Roster shaping up with Bradley's debut

Roster shaping up with Bradley's debut

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers came close to having their Opening Day lineup on the field for the first time when Milton Bradley played in his first Cactus League game Friday against the Angels.

Bradley started at designated hitter and the Rangers admit that's probably where he'll have to be on Opening Day against Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard. Bradley underwent surgery because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 27 and has yet to play the outfield this spring.

There's still a chance he could do so before the Rangers break camp Thursday, but the Rangers expect him to be limited to DH duty at least to start the season.

"That's what I'm planning on," manager Ron Washington said. "It's all predicated on how Milton comes through this week."

If Bradley has to DH, then the Rangers would open with an outfield of Josh Hamilton in center, David Murphy and Marlon Byrd on the corners and Frank Catalanotto, the Rangers' regular DH against right-handers, in reserve.

Bradley was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his first game but seemed to run well on a fourth-inning groundout. He'll start again Saturday and then get Sunday off.

"I've been telling you, my knee feels great," Bradley said. "I just need to continue on getting at-bats and getting some hits.

Byrd was the only potential Opening Day starter who was not in the lineup Friday. He was given the day off but will be back Saturday.

Gerald Laird will be the Opening Day catcher, although the Rangers are still debating whether Jarrod Saltalamacchia should stay in the big leagues in a part-time role or go to Triple-A to play regularly. The Rangers debated that topic in an organizational meeting Friday morning and there are strong arguments on both sides.

"It's unchanged from what was said in the past," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We have two guys who we feel are capable of being everyday players and good ones. They are at different stages of their careers. We've got an idea of what we're going to do, but we're going to take a little more time and make sure we make the best decision for both of them."

Laird reinforced why he is the Rangers' Opening Day catcher Friday when he threw out three of four attempted basestealers against the Angels.

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The infield remains intact with Hank Blalock at third, Michael Young at short, Ian Kinsler at second and Ben Broussard at first. However, Washington threw a new wrinkle into the mix Friday by batting Young in the No. 2 spot in the order and moving Hamilton into the No. 3 spot.

Washington's plan was to have Hamilton bat second and Young third when the season opened. He's now considering switching them. Young is a career .316 in the No. 2 spot as opposed to .296 in the No. 3 position, but Washington has been more concerned about Hamilton.

He wanted Hamilton to bat second so he wouldn't feel so much pressure, but that was before he hit so well this spring.

"He's shown he can handle the middle of the order for sure," Washington said.

Washington still plans on using Bradley in the No. 4 spot in the order but wanted to avoid using him there in his first Cactus League game.

The Rangers also officially decided upon Ramon Vazquez as their utility infielder when they sent Ryan Roberts and Edgardo Alfonzo to the Minor Leagues on Friday. All three are hitting over .300 this spring, but the Rangers aren't forgetting what Vazquez did for them in a utility role last year.

"He earned his spot on this team and did not do anything to deserve losing it," Washington said.

First baseman Chris Shelton was sent to the Minors as well, leaving Jason Botts, Kevin Mench, Nelson Cruz and Jason Ellison to compete for a spot on the bench. Not much has been said about Ellison, but he gives the Rangers something the others don't: speed off the bench.

"If they are still in camp, they are still in the mix," Daniels said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.