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Notes: Texas relief corps runs deep

Rangers notes: Relief corps runs deep

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The exhibition season draws near and so does the fierce competition for jobs in the Rangers bullpen.

The Rangers have unusual depth in their bullpen this spring. They know that, and other teams do, as well.

If the Rangers get involved in serious trade discussions this spring, it could be something that includes one of their many relievers.

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The Rangers expect Eric Gagne to be their closer and Akinori Otsuka to be their primary right-handed setup reliever. Wes Littleton appears to have the inside track for a second right-handed spot, and C.J. Wilson and Ron Mahay are the likely left-handed relievers.

That leaves two spots open, and the candidates include Rick Bauer, Joaquin Benoit, Frank Francisco, Scott Feldman, Willie Eyre, Mike Wood, Francisco Cruceta and Franklyn German. All have Major League experience.

Bauer, Benoit and Cruceta are also out of options, meaning they can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without first clearing waivers.

"The first thing we want to do is make sure it is in excess," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We want to make sure everybody is healthy and performing. If it works out that we have as much depth as it looks on paper, it will be a positive. We're having no discussions. It's way too early."

Daniels said he is not interested in trading Otsuka, who saved 32 games last year, even though there are a number of teams who are looking for a closer.

"I'll never say never, but I have no plans to trade him," Daniels said. "I haven't talked to anybody about him for some time. It wouldn't surprise me if people ask about Aki, but he's a valuable man on our club."

Sosa ready for action: Sammy Sosa took batting practice at the Nolan Ryan Field on Tuesday and put on a classic power display. Sosa hit three home runs deep to left-center field that landed on top of the clubhouse -- well beyond the fences.

The Nolan Ryan Field was designed with the same dimensions as Ameriquest Field in Arlington, and these three shots were the equivalent of hitting a baseball over the visitors' bullpen back home.

"Time," Sosa said. "I just need more time. I'm getting better every day."

Sosa is expected to be in the lineup on Friday morning when the Rangers play a B game against the Kansas City Royals. Manager Ron Washington is also planning to use him in an A game on Saturday against the Royals with left-hander Odalis Perez pitching.

Wonder Boy in camp: The famous Wonder Boy was in camp on Tuesday, or at least one of the 13 Wonder Boys in existence.

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Wonder Boy was the bat used by Roy Hobbs in the movie "The Natural", starring Robert Redford. Major League Baseball Productions is making a documentary about the movie and brought one of the 13 bats used in the movie to camp as a prop for player interviews.

"Think they'll let me use this in batting practice?" outfielder Brad Wilkerson said while gripping it around the batting cage.

Mark Teixeira also posed for pictures with Wonder Boy in hand and was asked if he had ever seen the movie.

"Are you serious?" Teixeira said. "Only about two dozen times."

Rheinecker, Arias ailing: Pitcher John Rheinecker continues to suffer from back spasms and was unable to throw on Tuesday. He is in danger of falling behind in the fifth-starter competition.

"He's a week behind right now," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "I didn't think this would be a big deal because he worked so hard this winter, but the longer this goes, the more it sets him back."

Joaquin Arias and Drew Meyer, two candidates for a utility job, are also sidelined, both with sore right shoulders.

He said it: "Hank looks great. You're talking about one of the most talented players in the game. That's not even up for debate. If Hank goes out there and does what he's capable of, he's got the ability to carry a team for long stretches of time."
-- Michael Young, on Hank Blalock

Briefly: Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine met with Ian Kinsler's agents, Jeff Franklin and Jeff Frye, and have wrapped up a one-year deal for him. But it appears that a multiyear deal won't get done right now. ... Gagne was absent from camp for personal reasons. ... Kevin Millwood had another good bullpen session on Tuesday and will start Friday's B game. Also pitching the B game will be Scott Rice, Eric Hurley, Francisco and Daniel Haigwood. ... Kameron Loe starts the A game and will be followed by John Koronka, Edinson Volquez, Eyre, Benoit and Wes Littleton.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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