Notes: Blalock brothers share the field
Loe shines on Saturday; Padilla to miss Sunday start
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Hank and Jake Blalock rode the same bus on Saturday. They wore the same uniform, sat in the same clubhouse and even almost had the same number.On Saturday they played one inning in an exhibition game together. All that's left is playing in a regular-season game together. "That would be awesome," Hank said. "That would be special. I think it would be even more special for our parents. Not too many families get to experience that." Hank and Jake both made the trip to Peoria to play the Seattle Mariners. Hank was in the starting lineup, at third base, and Jake was one of four players brought along from the Minor Leagues to be available just in case something happened. Known as "JIC," a team has them around for every game, and this was Jake's first opportunity. The Blalocks were on the field together in the sixth inning. Jake replaced Marlon Byrd in left, and that was Hank's last inning before Travis Metcalf took over at third. "I felt it was the right opportunity to do it, so I got it done," manager Ron Washington said. "Hank came up and thanked me afterward." In doing so, the two brothers played on the same team for the first time since Hank was a senior and Jake a freshman at Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High, outside San Diego. Their uncle, Sam Blalock, was the head coach. Hank played short and Jake played third, but the latter didn't bat often. "Our pitchers were some of our better hitters, so they DHed for Jake," Hank said. That didn't last long. Jake was drafted in the fifth round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, and was acquired by the Rangers on April 1 last year. He spent the year at Double-A Frisco, hitting .266 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 376 at-bats. "I've never really given him advice," the elder Blalock said. "I've always had the approach that if you have a question, I'll give you an answer. The only things we really talk about is hitting and the mechanical stuff. We hit together in the offseason, but we never talk about the mental part of it." Jake has much to do before he plays in a Major League game with his brother. He is only 23, but his numbers at Frisco last year still didn't quite measure up to what a good prospect should do at that level. "They're all big years, but this is my biggest year so far," Jake said. "I had a pretty good season last year, but nothing special. Having a good year this year will definitely put me on the map." Jake wore 89, a typical number for a JIC. Hank wore 86, instead of 9. But it was not a symbolic gesture. He simply forgot his jersey on the trip to Peoria.
Loe shines: Kameron Loe had a job locked up in Spring Training 2006. This year he is fighting for one, and he is thriving on the competition with Jamey Wright.
"I don't feel as comfortable as last year," Loe said. "I've got a little more fire, knowing I have to earn my spot. My competition has been heavier. I'm trying to feed off that and keep it rolling."
Loe was terrific on Saturday, pitching five scoreless innings in the Rangers' 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. He took over for Kevin Millwood, who went four innings, and became the first Rangers pitcher to go five innings in a game this season.
He has yet to allow an earned run in 13 2/3 innings this spring.
"He was pretty good," Washington said. "Kam came in and pounded the strike zone. He's a competitor."
Padilla scratched: Right-hander Vicente Padilla has been scratched from Sunday's start against the Colorado Rockies because of some tenderness in his right elbow. Bruce Chen will start instead.
Padilla has been throwing off flat ground on the side, but the Rangers didn't want to push him in Spring Training.
"He was upset we weren't letting him start, but it didn't make sense," Washington said. "What's one start down here?"Chen is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his three exhibition-game appearances and is a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. But this will be his first start of the spring.
"I thought he's been throwing the ball well," Washington said. "We want to give him an opportunity to continue his progress."Benoit leads the pack: The Rangers hold their breath and hope. If there was an extra shamrock lying around, they'd grab it. Reliever Joaquin Benoit has never been this good in Spring Training. "I've never had a spring where I'm basically hitting my spots, throwing strikes and working quickly right from the beginning," Benoit said. "It's age. When you get older, you try to focus on what you're supposed to do and stop playing around. I know I have to be successful to get the respect I deserve." Benoit has been in the Major Leagues for all or part of the past six seasons, often teasing with his considerable talent but frustrating the Rangers because he is the very essence of inconsistency. He is 20-20 with a 5.12 ERA in 159 career games, including 55 starts. His performance has been erratic, but so has been his role. But last year the Rangers finally put him in the bullpen for good, and he was on the Major League roster for the entire season. He went 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA while striking out 9.6 batters and walking 4.3 per nine innings. "It was inconsistent the way I was pitching and the way I was used," he said. "If you use one person as a starter one day and the bullpen the next -- it was that way for four years -- it doesn't matter how good that person is. They are going to fail sooner or later." He said it: "I thought I got a lot out of it. I went in wanting to throw my curve ball for strikes and use it as an out pitch. I was able to do that. It was a big step." -- Millwood, on Saturday's outing Briefly: Mark Teixeira remains sidelined with a strained knee but said, "It's getting better every day. I'm just being cautious." ... Julia Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth, was at Saturday's game in Peoria. ... Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup for the first time since getting beaned in the head last Monday in Milwaukee. He was 0-for-4 and is now 2-for-16 in the spring. ... Catcher Miguel Ojeda has been sidelined with a strained right thumb but is expected to start on Sunday against the Rockies. Up next: Chen pitches against the Colorado Rockies at 3:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Surprise Stadium. The game will be broadcast on KRLD 1080-AM. Eric Gagne is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on the back field.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.