Rangers have something to play for

Rangers have something to play for

ARLINGTON -- Texas is 15 1/2 games back in the American League West and 11 1/2 games back in the Wild Card. Nevertheless, the Rangers have more to play for than second place in what has turned into a one-team division.

Players like David Murphy, Hank Blalock and Milton Bradley are trying to finish the year with a clean bill of health. Veterans like Michael Young are setting an example for the youngsters on the roster. Manager Ron Washington just wants to get the bad taste from Tuesday night out of his mouth.

"I really want to forget about last night," Washington said.

Tuesday's nine-run collapse in the top of the seventh drove home the fact that Texas' postseason hopes will have to wait until 2009, but with five weeks left in the season, every Ranger has something to prove.

Murphy, on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a sprained right knee, was able to run on a treadmill Wednesday. He said he ran four intervals of two minutes with a minute of walking between each interval, and came out feeling fine.

"I felt 100 percent," Murphy said. "And with a knee, you might expect a limp or something when you go to plant your foot, but I didn't have any of that. The only thing was that my leg wouldn't extend as high when I brought my knee up."

Murphy said that by Friday he could be able to jog outside and take some batting practice. His "educated guess" was he might return to game action around Sept. 1, when the Rangers get home from a seven-game road trip -- if not a day or two earlier.

In the meantime, Blalock is on schedule to wrap up his rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on Wednesday night in San Antonio. Blalock has been on the disabled list since July 29 with right shoulder inflammation, and if all goes well, he'll get Thursday off before rejoining Texas on Friday as a first baseman.

"We'll just let him have his day," Washington said. "He's been great. There weren't any problems with his swing. All he needed was some repetitions at first base."

Then there's Bradley, who hasn't touched the disabled list all year, but has missed 10 of 18 games in August entering Wednesday with an assortment of ailments, ranging from a strained left quadriceps to sinuses, back tightness and left knee soreness.

Bradley was in the starting lineup Wednesday, but Washington would like to reach a point where he doesn't have to wait until the day of games to know whether he can pencil Bradley in the lineup.

If there is one player on the Rangers' roster who Washington can bank on starting day in and day out, it's Young.

Just because Texas is out of the playoff hunt and he's been nagged by minor injuries, Young doesn't feel any less compelled to give it his all on a daily basis, and he wants to set the tone for the younger players on the team.

"This is what makes a veteran player such a valuable part of a team -- showing the young guys how the game should be played and how to rely on each other," Young said. "That's what winning teams do -- they rely on each other."

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