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The Day After

Okay, that really sucked.

And I thought, last night, I'd just throw up a post this morning that said last night's game sucked, and I didn't want to talk about the Rangers anymore.

But I'm feeling a little better today.

Not much, but a little.

The Rangers are still in first place. And yesterday was just one game. A gut-wrenching, awful, stomach-punch of a game, but still...

I do think it can be a turning point to the season. If the Rangers go into a tailspin, this will be the game folks point to as the beginning of the end. If the Rangers bounce back, have a solid road trip, and end up winning the division, this is a game folks will point to as having galvanized the team, the place where the team dug in and refused to quit.

And if the team continues to muddle along, a little better than .500, then it will be just another game, another footnote in the bizarre history of one of the weirder franchises in baseball.

There are some good things we can take from the game, although they're just about all on offense. Brad Wilkerson continues to show his early April performance was an aberration, and is now sporting a .269/.354/.469 line, the first time since the third game of the season that he's had an OPS above 800. Hank Blalock (.345/.414/.552) continue to hit like we hoped he would when he first burst on the scene. Mark Teixeira seems to be getting his groove back.

And as Evan Grant points out in his game story, yesterday's bullpen meltdown was likely at least in part due to the long layoff the pen has had. Benoit hadn't pitched since May 10, and Scott Feldman and Rick Bauer hadn't pitched since May 9. That sort of layoff, Grant suggests, hurt their command and contributed to the meltdown.

Kat O'Brien says that Vicente Padilla will make his start on Thursday, which means that Robinson Tejeda will start on Friday. Ian Kinsler could be called up for the Houston series on Friday, and serve as a bench bat, but it sounds more likely that he'll stay in Oklahoma through the weekend, with the reports indicating that he's not really comfortable at the plate yet.

My prediction on the closer situation was influenced in part by T.R. Sullivan's latest piece, which indicates that the Rangers were discussing putting Cordero back in the closer role even before last night's Otsuka blown save. My feeling on this is that Buck wants sharply defined roles for his bullpen, and he feels the Rangers are better off with Cordero pitching the 9th and Otsuka pitching the 8th. His comments before the Cordero demotion, and the reluctance to make a move, underscore that. If Cordero isn't back in the closer right tonight, I think he'll be back in there before too long.

Also in Sullivan's notes, Antonio Alfonseca didn't come into the game last night because of elbow tightness. Sullivan says that the team will know today if Alfonseca will have to go on the d.l., a move that I would think would likely result in Wes Littleton coming up for the next two days, then being optioned back down on Friday to make room for Tejeda.

Sullivan also thinks Freddy Guzman will be called up on Sunday -- the first day he can be recalled, since the Rangers optioned him to AAA when they acquired him:

The first day he can be called up is Sunday, and there is a good chance he'll be joining the Rangers on that day or soon after. The Rangers like the idea of using Guzman's speed, defense and switch-hitting ability as their fourth outfielder.

He will not be called up to replace Gary Matthews Jr. in center field.

"That's not why we acquired Freddy Guzman," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's not here to replace Gary Matthews. Gary has done a great job, setting the table for our guys and making things happen on the basepaths. He's done a great job for us."