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Notes: Bullpen needs a breather

Notes: Bullpen needs a breather

ARLINGTON -- Mark Connor has coached for 32 years in the Major Leagues, the Minor Leagues and at the collegiate level, but hasn't been through a more difficult season than the one he is currently in.

The Rangers' pitching coach has seen his bullpen pitch the most innings in the Majors, largely because every starter has had at least on stint on the disabled list. And it's the only American League rotation without a complete game.

"This is the most frustrating season I've had as a pitching coach, for sure," Connor said. "I think [the number of innings] have caught up with us, and we're not even out of the woods yet."

Entering Sunday, the bullpen had thrown 571 innings, 55 more than any team in the AL. And losing Eric Gagne (traded to Boston July 31), Akinori Otsuka (shutdown on July 1 with right forearm inflammation and Willie Eyre (Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery) has forced the Rangers to rely on less experienced players.

Manager Ron Washington describes the bullpen as "beat up."

"Our starters have to go deeper than five innings in the game, so some of the workload can ease," Washington said. "That's the priority I have right now."

After Kevin Millwood's start on Sunday, the Rangers have Armando Galarraga scheduled to make his first Major League start on Monday.

Following Sunday's game, Washington said the Rangers decided to shut down Brandon McCarthy for his next start, scheduled for Tuesday against the Angels.

McCarthy, who has been battling tendinitis in his right forearm/elbow area, didn't seem optimistic about pitching again this season.

"It's still sore," McCarthy said. "I'd like to get back out there, but it's up in [the trainer's] hands whether it's smart or not for me to."

Washington said either Jamey Wright or Mike Wood would start Tuesday's game.

Next year's closer: One of Washington's top priorities this offseason is for the Rangers to get a proven closer.

If the Rangers don't do that, Connor believes the team would be fine with C.J. Wilson, Joaquin Benoit or Otsuka.

Wilson has converted 12 save opportunities in 14 chances, while Benoit has converted six of 12. Otsuka has not pitched since July 1, but saved 32 games for Texas last season.

"I don't know about the offseason, if we get an opportunity to get a guy with a pedigree, great," Connor said. "If we can't get someone, we'll have to do with what we have."

Four in a row: Nelson Cruz was in the starting lineup for the fourth straight game on Sunday. In the first three games against Baltimore, Cruz had seven hits, including a home run. Still, it has been a disappointing season for Cruz, who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma midseason for 45 games.

"It's not what I expected, I know I can do much better," Cruz said of his season. "Everyone knows I have the ability to play."

Washington likes what he's seen from Cruz the past three games, but he's not about to praise him, either.

"By no stretch of the imagination should [Cruz] feel good, because I don't," Washington said. "Where was this in April, May, June, July, August? And, look who he's done it against. Let's see him get seven [hits] off [the Angels rotation]."

California celebration? If the Angels don't clinch the AL West on Sunday, they will travel to Texas one game shy of a bubbly celebration at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. However, that's something Washington isn't concerned about.

"I don't look at anybody making life hard for me, because every day I go out there thinking we can win," he said. "Anaheim never scared me and they never will scare me, even if they're a good team."

Kinsler's 20-20: When Ian Kinsler belted his 20th home run on Saturday, he became the sixth player in club history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases, joining Alfonso Soriano (2005), Ivan Rodriguez (1999), Rafael Palmiero (1993), Bobby Bonds (1978) and Toby Harrah (1975 and '77).

Kinsler was the 13th player in the Majors to reach that mark this season.

He said it: "I'm real excited. You always want to have a chance. I need to command my fastball [Monday]. I need to be the same pitcher I was [in the Minors] and not be too nervous." -- Galarraga, on making his first start Monday against the Angels

Briefly: Washington said reliever Frank Francisco, who last pitched on Sept. 14, has been bothered by a sore shoulder. "He's had command problems too. We haven't seen a spot to get him in there," the skipper said. ... Michael Young entered play Sunday six hits shy of 200. It would mark his fifth consecutive season of 200 or more hits, and only two other players have done that since 1940: Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki.

Up next: The Rangers open a three-game series against the Angels on Monday at 7:05 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Galarraga pitches for the Rangers against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana.

Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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