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Thursday, May 20, 2010
Clubhouse: Arias, Hamilton, Francisco

By Tim MacMahon

ARLINGTON, Texas – Joaquin Arias isn’t worried a bit about playing first base for the first time in the big leagues.

So what if he never put on a first baseman’s mitt until earlier this month?

“It’s easy, man. Catch the ball,” said Arias, who will start at first to allow Justin Smoak his first day of rest since being called up last month. “I played shortstop for a long time. If you can play shortstop, you can play any position.”

Manager Ron Washington figures it’s a little more complicated than that, but he’s not too concerned about Arias at first base. Washington said the biggest challenge will be making sure that Arias is properly positioned before each pitch.

Arias has worked with Washington at first base for sessions of about 20 minutes the last 10 days. Arias played first based during his four-game rehab stint with Frisco earlier this month.

“Joaquin’s worked awfully hard,” Washington said. “He’s gotten some games in Frisco and the reports were awfully good. He looks good over there.”

However, Washington said Smoak might not get a full night off. If the Rangers have a lead in a tight game, Smoak will likely be used as a late-inning defensive replacement.

Hamilton heats up: Josh Hamilton didn’t want a day off earlier this week, but he isn’t arguing with the results.

Hamilton is 4-for-8 with three extra-base hits since sitting Monday, which was his second day off of the season. That came on the heels of him going 1-for-13 with nine strikeouts in the winless road trip to Toronto.

Hamilton still doesn’t think that he was physically worn down. However, he acknowledged that the mental refreshment was helpful.

“I just feel like I was thinking a little too much and getting a little too technical with my swing,” Hamilton said. “I just needed to go out and play – practice a few things in the cage, and then when game time comes, just let it happen. Don’t worry about it. Don’t be thinking in the box. Don’t be thinking about what pitch is going to come. Just get in good hitting position and let it happen.

Lesson learned: The most memorable of Hamilton’s extra-base hits over the last couple of days was a double that should have been a homer.

Replays clearly showed that the ball hit a support beam connecting the left-field fence to a wall. That’s a home run, per the ground rules at the ballpark in Arlington, but the umpires were firm about their ruling when Washington jogged out to argue the call with second base umpire Doug Eddings.

Crew chief Dana DeMuth admitted after the game that the umpires blew the call and said he regretted not looking at a replay.

Washington didn’t ask for a review because Eddings was so certain. A day later, Washington said he learned a lesson.

“I should have asked them to review it,” Washington said. “Whether they did or not wouldn’t have mattered. At least I would have asked, but they convinced me. You can say I was wrong because they convinced me.”

Harrison makes progress: LHP Matt Harrison, who went on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis May 12, threw a 30-pitch simulated game Thursday afternoon.

“The first two or three I was kind of wild, I guess a little bit of jitters,” Harrison said. “After that, I was pretty much locked in, keeping the ball down, using all my pitches and throwing everything as strikes.”

The plan is for Harrison to throw a bullpen session Saturday and make rehab appearances for Frisco on Monday and Wednesday. The Rangers have not decided what to do with Harrison once he comes off the disabled list.

It’s unlikely that Harrison will immediately return to the Rangers’ rotation, considering Derek Holland’s performance in two starts since taking Harrison’s spot. Harrison could be sent to the Rangers’ bullpen or optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to continue as a starter.

Francisco’s feelin’ it: Failed closer Frank Francisco has been dominant in his last five appearances.

Francisco has dropped his ERA more than two runs by pitching 5.1 scoreless innings during that span, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out eight. Washington said Francisco’s velocity has creeped up recently, and he’s been doing a better job of locating his pitches.

“I feel like the more I pitch, the stronger I get,” said Francisco, who is 5-3 with a 5.09 ERA. “I feel way better with my command.”