OAKLAND -- The Rangers haven't reached the end of the season or had any formal meetings about the offseason but manager Ron Washington already has his wish list ready. Washington has three priorities for improving the team this winter: center field, first base and right field and in that order. "I don't know if we can get them," Washington said. "We might get one, we might get two. I'm just saying those are the holes that we have to fill. They all don't have to be big-time offensive producers but they all have to play some defense."
Marlon Byrd has been the Rangers center field for the past 1 1/2 months and went into Saturday's game hitting .307 with nine home runs and 63 RBIs in 96 games and 365 at-bats. The Rangers will look to see if they can find a better center fielder but still like Byrd. Washington said an ideal situation could be Byrd sharing time in left field with Frank Catalanotto and backing up at the other two spots. "With the progress that Byrd has made, he deserves an opportunity to win a job," Washington said. The winter free agent list is loaded with center fielders, including Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron and Corey Patterson. First base is not quite as loaded. Sean Casey is the only legitimate everyday first baseman on the list. "We may have to get some guy with 15 homers and 80 RBIs," Washington said. "That's all right, they just need to play some defense. I want pitching and defense." The Rangers were hoping Nelson Cruz would claim the right-field job, but that hasn't happened yet. The Rangers haven't given up on him yet, but time is running out. "If Nelson Cruz steps up, he can play right field," Washington said. "He hasn't yet. But if I can get a center fielder and a first baseman, I can work the other two [outfield] spots and then maybe the next year we can get the other position filled." Washington seems more focused on filling the position needs rather than worrying about acquiring pitching, which has always been viewed as the Rangers biggest problem. That may no longer be the case. "I don't know how much pitching is out there and how much more we can get," Washington said. "But we've got some young kids here with some promise. If we can teach them to pound the strike zone then they can be capable. We've got to pound the strike zone. If we do that, our pitching will be better." Blalock watch: Third baseman Hank Blalock played catch before Saturday's game and still felt "a little sore" in his right arm. That doesn't bode well for Blalock returning to the field any time soon. Blalock hasn't played third base since undergoing shoulder surgery in May. He was activated on Sept. 1, but has been used strictly at designated hitter. He has put much work in on his defense at third base but hasn't been able to take it out into the game because of lingering soreness in his arm. The Rangers would like to see him play third before the season is over but won't push it. "I think it's important because of all the work he's put in, just to see the progress," Washington said. "But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. We'll wait until Spring Training." RBI machine: Sammy Sosa may not get enough at-bats to reach 100 RBIs but he is among the best in the American League when he does get his chance. Going into Saturday's games, Sosa had 88 RBIs in 396 at-bats or one RBI for every 4.50 at-bats. That's the fourth best ratio in the American League for a player with at least 400 plate appearances. Alex Rodriguez led with an RBI every 3.79 at-bats, followed by Carlos Pena (4.04) and Magglio Ordonez (4.16) while Vladimir Guerrero (4.52) was fifth. Sosa also led the Rangers with 22 go-ahead RBIs and 11 game-winning RBIs going into Saturday's games. His five RBIs on Friday night gave him 1,663 for his career and put him in a tie for 16th all-time. He said it: "He's hit No. 1 starters and No. 2 starters. He's hit setup relievers and he's hit closers. That's how good he has been." -- Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, on Marlon Byrd Briefly: Jason Botts made his 16th start in left field on Saturday and Washington said: "He's showed me he can play out there but I'm still going to remove him defensively late in the game." ... Ian Kinsler stole his 20th base on Friday night and went into Saturday's game with 19 home runs. He needs one more home run for the seventh 20/20 season in Rangers history. Toby Harrah did it twice while Alfonso Soriano, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonds did it once. Up next: The Rangers close out their four-game series with the Athletics at 3:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at McAfee Coliseum. Right-hander Vicente Padilla pitches against left-hander Lenny DiNardo 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.