OAKLAND -- Hank Blalock is planning to play catch on Friday. The session could tell him if he'll play third base again this season, or if he'll spend the remainder of the time at designated hitter. Blalock hasn't played third base since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 1. Instead, he has been bothered by some soreness and inflammation in his right elbow and forearm that required a cortisone shot last week. He has been resting the arm since then and is hoping that the problem has died down.
He'll find out on Friday. "If I'm good, we'll go from there," Blalock said. "I'll build up as fast as I can and maybe get a week at third base." If it's still sore, Blalock will consider shutting it down and just wait until next season before he plays the field again. "I'll decide tomorrow, after I see how it feels," Blalock said. "It would be nice to play third base before the season is over, but if I don't, it's no big deal. I'll just get ready for next year." Blalock was sidelined from May 16 to Sept. 1 after undergoing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in his right shoulder. He has spent a lot of time working with manager Ron Washington on his defense, but has yet to feel comfortable enough or at full strength to return to the field. "We'd certainly like to see him out there after all the work he has put in," Washington said. "But if his arm won't allow it, that's all right." Murphy starts in center: David Murphy made his fifth start in center field on Thursday, but this one may be the most significant. The Rangers are planning to take a look at him in center field in the next week or so. Washington said Murphy could start three of Texas' four games in Oakland and perhaps two of its three games against the Minnesota Twins. The audition reflects the impact that Murphy has made since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox on July 31 in the Eric Gagne trade. He went into Thursday's start hitting .407 in 27 games with the Rangers. "We want to get a better look at Murphy in center field and see what he can do," Washington said. "He is swinging the bat so well, we want to give him more than one day and see what happen[s]. If he continues to swing the bat the way he has, we'll make a spot for him somewhere. "He's proven to me that he's a Major League player. We just need to make sure we know everything that he's capable of doing." Marlon Byrd has been the Rangers regular center fielder since they traded Kenny Lofton at the end of July. Byrd started in right field on Thursday. "I thought [Byrd's] done a great job," Washington said. "We just want to see what Murphy can do." Pitching watch: The latest on the Rangers pitching staff: * Brandon McCarthy threw 35 pitches on Thursday -- 20 in the bullpen and 15 in a simulated game. He had no physical problems and will start on Saturday against the Athletics. The hope is he'll throw 45 pitches over three innings. * Scott Feldman has been diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee. He was examined by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas and will remain at home while the Rangers are on the road. He won't start throwing until the Rangers get back to Arlington, and there is a possibility he may not pitch again this season. * Kameron Loe remains sidelined with inflammation in his right elbow and hasn't resumed throwing off a mound. The Rangers are hoping he'll be able to do that next week while they are in Minnesota. There are no plans right now for him to start again before the end of the season. * C.J. Wilson is available as the Rangers closer after getting five days off. The Rangers still don't want to use him on back-to-back days, but much will depend on his pitch counts. Said Wilson, "I didn't ask for any days off, and I certainly wasn't expecting to get a business week off. I just want to get back on the horse. I want to pitch and I want to finish strong." He said it: "He came in throwing dive-bomb sinkers at 94 mph, a good breaking ball and he struck out Gary Sheffield on a 2-2 fastball. He had good intensity. He keeps the ball down to hitters. He doesn't look scared. He comes out throwing strikes and trusting his stuff." -- Pitching coach Mark Connor on Luis Mendoza, who threw two scoreless innings in relief against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday Briefly: The Rangers activated Travis Metcalf from the disabled list on Thursday. Washington said he wants to see how he's moving defensively before he gets him back into the lineup. ... Washington said Sammy Sosa will start at designated hitter on Friday. ... The Rangers will cover 11,024 miles in the air on this road trip to Detroit, Oakland and Minneapolis. Up next: Left-hander Kason Gabbard starts for the Rangers against the Oakland Athletics at 9:05 p.m. CT on Friday at McAfee Coliseum. Left-hander Dan Meyer 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.