Notes: Catcher battle heats up

Notes: Catcher battle heats up

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Rangers' new catching arrangement went into effect on Thursday. Gerald Laird started against the Chicago White Sox and Jarrod Saltalamacchia took over after five innings.

Laird starts Friday against the Brewers and Saltalamacchia gets the day off. Saltalamacchia starts on Saturday and Laird will get the day off. On Sunday they will both play. The basic idea is for the both to play two straight games and take a day off.

"I'm up for anything," Laird said. "If they think we can get into a flow better this way that's fine."

The previous arrangement was to alternate the two as they battled to see who would be the Opening Day catcher. But manager Ron Washington likes this arrangement as a way to get his two catchers going. They were a combined 0-for-4 on Thursday and 5-for-21 for the spring. The other three catchers -- Chris Stewart, Adam Melhuse and Taylor Teagarden -- are 5-for-12.

"I feel I've done a lot better since my first game," Saltalamacchia said. "The first game I was a little jittery, but since then I think I've done well catching. Once I get a few at-bats in a row, I'll feel a lot better at the plate and this will help."

The competition is fierce and could go down to the final week. Laird could have the edge because of his experience and defensive ability, but it's too early to project a winner. Both profess not to be thinking about the outcome.

"Honestly, when I get home my mind is clear and I'm hanging out with my daughter," Laird said. "I have better things to think about when I'm with her and my wife than worrying about what's happening at the yard."

Padilla rolls on: The early returns suggest this could be a much better spring for Vicente Padilla.

He pitched three solid innings in a 6-1 victory over the White Sox on Thursday, allowing just one unearned run. He gave up one hit and walked two while striking out two. Padilla has not allowed an earned run in his first two starts. He still has four more starts to go before Opening Day, but everything is definitely going much smoother than last spring, when he had a 9.45 ERA and a sore right arm.

Spring Training
News and features:
• Laird's thoughts on catching job  400K
• Wilson reacts to getting closer gig  400K
• Young on Ichiro's praise  400K
• Millwood on first spring start  400K
• Hamilton on spring in Arizona  400K
• Mendoza feeling good  400K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

"I'm better than last year," Padilla said. "My arm feels stronger and [I've had] fewer problems this year."

Padilla was the first of five pitchers who held the White Sox to one run on three hits. Rangers pitchers walked four but struck out five.

"We pitched well today and Padilla set the tone by going out there and pounding the strike zone," Washington said. "We played a complete game today."

Murphy vs. lefty: David Murphy, a left-handed hitter, struck out twice against right-handed knuckleballer Charlie Haeger on Thursday. Then he came up against left-hander Boone Logan and smashed his first home run of the spring. Many young left-handed hitters get protected against left-handed pitchers, but the Rangers don't feel they have to do that against Murphy.

"He proved last year he's not afraid of lefties," Washington said.

Murphy was 8-for-20 against left-handed hitters last year after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox.

"Ever since I got here last year I've hit well against left-handers," Murphy said. "There definitely have been times in the past few years where I would see a left-hander coming in and I would think, 'Wow, why are they bringing in a lefty.' But I think I've developed a lot of confidence against left-handers."

Briefly: Third baseman Hank Blalock remains sidelined with overall stiffness as the result of Monday's car accident. The Rangers aren't sure when he'll return to the lineup. ... Free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse has been throwing for some teams in the hope of landing a job, but the Rangers aren't interested. ... Chris Davis and Travis Metcalf both homered for the second time this spring on Thursday. They have four of the Rangers' 11 home runs in their first nine games.

Up next: Right-handers Jason Jennings and Brandon McCarthy pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at 2:05 p.m. CT on Friday. The game will be webcast online on MLB.Com. The Rangers also have a "B" game in the morning against the Royals with right-handers Luis Mendoza, Wes Littleton and Franklyn German scheduled to pitch.

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