangers batting order. Saltalamacchia was hitting eighth again on Saturday behind Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz. Both have been struggling, but Washington is not ready to move up Saltalamacchia. "When he first got here he was trying to live up to being in Texas because of the [Mark Teixeira] trade," Washington said. "I'm trying to keep him relaxed. There is a day when he's going to move up in the lineup just as I did with [Ian] Kinsler. But I just want him to be comfortable. "I don't want him to think he has to be a big RBI man. I want him to focus on the pitching staff and his defense when he's playing first base. He can hit." Blalock gets shot: Hank Blalock has been able to stay in the Rangers lineup at designated hitter, but his return to the field continues to be delayed by soreness in his right forearm. Blalock has some inflammation in the forearm and received a cortisone shot to help calm it down. That has kept him from doing anymore throwing this weekend, and it's unlikely he'll be able to play third base anytime in the next week. If he plays there on the upcoming roadtrip, it will likely be on the final stop in Minnesota. He said it: "Everything about being in Texas was great, except my performance. It stunk, and I have no one to blame but myself. I don't know how many times I apologized to Wash. But he said I had nothing to apologize for, but I felt like I needed to. My performance was unacceptable." --Adam Melhuse, now back with Oakland, on his time with the Rangers. Briefly: Washington said Sammy Sosa will start at designated hitter on Sunday with a left-hander pitching for Oakland, but he is not sure about Gerald Laird. ... Laird has been working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on developing the "toe tap" timing mechanism used by Michael Young. Up next: Right-hander Kevin Millwood pitches for the Rangers at 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Left-hander Lenny DiNardo pitches 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.