Inside Pitch: AL West Update

The AL West had a wild week, as the four teams squared off against each other during the week. Over the weekend, the Oakland A's moved ahead of the Texas Rangers for first place. Below is an update of the state of all of the AL West teams.

ANAHEIM ANGELS

INSIDE PITCH

Unlike some teams, which can make trades to fix their problems, the Angels may be stuck with what they have. At least, that seems to be the attitude of the front office as the trade deadline approaches.

With the exception of trading disgruntled right-hander Ramon Ortiz, the Angels may not make much of a splash on the trade market this month. That strategy appears to be coming from the top.

"Everybody asks me what I'm going to do. What do they think I'm going to do, sign Kobe?" Angels' owner Arte Moreno said. "I don't want to rent a player for three months and give up some of our best minor-league prospects. If this were Sept. 20 and there were only eight games to play, then I'd start shaking my head."

As bad as things have gone for the Angels in the last month, external reinforcements aren't exactly waiting in the wings. General manager Bill Stoneman has said he doesn't feel the need to fix things with a trade and, four weeks before the trading deadline, manager Mike Scioscia doesn't think swapping prospects for major-league talent is the answer either.

"I don't see it being a situation where we get the cavalry to come and all of a sudden give a boost to the club," Scioscia said. "A big part of it is players getting more consistent in-house. Guys who had a rough first half will rebound. I definitely see us as having the talent to reach our goal."

The Angels' division rivals, as usual, have taken a more active approach this time of year. General manager Billy Beane of the Oakland A's has acquired hard thrower Octavio Dotel to shore up his bullpen and he'd like to add at least one more player -- probably a second baseman -- before the July 31 trading deadline.

"I love this time of year," Beane said. "Getting somebody adds a whole psychological boost for our club, because it lets the guys who are here relax. I'd definitely like to do something else to give us a lift."

Dotel pitched a scoreless ninth inning in every game against the Angels recently, striking out four Angels. He saved two of the games in the A's sweep.

"He's big for them," Scioscia said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Manager Mike Scioscia has a new term for how he plans on using a bullpen rejuvenated by the returns of Brendan Donnelly and Troy Percival: a "pyramid." He reiterated that Percival will be the closer but said the seventh and eighth innings will be divided up among Donnelly, Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields sometimes according to matchups.

--Vladimir Guerrero said he had nothing to do with the Angels acquiring his cousin, outfielder Cristian Guerrero, from the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday. But he's glad to have him in the organization.

"Mainly, he knows I'm here and I can help him with anything he needs," Vladimir said. "It will be nice in spring training to know that he's not that far away."

Guerrero played with his older brother Wilton on the Montreal Expos, but it doesn't look like he'll be playing with his 6-foot-5 cousin any time soon. Cristian Guerrero was batting .224 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs for the Mariners' Double-A club.

"He needs to not try to hit the ball out of the ballpark," Vladimir said.

--Guerrero endorsed teammate Jose Guillen for the All-Star team. Guillen, third among AL outfielders in RBIs, is on the bubble for a berth along with pitcher Jarrod Washburn and third baseman Chone Figgins.

"He's having a heck of a year," Guerrero said. "I think he's shown he can represent our organization, but it's their decision. I'd like to have Jose be a part of it, too."

--As if the Angels' struggles weren't enough to make them miserable, a nasty flu bug has been going around the clubhouse. Tim Salmon said he spent 32 straight hours in his hotel bed after he woke up June 30 with nausea, but it appears to have been a fast-moving virus.

"Hopefully it ran its course," Salmon said.

--The Angels' Triple-A Salt Lake club had an awful journey June 30. The Stingers had an 18-hour trip from Tucson, Ariz., to Edmonton because of flight delays. They got to the ballpark 10 hours late, then had their game suspended at 11:15 p.m. because of a pre-planned fireworks show. They had to play a doubleheader Thursday.

--RHP Scot Shields, who has already pitched 53 2/3 innings, thinks this bullpen can continue doing the heavy lifting even as the hot months approach. Bullpens often stumble in the second half when their work loads mount.

"All our arms are capable of doing it," Shields said. "Everyone goes through a little dead arm, no matter how many innings you throw. It's going to happen at some point. But it hasn't caught up to us this far and I don't think it will."

--Angels pitching coach Bud Black is monitoring his relievers' innings, but until Angels starters begin going deeper into games consistently, it could be an on-going issue. "Some of the guys have carried more of a burden at times than you're comfortable with, but it's been out of necessity," Scioscia said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9-19 -- Angels' record from June 3-July 4.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're trying to get Bart on track. The results speak for themselves. Bart's disappointed and we're disappointed." -- Manager Mike Scioscia on struggling ace Bartolo Colon.

ROSTER REPORT

Ramon Ortiz likes the idea of pitching for the New York Mets, the latest team rumored to be in pursuit of the Angels' right-hander. Ortiz's brother lives part of the year in New York and he has plenty of other family members there, too.

Then again, Ortiz isn't picky these days. Increasingly frustrated with his diminished role, Ortiz wants a change of scenery badly. He has asked the Angels to trade him more than once this season, but they appear intent on getting a player or two they can use in return.

The New York Post reports the Mets aren't willing to give up much to land Ortiz, who has won 15 games each of the past two years. Ortiz's first preference is to regain his starting job with the Angels, but mopping up in relief is low down on his list of favorite things to do.

"I told them, I don't know how many times, I want to go some place else," Ortiz said. "It's unbelievable. I've never in my whole life seen something like this. I've won 44 games the last three years. I think every day, 'You know what? I'm good.'"

The Angels are growing weary of Ortiz's complaints, but they're unlikely to let him talk them into a trade that doesn't help them.

"We can turn this thing inside and out as much as you want," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know he wants to start, but we also know when we give Ramon the ball he's going to go after hitters with everything he has and that's what's important."

PITCHING TRENDS: If there's one part of the team the Angels shouldn't have to worry about, it's their bullpen. Buoyed by the returns of Brendan Donnelly and Troy Percival, it's among the best in baseball.

But even one of the team's strengths contains the seeds of a looming worry. Angels relievers have carried among the heaviest loads in the majors. Two of them, Scot Shields and Kevin Gregg, rank Nos. 1 and 2 among American League relievers in innings. Anaheim starters have struggled to pile up innings consistently.

John Lackey leads the rotation with 95 and he ranks 28th in the league in that category.

PITCHERS TO WATCH:

--RHP Aaron Sele likely is in his final year in Anaheim and free agency has brought out the best in him. He was undefeated in May and returned from a 15-day stay on the DL pitching as well as he had before. He's 5-0 and his ERA has stayed below 4.00.

--RHP Troy Percival remains the Angels' closer, at least for now. He says his velocity -- which has been in the low-90s since he returned from the DL -- should return as he gets more work on the mound. Francisco Rodriguez was 5-for-5 in save chances in Percival's stead.

--RHP Kelvim Escobar has been the tough-luck pitcher on the Angels' staff. Going into his July 4 start, he had delivered a quality start in eight of his previous nine outings, but he remained stuck at 4-4.

LINEUP LOWDOWN:

Since manager Mike Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher arrived five years ago, the Angels have never been enamored with taking walks. They preach an aggressive approach at the plate and on the bases. In 2002, the Angels finished 11th among 14 AL teams in walks.

Not surprisingly, adding free swingers Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen has hastened the trend. The Angels are near the bottom in the league in taking walks. Scioscia and Hatcher don't think that's why they'd been thirsting for big innings going into Friday.

"If you really look into it, they're throwing us a lot of strikes. It's not like we're swinging at a lot of bad pitches," Hatcher said. "Both years I won it, when I was with the Dodgers and here, we had offenses that got stuck in the mud sometimes. A lot of our problems are because we have not been able to line up the way we want because of injuries. I think we're getting close to the way we want it."

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--3B Chone Figgins was out of the lineup after 64 straight appearances because of a concussion he received breaking up a double play in the seventh inning July 1. Marco Scutaro's knee had struck Figgins in the head, a blow that couldn't knock Figgins from the game.

"It seemed like he was fine, then he got back here and he felt worn out," Scioscia said. "Figgy looks fine, he just has a nasty headache."

--2B Adam Kennedy has been mired in a season-long slump, but he awoke spectacularly in two games at Oakland. Kennedy went 6-for-7 in the final two games of a June 29-July series to raise his average from .238 to .255.

--1B Darin Erstad has generally been able to play despite having dislocated a knuckle of his middle finger, but sometimes the swelling makes it tough to swing a bat. He missed the Angels' July 1 game because it was a day game following a night game, a pattern that may continue for a while.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Raul Mondesi is on the 15-day DL because of a torn right quadriceps and expected back in mid-July.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

INSIDE PITCH

Arthur Rhodes was tough enough to endure getting multiple tattoos on his shoulders and body, but the pain from a sonorex machine that sends shock waves through the pain areas humbled him quickly.

Rhodes got to level three, out of 10, on July 1 in the latest attempt to treat the back spasms that have prevented him from pitching since June 22.

"I can't stand that much pain in my back," Rhodes said. "That sonorex hurts worse (than tattoos)."

Since Rhodes wasn't improving very quickly, and the Oakland Athletics needed a third baseman to start the July 2 game, the A's finally placed Rhodes on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 25.

Why did the A's take so long with a pitcher who was at least a week from returning to the mound. The A's were reportedly trying to trade Rhodes, who was demoted from the closer role when the traded for Octavio Dotel, and players on the disabled list cannot be traded.

The speculation was a number of things were taking place behind the scenes. The A's were hoping Rhodes' injury would stay under the radar of other teams. Once Rhodes does return, the A's no doubt hope to place Rhodes in a couple ideal circumstances for him to succeed, and the results would convince another team Rhodes is still valuable as a left-handed setup reliever.

It won't be easy for general manager Billy Beane to trade Rhodes, considering he pitched poorly as a closer and he's in the first year of a three-year, $9.2 million contract.

Rhodes had never previously experienced back problems and is frustrated by his inability to heal quicker. Once the pain subsides, Rhodes will still need to throw a couple bullpen sessions -- meaning it's doubtful Rhodes will return before the all-star break.

With so many teammates having the same problem -- and back injuries are something that never go away -- Rhodes was asked if he should get a Barry Bonds-style recliner to massage everybody's back before games.

"I might have to buy us one," Rhodes said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--SS Bobby Crosby was named Rookie of the Month for June. Crosby was 34-for-101 (.337) with three home runs, 12 RBIs, 18 runs, 12 doubles, two steals and 10 walks.

--LHP Mark Mulder was the pitcher of the month for June. He won eight consecutive starts going into his July 4 appearance, including four of six in June, and compiled a 2.74 ERA in the month.

--RHP Justin Duchscherer, unavailable for nearly a week because of back pain, made a strong return July 3 with two scoreless innings against the Giants in relief.

BY THE NUMBERS:

8 -- Number of players the A's have placed on the disabled list this year, including six at this time. The A's used the DL only six times in 2003.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"I was too lonely. I asked if they wanted to come out. They said, 'We were waiting for you to tell us to come here.' It's good to have them here. It's more comfortable for me. I'm more relaxed." -- New A's closer Octavio Dotel, on his family arriving in the Bay Area from the Dominican Republic.

ROSTER REPORT

INF Ramon Castro was recalled to the majors July 2, and since he doesn't have a car, had an adventurous taxi ride from Sacramento to San Francisco. The taxi driver didn't know how to get to SBC Park, they had to contend with Friday afternoon commuter traffic, and Castro left his wallet in Sacramento. Once Castro arrived, about 25 minutes before a game he started, traveling secretary Mickey Morabito and equipment manager Steve Vucinich pooled together enough cash to pay the hefty fare.

PITCHING TRENDS:

The depth of the A's organization was evident when right-hander Kirk Saarloos made a spot start in Tim Hudson's place July 1 and pitched five scoreless innings. The A's resisted the urge to bring up top pitching prospect Joe Blanton, who had struggled in his previous nine starts. The A's were also able to keep Justin Duchscherer, thought to be a backup starter, in the bullpen. Saarloos, acquired in April for RHP Chad Harville and hurt most of the season while at Triple-A Sacramento, got the win against Anaheim.

PITCHERS TO WATCH:

--LHP Mark Redman will be happy to not face the Giants again. Redman took consecutive losses and gave up six home runs against the cross-bay rivals. Redman will have one more start before the All-Star game, but overall has proved a solid fourth starter.

--LHP Barry Zito showed signs of his Cy Young form June 30 in taking a no-decision against the Angels. Zito had only his fourth 1-2-3 first inning of the season, which helped keep his pitch count down, and Zito pitched seven innings. This is a big week for Zito, making two starts before the All-Star break -- including the final game.

--RHP Justin Lehr has responded to every situation he's been given out of the bullpen. The latest was the eighth-inning setup spot before Octavio Dotel in a victory against the Angels. If he keeps performing this well, Lehr will likely remain in the eighth inning role -- or other tight-game spots late in the game.

LINEUP LOWDOWN:

All things considered, the A's didn't miss Eric Chavez too much. They played over .600 ball without their Gold Glove third baseman and No.3 hitter, much of thanks to an 11-1 homestand. But the A's are eager to get Chavez back in the lineup, so the other players can settle back into their regular places in the order.

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--INF Mark McLemore will go back to a second base platoon with Marco Scutaro, once Chavez returns. McLemore wasn't able to play every day because of persistent swelling in his surgically repaired right knee, but performed admirably on defense at third base in Chavez's absence.

--RF Jermaine Dye is making a late run for All-Star consideration. Dye was on fire in April, cooled off in May, but his torrid June -- including a four-hit game July 3 against the Giants -- renewed his All-Star stock.

--C Damian Miller continues to give the A's much more offense than expected. Along with an average close to .300, Miller was in the top-five for RBIs in June. Miller's value was also evident in his pitch calling for newcomer Kirk Saarloos in his A's debut.

MEDICAL WATCH:

2B Mark Ellis dislocated his right shoulder on March 25 and a second MRI confirmed he has a torn labrum and will be out for the season. The shoulder stabilized and surgery likely won't be needed.

3B Eric Chavez could be activated July 9 in Cleveland. OF Billy McMillon was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to June 10, because of inflammation in his back. McMillon didn't improve as quickly as they first thought and received a second epidural. He might return to baseball activities this week.

LHP Chris Hammond was placed on the disabled list June 21 because of stiffness in his shoulder. He's another week or two from starting a throwing program.

RHP Tim Hudson was placed on the disabled list June 26 because of a left oblique strain, the same injury that's hampered him in the playoffs each of the last two years. Hudson played catch July 3 and Hudson might return July 10, the second-to-last day before the All-Star break.

LHP Arthur Rhodes was placed on the disabled list July 2, retroactive to June 25, because of back spasms. Rhodes' back didn't respond to normal treatment and he tried a relatively new machine called a sonorex. Rhodes isn't likely to return until after the All-Star break.


SEATTLE MARINERS

INSIDE PITCH

LF Raul Ibanez, on the disabled list since June 4, was back in action on Sunday (July 4), serving as DH for the Triple-A Tacoma in a game in Salt Lake City.

The plan is that Ibanez will make four starts for the Rainiers, two as DH and two in LF, then will join the team in time for Friday's game in Chicago, where he could be in the starting lineup.

RHP Rafael Soriano could be coming off the disabled list in the not too distant future, as well. His elbow problems behind him, he starts throwing off a mound this week for the first time in almost two months.

For Ibanez, the hamstring injury that put him on the DL was slow to heal, but in the last week he's been able to run the bases without pain.

The Mariners have been protective of Ibanez, who owns a share of the team home run lead with 11, and they were perfectly happy to wait until after the All-Star break to take advantage of the extra few days off.

But he is anxious to return, and the medical crew cleared him to do so.

"The thing with hamstring injuries is that you've got to be sure before you bring somebody back," manager Bob Melvin said. "If you bring somebody back too early and they have another problem, you're talking about missing most of the year."

Soriano has spent about a week throwing on flat ground to pitching coach Bryan Price. The elbow problems haven't returned, so the Mariners are comfortable with taking this next step. Soriano was a dominator last year with his fastball, and the Mariners have badly missed that presence in the bullpen.

"The pen sets up much better when we have Raffy in there," Melvin said. "Hopefully, it won't be too much longer before we get him back."

NOTES, QUOTES

--OF/INF Jolbert Cabrera isn't lacking for playing time these days. He's been the starting left fielder for Seattle dating to June 22. Most of his starts, including Sunday's, have been in left field, but he's also started at 1B, 2B and 3B.

--C Miguel Olivo made his Seattle debut Wednesday (June 29), then had a kidney stone attack that required minor surgery. Minor or not, the Mariners had to put him on the 15-day disabled list, and he'll be back after the All-Star break.

--DH Edgar Martinez tried to put the trade of RHP Freddy Garcia in some perspective. "It's always hard. He was a big part of our success the past few years," Martinez said. "But this business is like that. You see guys come and go... It's that time of the year when change happens. Sometimes it improves a team and sometimes you build for the future."

BY THE NUMBERS:

3 hours -- That's the amount of rain delays Seattle got in St. Louis Friday (two hours exactly) and Saturday (one hour exactly).

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"We've had some pretty good things happen the last four years. We've got to be able to take the hit and handle it with some integrity." -- Pitching coach Bryan Price on the frustrations of the 2004 season.

ROSTER REPORT

INF Justin Leone, equally adept at third base and shortstop, got his first big league start Sunday, playing at shortstop in place of SS Rich Aurilia. Leone had 21 home runs at the time of his recall from Triple-A Tacoma.

PITCHING TRENDS:

Seattle is getting younger in the rotation and swinging to the left, to boot. LHP Matt Thornton, who throws hard, gets his first big league start Saturday (July 10). LHP Travis Blackley, more of a finesse pitcher, made his big league debut last Thursday (July 1) and pitches Wednesday in his second start. Together with LHP Jamie Moyer, the Mariners have three LHPs in the rotation for the first time since 1999 (Moyer, John Halama and Jeff Fassero).

PITCHERS TO WATCH:

--LHP Jamie Moyer, rained out after two innings and 23 pitches, will move up a day to start Tuesday (July 6) in Toronto. The move not only gets Moyer back on the mound after limited work, but it allows him to pitch the final day (July 11 in Chicago) before the All-Star break.

--LHP Travis Blackley is a member of the rotation for the time being. The Australian native, a rookie with command of the strike zone, made his big league debut Thursday (July 1) when the Mariners ran into a pitching crunch.

--LHP Matt Thornton is in long relief through Tuesday (July 6). After that he's being moved into the rotation in preparation for his first big league start Saturday in Chicago.

--RHP Rafael Soriano (right elbow) will throw off a mound this week in Toronto, the first time since May 11 that he's been able to do that. It will still be a while before Soriano who has pitched only 3.1 big league innings this year because of injuries, is back in the bullpen, however.

LINEUP LOWDOWN:

OF/INF Jolbert Cabrera has been in the lineup plenty lately, missing only one start in the last two weeks. But that may be about to change, with LF Raul Ibanez due back this weekend. Most of Cabrera's time has been in LF, although he can play any of the infield or outfield positions.

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--2B Bret Boone hit his 11th homer Saturday (July 3). He hit his 11th homer last year on May 21.

--DH Edgar Martinez doesn't have to worry about sitting out too much any more. With interleague road play over as of Sunday, the DH will be back and a full part of the Seattle offense again starting Tuesday (July 6) in Toronto.

--1B John Olerud's power is starting to pick up a little. Three of his five homers have come since June 13.

--CF Randy Winn finished Sunday with a .261 average, up 27 points from the .234 he was at on June 5. In the ensuing month, he's hit .317 (31-for-98) through Saturday.

--SS Rich Aurilia has raised his batting average 20 points (.222 to .242) since May 25 by hitting .270 (27-for-100).

MEDICAL WATCH:

LF Raul Ibanez (hamstring) went on the disabled list June 4 and is on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma. He is expected back in the lineup Friday in Chicago. RHP Rafael Soriano (right elbow) will throw off a mound starting this week as he continues to work toward a return to the bullpen. OF Chris Snelling (hamate bone fracture) is on the disabled list and doesn't figure to play before mid-season. RHP Aaron Taylor (right shoulder) is on the disabled list and could be pitching by July or August in the minor leagues.


TEXAS RANGERS

INSIDE PITCH

The Rangers placed five players on the All-Star team Sunday, making it the most exciting development of the day. The performance of right-hander Joaquin Benoit, however, was the most important development of the day.

Benoit, who is out of minor league options, has hung on to a roster spot only because of fear he could be lost to a waiver claim. The Rangers don't dispute he has a wonderful arm, but he also is frustratingly inconsistent with his delivery and his focus.

On Sunday, with a beleaguered bullpen hardly in position to go long, Benoit pitched six innings in an 18-3 rout of Houston. It was his first win since May 21 and only the second time he's gone more than five innings in his last six starts. Those outings had pushed his career ERA as a starter to 6.00, the 14th highest all time for anybody with at least 40 starts.

Against that backdrop, Benoit was the closest he's been to crisp in some time. He allowed a first inning single, then retired 10 consecutive hitters as the Rangers built a 6-0 lead.

"It's almost more frustrating when he does this," manager Buck Showalter said. "Because you know this is in there and you want to see it more often."

The Rangers will almost certainly give him more chances to show it. The rotation has been roughed up recently and is in a constant state of flux. An example: The Rangers gave RHP Ricardo Rodriguez his first start of the year Saturday and went into the week unsure of whether LHP Nick Bierbrodt or RHP John Wasdin would start Tuesday at Cleveland.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Rangers switched backup catchers during the week, calling up C Danny Ardoin and designating C Ken Huckaby for assignment. Ardoin was hitting .321 at Triple-A Oklahoma; Huckaby went 4-for-25 (.160) at the plate with 10 strikeouts and the pitchers had a 6.99 ERA for 57 innings with him behind the plate.

--During a brief team meeting that most players described as a "pep talk," manager Buck Showalter told them not to expect much help for the potential pennant race via trades. General manager John Hart has repeatedly said the same thing, that the Rangers won't dismantle their flourishing farm system to add a rental player.

--The best hope for improvement may come from the DL. Both RHP Jeff Nelson and OF Brian Jordan are expected to begin rehab assignments this week and could be ready by August 1. Jordan, who is hitting only .102 for 49 at-bats, could be the outfield bat the Rangers need in the middle of their lineup if his knee is finally healthy. Nelson could help thicken the bullpen, which has had some rough spots in the last week from RHPs Carlos Almanzar and Doug Brocail.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"It's a huge surprise to me because there are so many superstars and future Hall of Famers going. But it makes me want to work harder knowing people want to see." --2B Alfonso Soriano on being the overall leading vote-getter for the 2004 All-Star game. Soriano received more than 3 million votes online, setting a record.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2 -- Grand slams hit by the Rangers on Sunday at Houston. It's the first time in franchise history the Rangers have hit two grand slams in a game. 3B Hank Blalock, in a pinch-hitting role, hit the first. 1B Mark Teixeira, who had homered earlier in the game, hit the other in the top of the ninth.

ROSTER REPORT

The Rangers will likely have at least two roster moves to make at the end of the All-Star break. OF Laynce Nix (sprained shoulder) is already on a rehab assignment, though he had to come out of his second rehab game because of some soreness. RHP R.A. Dickey (back) is expected to begin a rehab assignment late this week.

PITCHING TRENDS:

In the last week, Ranger starters have failed to get through at least five innings three times. Ranger starters had failed to go five only 13 times in the team's first 72 games. With no true long reliever on the roster, short starts put an extra burden on the bullpen, which can lead to fatigue and ineffectiveness from the relievers.

PITCHERS TO WATCH:

--RHP Carlos Almanzar was never intended to be the eighth-inning setup man and he may now be about to give the job up. Almanzar has allowed nine runs in his last 11 innings and has allowed runs in seven of his last 10 outings. He suffered his first loss of the season Friday at Houston.

--LHP Brian Shouse is very quietly having a very effective season now that his role has basically been defined as a one-hitter pitcher. Shouse is there to get out lefties. Lefties are only 3-for-26 against him this year and lately it's been even more ridiculous. He's allowed one hit to the last 13 lefties he's faced (two have walked).

--LHP Kenny Rogers continues to put the final touches on an amazing first half. He takes a seven-game winnings streak, the best by a Ranger starter in more than 10 years, into his Monday start at Cleveland. Rogers has not lost in his 10 starts. Rogers (11-2) is looking to become only the fifth Rangers pitcher ever to have at least 12 wins before the All-Star break.

LINEUP LOWDOWN:

Now that SS Michael Young is an All-Star, the Rangers have something else to worry about: how to get him some rest. Young, who has started every game for the Rangers this year, leads all AL shortstops in innings. The Rangers have no backup shortstop on the roster, so they've managed to give him only five innings off this year. Has it taken a toll? Young has 10 errors in his last 47 games.

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--OF Kevin Mench, now healthy, is starting to find his power stroke. He homered twice on Sunday giving him five home runs in his last five starts. In that stretch of games, Mench has nine home runs and is 8-for-23 (.348).

--1B Mark Teixeira, bothered by neck pain in the spring and a strained side muscle in April, is starting to find his rhythm. Since June 1, he is hitting .311 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 30 games. In the last week, he's hit five homers and driven in 11 RBIs.

--OF Gary Matthews may finally be finding a home playing with his sixth team in his six-year career. Matthews has been flawless on defense and he has been a contributor on offense. Though he went 2-for-17 in his first five games with the Rangers, he is hitting .321 since and has four homers and 15 RBIs. The Rangers are 16-11 in those games.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Chan Ho Park was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 20 because of a sore lower back. C Gerald Laird underwent surgery to repair a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb and will be out until at last mid-August; RHP Colby Lewis has been moved to the 60-day DL after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last week and will be out for the year; RHP Mickey Callaway had surgery to relocate the ulnar nerve in his right elbow last week and has been transferred to the 60-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman underwent surgery to free a trapped nerve in his right forearm on April 7; OF Rusty Greer was placed on the 60-day DL because of elbow and knee problems and will miss the year; RHP Jeff Nelson underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee and to shave down a bone spur in his right elbow and will be out until at least August.

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