Notes: Game calling becomes an issue
Washington wants to strategize with Rangers catchers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Gerald Laird, after missing Monday's game because of a bruised foot, could have been back in the lineup on Tuesday.Manager Ron Washington wanted him on the bench instead. Laird spent Tuesday's game sitting with pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti talking about pitch selection, working with pitchers and game strategy. Washington wants all his catchers to get better at that and Laird is just the first guy to occupy that spot. Washington said at least one catcher will sit with Connor and Chiti during every game this spring to help them get better at calling a game and working with his pitchers. "I haven't been pleased with the way we've been calling games," Washington said. "I want to speed up the process. It's Spring Training, their minds and thoughts have to start coming together." Washington wants working with pitchers to be a top priority for his catchers. That includes not only calling pitches but also things like picking up mechanical flaws in a pitcher's delivery immediately and not letting it go on too long. "We've got to pitch to be successful and to pitch successfully, our catchers have to control it," Washington said. "Confidence is everything. Trust is everything to a pitcher. They're on an island by themselves and all they have is their catcher. If you trust what the catcher is calling, you're going to trust it out of your hand. If you have doubts, it's going to show up." Volquez sent down: Pitcher Edinson Volquez never could mount a serious charge for the fifth starter spot and was one of seven players who were sent down to the Minor Leagues. All seven sent down were pitchers: Armando Galarraga, Daniel Haigwood, Eric Hurley, Thomas Diamond, Jose Vargas and Scott Rice. Volquez, 23, walked three and hit a batter in his 2 2/3 innings of work in A games. He is expected to pitch regularly in the Triple-A Oklahoma rotation. "He needs to get his control together," Washington said. "His command is scattered. He needs to be in an environment where he can relax and get his act together. Once again, we're trying to impress our guys that to be successful, they need to keep the ball in the strike zone. You can't run from contact, you have to be pitch to contact. Throw strikes, pound the strike zone."
Volquez is 1-10 with a 9.20 ERA in 14 Major League games, including 11 starts over two unsuccessful attempts to crack the Rangers starting rotation. He was called up late in the second half in both 2005 and 2006 but struggled both times.He has walked 5.3 batters per nine innings at the Major League level as opposed to 3.34 batters per nine innings in the Minors. "He's still a great talent," Connor said. "That's the thing. Some guys come early, some guys come later. Nobody is down on him. The stuff is there, he needs to harness his consistency and trust his delivery. When the game starts, when things don't go right, he starts trying to blow the ball by people rather than executing one pitch at a time. "He has to understand that no matter where he pitches, if he executes his pitches he'll get batters out most of the time." Circle March 18: Reliever Wes Littleton gave up four runs in one-third of an inning in a 12-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday and now has a 16.88 ERA for the spring. He is not the only middle reliever who is off to a slow start and Washington said the time is drawing closer when they need to start showing something. Sunday is a big day, Washington said. That leaves the Rangers with two weeks to go in camp and jobs will be won and loss in that stretch. "You better start getting it together by then because the pitching is going to get lined up for the season," Washington said. "By then you need to start showing what you have." Rangers pitchers combined to allow 12 runs on 15 hits and five walks on Tuesday and have a 5.86 ERA for the spring. They've allowed 68 runs in their last eight games. "Command, command, command," Washington said. "You've got to command that strike zone. When you don't command the strike zone, bad things happen." Starter Vicente Padilla gave up four runs on eight hits in four innings but did not walk a batter and Washington said, "I can deal with that." He said it: "I'm here to prove myself and to show I can play, and I've been playing great. Spring Training or not, it doesn't matter to me. If I was playing down in Mexico, I would be doing the same thing." -- outfielder Sammy Sosa, who was 2-for-3 on Tuesday and is hitting .464 this spring. Briefly: Eric Gagne came out of his three-batter appearance in Monday's B game without a problem and will pitch again Thursday in a Minor League game. ... C.J. Wilson will also pitch two innings in a Minor League game on Thursday. ... The Rangers are hoping Joaquin Arias can play shortstop on Wednesday. He has yet to play in the field this spring because of a sore right shoulder and the Rangers are running out of time to try him in the outfield. ... White Sox veterans Darin Erstad, A.J. Pierzynski and Rob Mackowiak paid $1,500 to charter a helicopter to take them back to Tucson after the game. The flight took one hour. It's a 2 1/2-hour drive. Up next: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy pitches against the San Diego Padres at 3 p.m. CT Wednesday in Peoria, Ariz. Jake Peavy is pitching for the Padres. Bruce Chen is also scheduled to pitch for the Rangers. Akinori Otsuka also needs to pitch on Wednesday but will pitch in a Minor League game instead.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.