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Blanco quickly wins utility infielder job

Blanco quickly wins utility infielder job

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have found their utility infielder.

Texas acquired infielder Andres Blanco from the Cubs less than 48 hours ago, and the club has already determined that he is the answer in their search for a utility infielder.

"He answers," manager Ron Washington said. "He answers."

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Blanco could be more than a utility infielder. He could be the Rangers' second baseman on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rangers still don't know whether Ian Kinsler will be ready. He has been sidelined for more than two weeks with a sprained right ankle and is still only taking batting practice.

Kinsler took batting practice Sunday without any problems, and he will hit again today. But there are no plans yet to put him in a game.

"There is still a running component and an agility component," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Running in a lateral motion, even before he can DH. We need to make sure there is a comfort zone."

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The Rangers are less than a week away from Opening Day. Even if Kinsler gets into a Minor League game as a designated hitter on Wednesday, it would still be a rush to get him into the Opening Day lineup.

On the other hand, the Rangers could put him on the 15-day disabled list and backdate it nine days into Spring Training. That would mean Kinsler could miss as few as six days and five games at the start of the season. Kinsler has already said that's better than rushing back and having the injury linger through the season.

That would leave Blanco as the Opening Day second baseman. Technically Joaquin Arias and Esteban German are still competing with Blanco for a job. But that competition is over.

Blanco is going to break with the Rangers because of his superior defense skills, plus he has some skill with the bat, being able to bunt and hit-and-run. That's pretty much everything the Rangers were looking for in a utility infielder.

If Blanco is needed as the Opening Day second baseman, the Rangers could still keep Arias as the utility infielder. When Kinsler comes back, Arias would be taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. He would have to clear waivers, but that would likely be much easier once the season has started and the other 29 teams have their rosters set.

The Rangers are still looking for a backup corner infielder, especially a right-handed-hitting first baseman. Matt Brown and Max Ramirez remain the in-house candidates, but the Rangers are looking outside the organization as well.

The Rangers are unlikely to make a deal for Mike Lowell at this point. Kevin Millar's name has come up. He is in the Cubs' camp as a non-roster player, but the Rangers have not received great scouting reports on him.

"If we don't get one, we're going to have to pick one from within," Washington said.

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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