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Hot topics for the Rangers series

Among the hot topics for the weekend series with the Rangers:

* The weather. Yes, it's always hot in Texas. Yes, the players have dealt with this before. Yes, it shouldn't be that big a deal. But it's going to be really hot this weekend. Like record-threatening hot. The forecast remains brutal, with a high of 96 today (though it will "cool" off to 93 by gametime!), just shy of the record of 99 set in 1977. It's worse for the two weekend day games, with a high of 102 forecast for Saturday, which would match the record set in 1948, and a Sunday high, according to the forecast, of 103, which would surpass the record of 101 set in 1977.

* Jason Bartlett/Kelly Shoppach. Joe Maddon will provide the official explanation later, but it certainly appears the Rays decided that it was better to a) not take a chance on Bartlett making the right hamstring strain worse by coming back too soon and possibly miss a lot a more time and b) having made that decision, that it made no sense to wait until Friday afternoon to make it official because then it wouldn't have been easy, if even possible, to get Shoppach to Arlington by game time. And with Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson on the mound they wanted Shoppach's right-handed bat in the lineup tonight. Plus, between Bartlett's DL stint being retroactive to May 30, and the upcoming off-days, he will miss only nine more games before being eligible to return on June 15 at Atlanta.

* Three catchers. It will be interesting to hear the plans, and see the reality, of having three catchers on the roster. It's possible that on some days Shoppach or John Jaso could be used at DH, but with Hank Blalock and Willy Aybar available that doesn't seem like it would happen too often. (Unless Carlos Pena starts getting a few more days off and Blalock plays first; or if Ben Zobrist, hitting .235 vs LHPs, gets time off and they decide to put Aybar in the field.) And while Dioner Navarro is the better defensive catcher, it seems difficult to come up with too many situations where he would start, since Jaso is a lefty hitter and Shoppach a righty, which makes for an easy platoon.

*  David Price. He's not scheduled to pitch again until Wednesday night vs. Toronto at the Trop, but it was a special day when he woke up Friday leading the American League in wins (8) and ERA (2.29).

The top five:
1. David Price, Rays      8 2 2.29
2. Doug Fister, M's       3 3 2.45
3. Andy Pettitte, Yanks   7 1 2.48
4. Phil Hughes, Yanks     7 1 2.54
5. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox 7 3 2.73

* Blalock/Benoit: The Rangers don't have anything planned to formally welcome back the two long-time members of their team now with the Rays, but it's expected they will be greeted warmly by the Texas players and fans.

[Last modified: Sunday, July 4, 2010 12:15am]


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