ARLINGTON -- The Rangers need Milton Bradley all the way back to being a full-time outfielder. They are hoping that will be the case by the beginning of May.
Until then, manager Ron Washington will continue to be careful with Bradley as he tries to complete his recovery from knee surgery. Bradley was given a night off against the Blue Jays on Saturday night even though he was in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak. It's just the second time in 11 games that Bradley has not been in the lineup.
"The guy is starting to swing the bat better and he's been all over the basepaths," Washington said. "[Friday] night I started to see him get a little tired and his legs get weary. I hate not to have him against [Blue Jays starter Roy] Halladay, but to have him in the long run you have to take care of him."
Bradley has started seven games at designated hitter. Frank Catalanotto made his first start there on Saturday night. Catalanotto's main role is supposed to be as a left-handed-hitting designated hitter, but the Rangers have been forced to use Bradley there until his knee is at full strength and he can play regularly in the outfield again.
"It may take us through the rest of the month before we put him out there regularly," Washington said. "If I'm going to err, I'm going to err on the side of caution."
The Rangers' grand scheme coming into the season was to have Bradley in right, Josh Hamilton in center and Marlon Byrd in left with David Murphy as the fourth outfielder and Catalanotto as the DH.
Bradley's limitations have forced the Rangers to alter their plans, plus Murphy has shown he is more than just a fourth outfielder. But the Rangers still believe their best defensive lineup begins with Catalanotto at designated hitter. He is their oldest outfielder and doesn't have the range, speed or arm strength of other outfielders.
"Cat has made big strides defensively," Washington said. "I have a lot of confidence in him, but tonight with Bradley out of the lineup, Cat fits in the DH spot. He'll still get his opportunities to play out there. He has made a lot of progress and I don't want him to lose that."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.