Notes: Duo to get some work on the side

Notes: Duo to get work on the side

PHOENIX -- The Rangers are setting up a simulated game for pitchers Kevin Millwood and Joaquin Benoit rather than try to rush them back into an exhibition game.

The two right-handers will throw to Rangers hitters on Monday morning instead in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres later that night.

Millwood, the Rangers' scheduled Opening Day starter on March 31 against the Mariners, is still recovering from a strained right hamstring and the Rangers aren't ready to push him into a Cactus League game yet. His arm is fine, but the Rangers are concerned about him having to field his position and re-injuring the hamstring.

"We don't feel it's 100 percent or going to be 100 percent by Sunday," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "Our goal is March 31. As long as he's able to keep his arm going he'll be fine."

Benoit has been sidelined with inflammation in his shoulder and threw in the bullpen on Friday. Again, the Rangers don't think he's ready to make his first appearance in a Cactus League game either and would rather pitch him under controlled conditions.

"It's better than it has been but it's still not 95-100 percent," Connor said. "In a simulated game I can control his effort and control his pitches. We'll see how he comes out of that.

Jennings passes a test: Jason Jennings on Friday passed one of those little tests that pitchers need to go through when recovering from surgery.

Jennings, the starter in the Rangers' 9-8 loss to the Brewers, had to sit around while his teammates scored six runs in the top of the third inning and then had to go back out to pitch. He did so without problem and that was a relief to him.

"In those instances last year that was bad news," Jennings said. "It would be pretty painful when I had to sit out that long. Today it was fine."

Jennings, who underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon on Aug. 30, ended up throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings before hitting his 45-pitch limit. He and Vicente Padilla have been the clear bright spots in the Rangers rotation this spring, combining for 9 1/3 scoreless innings to this point.

Hamilton cleans up: Rangers manager Ron Washington, missing Milton Bradley and Hank Blalock from his lineup, put Josh Hamilton into the cleanup spot on Friday against the Brewers. Hamilton responded with his first home run of the spring, a grand slam that soared over the berm beyond the right-field fence and landed on a walkway.

Hamilton clearly has cleanup power, but Washington's original plan was not to thrust him into that role right away. Washington's plan is to use Bradley at cleanup and use Hamilton in the No. 2 spot.

"That doesn't mean we won't use him there now and then," Washington said. "He seems to be all right there."

The home run came off left-hander Chris Capuano. Hamilton had just one home run in 72 at-bats off left-handers last year.

Spring Training
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• 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

"He told me he didn't play against left-handers," Washington said. "He's going to hit against them this year."

Blalock could DH: Third baseman Blalock may be ready to return to the Rangers lineup for the first time in a week. Blalock hasn't played in a game since last Friday, but could start at designated hitter on Saturday against the Padres.

Blalock has been sidelined because of some soreness in his right shoulder and then because of some residual stiffness after being involved in an automobile accident on Friday.

But he said he has improved significantly in the past couple of days and the plan is to use him at designated hitter on Saturday.

He said it: "He's going to be a monster if he can stay healthy." -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, on Hamilton

Briefly: Third baseman Travis Metcalf had to leave Friday's game in the sixth inning because of soreness in his right shin. He is day-to-day. ... Reliever Josh Rupe gave up an 8-6 lead Friday when he walked three in the eighth inning. The Brewers scored three off him, Rupe took the loss and Washington said afterward, "When you walk three guys, nothing good can come of that. He didn't show any signs from the [elbow] injuries he had last year, he just had trouble keeping the ball in the strike zone." ... The Rangers have scored first in eight of 10 games. ... David Murphy was 1-for-3 on Friday and is 7-for-16 for the spring.

Up next: Left-hander A.J. Murray makes his second start of the spring at 2:05 p.m. CT on Saturday against the Padres in Surprise, Ariz. Greg Maddux pitches for the Padres and the game will be broadcast on KRLD 1080 AM.

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