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Shelton to return to backup role

Shelton to return to backup role

MINNEAPOLIS -- Just as Chris Shelton is heating up, he is headed back to the bench. The first baseman has been getting playing time since Texas designated Ben Broussard for assignment on May 9. Shelton is expected to cede the position to Hank Blalock on Friday, when the former third baseman comes off the disabled list.

Shelton started the season slowly, and was hitting .056 on May 7. Since then, he has gone 9-for-25, including a 3-for-4 game on Wednesday. His average has risen 117 points in two weeks, and now stands at .233. Shelton is a career .277 hitter with 37 home runs in 846 at-bats.

"For the most part, I've gone up there and been aggressive; tried to find a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it," Shelton said.

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Shelton said he has no problem with whatever role in which the team places him.

"If I am not in the lineup, I know what my role is -- to pinch hit off the bench," Shelton said. "When it comes time for that, I get myself ready. But I come in ready to play every single night."

Shelton had been platooning at first with Frank Catalanotto. Shelton, however, started the last two games against right-handed pitchers because Catalanotto has been resting a sore back.

Blalock, rehabbing a partially-torn hamstring muscle, played five innings in an extended Spring Training game in Surprise, Ariz., on Wednesday. He worked with Rangers Minor League field coordinator Dave Anderson in an effort to learn to play first base. Manager Ron Washington said Blalock is making adjustments and progressing well.

Blalock's return comes at a bad time for Shelton, who was just beginning to find a groove. On top of his increased offensive productivity, he has been solid in the field. His sprawling stop on a Delmon Young first-inning grounder Tuesday night was named by ESPN the number one 'Web Gem' of the evening. Shelton has not committed an error on the season and Washington said Wednesday that the first baseman has "made some great plays" on defense.

"I want to continue to always get better over there," Shelton said. "Every day, I try to get better so I can be on the field every day. You have to have pride in your defense."

Washington said Shelton swings the bat well and will be a good reserve. The manager said, however, that he hadn't talked to Shelton about the role change.

"Chris is an extra player," Washington said. "If he was an everyday player, it would be different."

Shelton stated the obvious on Wednesday night: he wants to play every day. However, he is happy to do whatever his manager asks of him.

"Whatever Wash has for me to do, that's what I am going to do," Shelton said. "If Hank is going to play over there every day, then Hank's going to play over there every day. I'm just going to continue to be here to support the guys if I am not in there, and when I am in there, hopefully go out there and contribute."

Thor Nystrom 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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