Rangers to give Metcalf time vs. lefties

Rangers to give Metcalf time vs. lefties

ARLINGTON -- Set to face four left-handed pitchers in the next five games, the Rangers are planning on giving third baseman Travis Metcalf some significant playing time for the first time this season.

Metcalf, who missed the first six weeks of the season with an injured left hamstring, was recalled Thursday but hasn't seen any action since. He does have one at-bat this season, though, after making an appearance as a pinch-hitter on May 12 at Seattle. He'd been activated off the DL on May 8 to provide depth for an infield that was thinning at the time.

That one at-bat was all Metcalf got before being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma on May 14 to give him steady playing time as he returned from his hamstring injury.

"It's crazy, but that's kind of what you go through. In this game, you just have to be ready for when they need you," Metcalf said. "It was good to finally see some quality pitching, get some good at-bats and just get into playing under the lights in game situations and put my leg through certain tests."

Having passed those tests, Metcalf is glad to be back with the big league club. And with four left-handers -- Oakland's Greg Smith and Cleveland's Aaron Laffey, Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia -- slated to pitch against Texas in four of the next five games he should get to test himself against some of the best southpaws in the American League.

The first of those four lefties, Smith, will take the mound on Sunday for Oakland's series finale with Texas. It will be Smith's third meeting with the Rangers and right-hander Scott Feldman.

In Feldman's first start against Oakland he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five in a losing effort. But he came back and beat the Athletics five days later, shutting them out in six innings. A win on Sunday for Feldman would complete the sweep for Texas, which is officially 9-1-1 in its past 11 series.

While Metcalf is looking forward to providing Feldman some support against Smith, Marlon Byrd is less than pleased that his starts have been reduced to mostly facing left-handed pitchers.

"I'm not a left-handed specialist and I don't plan on playing against lefties only," Byrd said.

Manager Ron Washington said nothing is set in stone and Byrd may still play against right-handers and Metcalf won't always start in place of Ramon Vazquez against left-handers.

"We'll go day-by-day and see how it goes, but I'm certainly planning on getting them in there," Washington said. "I don't think I'm going to sit on Vazquez for five or six days, even if we face five lefties. I'm not going to sit on Marlon too often if we happen to have a period where all we're facing is righties."

Pitching matchup
TEX: RHP Scott Feldman (1-2, 4.57 ERA)
Thanks to an off-day last week and a flip-flop in the rotation, Feldman takes the mound on Sunday having enjoyed a full week of rest. Originally slated to start Saturday, Washington moved Sidney Ponson into Feldman's spot and pushed Feldman back a day. With Ponson's victory Saturday, Feldman is in position to complete the sweep for the Rangers. He's struggled his last two times out, having allowed 10 earned runs in 12 innings, and is winless in three starts since his May 9 start against these Athletics. Feldman pitched against Oakland in back-to-back starts on May 4 and 9, going 1-1 in those starts.

OAK: LHP Greg Smith (3-4, 2.84 ERA)
Smith and his counterpart, Feldman, have combined for just 16 starts this season, but Sunday will be the third time they've opposed each other. Since his first start against Texas, when he allowed only one run in six innings and struck out 10 only to earn a no-decision, Smith is 1-3. He allowed nine runs in 17 2/3 innings in those three loses, but he held Toronto scoreless in 6 2/3 innings, earning the victory on May 27. Since going 2-0 in his first four starts, Smith is 1-4 in his last six.

Rangers pitchers have started taking bunting practice in preparation for their next stretch of Interleague Play, which begins June 13 at the Mets. ... Josh Hamilton received his American League Player of the Month Award for April before Saturday's game. ... Hamilton is tied with Chicago's Carlos Quentin for the American League lead in home runs with 14. ... Michael Young and Ian Kinsler extended their hitting streaks to 16 and 15 games, respectively, and Kinsler's is a career high. ... Texas' 19 victories in May were a franchise best for the month of May. ... It's the first time in more than 24 years Texas has won 19 games in any month.

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Up next
• Monday: Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 7-2, 3.67) vs. Indians (Aaron Laffey, 3-3, 1.59), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Rangers (Doug Mathis, 1-1, 5.56) vs. Indians (Jake Westbrook, 1-2, 3.12), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 3-3, 4.50) vs. Indians (Cliff Lee, 8-1, 1.88), 7:05 p.m. CT

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