ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington considers obtaining a closer as one of his top priorities heading into the offseason. Washington's wish list already includes a center fielder, first baseman and right fielder (in that order). Still, Washington was adamant that the Rangers needed to get a proven closer in free agency. "Will we get them all? I don't know," Washington said, "but we certainly need a closer.
"You're not going to go into a season expecting to win without somebody who can close a ballgame down. It's that simple." Ever since the Rangers traded Eric Gagne to the Red Sox, C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit have shared the closing duties. Wilson has 11 saves since July 31 and has struck out 29 hitters in his last 28 1/3 innings pitched. Benoit had blown two straight saves before Friday's game, when he closed the game despite allowing a run on one hit and two walks. He has allowed only six runs in his last 22 appearances. "I'm not saying C.J. or Benoit can't do it one day, but they don't have the experience," Washington said. "They have the stuff to do it, but they have to earn their way to that position." Among internal candidates, Akinori Otsuka would be the leading candidate for next season. He saved 32 games for the Rangers in 2006, but was the setup man this season with Gagne as closer. Otsuka has been shutdown for the rest of the season with right forearm inflammation and hasn't pitched since July 1. While Otsuka has Major League experience closing, Washington was insistent on getting a closer from the winter free agent list that includes Gagne, Francisco Cordero and Mariano Rivera. Loe shut down: Kameron Loe will not pitch again this season. The Rangers shutdown Loe, who has been battling a sore right elbow, two days ago. Loe finished his season 6-11 with a 5.36 ERA. The righty started the season in the bullpen, but moved to the starting rotation on April 21 and struggled. He allowed five or more runs in seven of his first 10 starts and was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma on June 9. That lasted for just a few days, however, as he returned to the rotation on June 14. Since then, Loe lowered his ERA from 7.40 to 5.36. It's still unclear whether Loe's future will be as a starter or reliever. "I've always seen myself as a starter," Loe said. "I know I can be a reliever -- that's kind of the fallback. My heart is really with starting." Said Washington: "[Loe] is heading into Spring Training as a starter. We'll see how things go from there. There's seven guys that will get the [starters] innings, and we're going to see how things shake out." Byrd eyeing .300: Over the final eight games, outfielder Marlon Byrd has one goal -- to keep a .300 or better average. Barring a major setback or collapse, Byrd should reach that goal easily. He is hitting .309 with nine home runs and 64 RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma on May 26. Byrd has exceeded Washington's expectations and heads into Spring Training as a leading corner outfield candidate. "He deserves that opportunity and then once he gets that opportunity, it's up to him," Washington said. Little League team honored: The Rangers, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, hosted the Lubbock Western All Stars before Saturday's game. The team represented Texas in the Little League World Series this past August and finished third. "It's an honor to be here," coach Gerald Arredondo said. "We put a plan in place three years ago. We started in June, knowing we had a chance to get to Williamsport, Penn. And, once we got there, we wanted to win it all." Several Rangers, including Kevin Millwood and Michael Young, greeted the young players. He said it: "I think, as a reliever, that's one of the main things you can do, because it shows people you can do it. In save situations, you put less pressure or more pressure on yourself to get job done. True closers get the job done easier than guys just beginning." -- Benoit on being a closer. Briefly: Washington said Armando Galarraga would start on Monday, unless the team needed him in relief on Saturday. ... Nelson Cruz started his third straight game in right field, after going 3-for-3 with a home run on Friday. Up next: The Rangers host the Orioles in the series finale at 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Millwood pitches for the Rangers against right-hander Jon Leicester of the Orioles.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.