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Infield shuffling upon Blalock's return

Infield shuffling upon Blalock's return

ARLINGTON -- Chris Davis is moving to third base so that Hank Blalock can play first base when he comes off the 15-day disabled list.

The switch could come as soon as Friday, once Blalock completes a three-game rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco. The Rangers announced the switch just before Sunday's game against the Rays.

"I went to the manager's office after I wasn't able to throw today," Blalock said. "I was kind of frustrated with my shoulder, and I couldn't see myself playing third base the rest of the season, so I explained that to [manager Ron Washington]. For them to allow me to move to first base and try to stay on the field has me really excited."

The decision was made after Blalock developed more soreness in his right shoulder while preparing to come off the disabled list. That's been a problem for him since the All-Star break, and it's become obvious to the Rangers that Blalock's shoulder can't handle the physical demands of the position.

"The bottom line is this is the only way to get all these guys in the lineup," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I feel for Hank. ... Hank is a team player. He's been busting his tail the whole time, but the shoulder is not allowing him to get out on the field."

Davis played third base in the Minor Leagues last year while splitting time between Class A Bakersfield and Frisco. He moved to first base this season, but said he's physically better to play third base than he was last year. Davis has dropped 15-20 pounds, he's more mobile and he's no longer dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot. He has also already played two games at third base for the Rangers.

"Chris has been openly positive about the idea of going to third base," Daniels said. "He's making this move for the team. I don't think it [will] affect him negatively."

Daniels said that's how the Rangers will finish the season. Next season is up in the air, as Blalock may not even be with the Rangers after this season.

The Rangers have a $6.2 million option on Blalock for next season, with a $250,000 buyout. Texas was more than willing to pick up that option if Blalock was going to be its regular third baseman and a productive hitter.

The Rangers could let Blalock go and move Davis back to first. They may decide to go into next season with Davis at third and Blalock at first. They could even move Davis to first and use Blalock at designated hitter. That would mean either Milton Bradley would not be re-signed, or he would play the outfield full time.

"All options are on the table," Daniels said. "We'll evaluate both guys and go from there. We are committed to Chris being a big part of our club going forward. If he shows he can play third base, it could be an option for us."

This is the latest episode in a saga that began last year, when Blalock underwent shoulder surgery on May 17 and missed 3 1/2 months. When he returned in September, he was limited to designated-hitter duty.

The Rangers thought Blalock would be ready to return to third base going into the season, but he had some shoulder problems in Spring Training that apparently foreshadowed things to come.

Blalock began the season as Texas' third baseman, but went on the disabled list April 26 with a torn left hamstring muscle. It was while he was on the disabled list that he volunteered to move to first base, with the offer coming after Ben Broussard was released in May. The Rangers agreed, and Blalock began working out full time at first base with the aim of being ready by June 1. But his return from the disabled list was delayed by right wrist surgery, and he wasn't activated until after the All-Star break.

By that time, Davis had been called up from Triple-A Oklahoma and had taken over at first base. The Rangers asked Blalock to move back to third, and he agreed. But he lasted only nine games before the shoulder started bothering him, and he went back on the disabled list on July 29. Blalock was hoping to be activated last week, but he started having more pain in his right shoulder.

That led to Texas' latest decision.

"I don't think it's realistic for him to play third base again this year," Daniels said.

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

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