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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Buzz: Baker, Gentry ready for run of lefties

By Todd Wills

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers began a stretch of five straight games against left-handed starters on Wednesday with the Houston Astros' Erik Bedard. That means Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry will start and Mitch Moreland and David Murphy will come off the bench.

The Rangers will see three left-handers this weekend against the Chicago White Sox -- Chris Sale, Hector Santiago and John Danks. Lefty Joe Saunders is the scheduled starter Monday for the series opener against the Seattle Mariners, followed by All-Star right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez. The Rangers are 24-13 when an opponent starts a lefty.

The Rangers had faced eight consecutive right-handed starters before Wednesday, so Baker hasn't started since Aug. 11 in Houston. The lack of consistent playing time may have something to do with Baker batting .241 since returning from the disabled list on July 19 with a thumb injury.

"Any time you get to play, it helps you get your timing and rhythm back," said Baker, who is batting a team-best .348 against left-handers. "It's always good to get repetition."

Baker had three at-bats in the first seven games of the eight-game homestand that concluded Wednesday night. He needs to get going with runners in scoring position. He is hitless in his past 13 at-bats in those situations.

Gentry is batting .273 against lefties this season, while Murphy, who will sit, is batting .228 against southpaws.

Pierzynski returning home: Catcher A.J. Pierzynski makes his return to Chicago, the city where he spent his previous eight seasons before signing with the Rangers as a free agent.

“I will be glad to get it over with, especially Friday,” Pierzynski said. “But I’m looking forward to it and seeing some people. I still have a lot of friends over there, guys who I will be friends with for life. It will be weird going into the visitor’s clubhouse, but I’m looking forward to going to the city. I love the city, I love the organization and I love the fans. Hopefully we’ll go in there and play well.”

Alex Rios, whom the Rangers acquired from the White Sox two weeks ago, also will be returning to the Windy City for the first time since the trade.

Blackley will start again: Manager Ron Washington said left-hander Travis Blackley will stay in the rotation and pitch Monday in Seattle.

Blackley went four innings and allowed two runs in Tuesday's 4-2 victory, throwing 66 pitches. Washington said Blackley will be go around 80 pitches in his next start.

Harris signs minor league deal: The Rangers continued to shore up things as a utility infielder, signing Brendan Harris to a minor league deal. Harris, who is not on the 40-man roster, will report to Triple-A Round Rock.

Harris hit .206 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 44 games for the Los Angeles Angels before being designated for assignment on July 20. The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal and he played 22 games for Triple-A Scranton before being released from his contract on Wednesday.

Short hops: The Rangers will take a 36-26 road record into Chicago, which happens to be the best mark in the majors. "We certainly expect to play better at home," Washington said. "It just hasn't worked out that way. It's nice that we've been playing well on the road." ... Left-hander Michael Kirkman, who struggled to a 8.18 ERA in the big leagues this season before going on the disabled list with a form of skin cancer, is bouncing back in a huge way for Triple-A Round Rock. Kirkman retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced on Tuesday, notching seven strikeouts ... Nick Tepesch threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday and didn't experience any problems. Tepesch, who has been on the DL with inflammation in his right elbow since July 7, will throw live batting practice on Saturday in Chicago. ... New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,000th career hit (combining Japan and MLB) on Wednesday. Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was asked before Ichiro's record-breaking hit about the accomplishment of his fellow countryman. "As everyone knows and everyone thinks, he's a great hitter," Darvish said. "I'm not a hitter. But it's a great milestone he's trying to reach."