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The Rangers have their first workout today in Surprise, and everyone other than A.J. Murray (and, to a certain extent, Eric Gagne) should be going forward at full speed. That's a nice way to start things off...

Evan Grant has some notes on Gerald Laird, and his coming to camp for the first time in his career with the starting catching job already in hand. Ron Washington has some praise for Laird's game-calling:

Nonetheless, Laird left an impression on Washington, then a coach with Oakland. Laird caught each of the Rangers' last four games against the A's. The Rangers won three of the four. The pitching staff compiled a 3.60 ERA in those four games.

Those numbers, not the .296 batting average or the 43.1 percent of base-stealers Laird threw out last season, are what most impressed Washington.

"He said some stuff at the time in the paper about how to pitch to the A's, and I remember thinking, 'He's right,' " Washington said. "He had us figured out. He called some very good games. He handled the pitching staff very well. That's all I want him to do here. I want him to be their daddy, mother, brother and sister."

Strangely, Buster Olney says in his ESPN blog that Gerald Laird is trying to win the everyday job this spring, although the piece he links in support is yesterday's Kat O'Brien column saying Laird is the starter.

Grant also says that Gagne will be participating in all the drills from day one, but probably won't pitch in a game until the middle part of March, and will log 8 or 9 innings this spring.

Also from Grant is the news that Ron Washington says he expects to have a 12 man pitching staff, and a blog entry from Grant this morning indicates that Padilla has arrived in camp, although he had permission to report late.

Grant also says that Brad Wilkerson, Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd, and Matt Kata have reported early. Good to see that Wilkerson and Blalock -- two guys we need to see solid years from -- are already in Arizona.

Dayne Perry's A.L. West Preview includes "10 Burning Questions", three of which involve the Rangers -- do they have the pitching, will Eric Gagne contribute, and is Hank Blalock done?

Perry says that Blalock's swing has always been such that major league pitchers can take advantage of it, and he doesn't seem real optimistic of Blalock ever returning to productivity.

The more interesting comments from Perry, though, are on the Ranger rotation:

Because of the hitter-friendly nature of Ameriquest Field, the Rangers' pitching staff always seems to look a bit worse than it really is. With that said, the rotation remains a concern for Texas. Right now, that rotation comprises Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Edinson Volquez and, most likely, Robinson Tejeda.

Millwood should remain solid, and Padilla should again provide league-average innings. On the downside, McCarthy, who was acquired from the White Sox over the winter, is a poor fit for Ameriquest because of his fly-ball tendencies. Volquez, meanwhile, will likely struggle because of his inconsistent breaking stuff and tendency to work in the upper half of the strike zone. Tejeda simply doesn't have the command to thrive as a major league starter. In other words, the Rangers don't have the rotation options needed to contend.

First, saying that Volquez is in the rotation, and Tejeda "most likely" in the 5th slot, is just flat wrong. Volquez is a longshot at best to make the rotation, and Tejeda already has a slot nailed down.

And to dismiss McCarthy out of hand because of his flyball tendencies seems short-sighted. Again, McCarthy was pitching for the ChiSox -- whose home park is even more prone to allowing homers to right than TBIA is -- and there didn't seem to be much complaining about him then. McCarthy is going to have to allow homers at a lesser rate than he did last season, but to simply determine that he's not going to be able to contribute much in Texas because he's a flyball pitcher -- as Perry does -- doesn't make much sense.

Jan Hubbard has a piece on McCarthy pitching in TBIA in the S-T today, and points out that 247 homers were hit at U.S. Cellular last season -- the most in baseball -- while TBIA was 13th, with 178 homers.

Also from the S-T today, Dave Sessions has some notes, including 5 questions with C.J. Wilson, and Gil Lebreton has a column on how Bud Selig should address the Barry Bonds and steroids situation, in case you haven't read enough about Bonds or steroids lately.

T.R. Sullivan has a blog entry this morning as well, with some notes about the catchers the Rangers have invited.

In non-Rangers stuff, the players finally won an arbitration case, with Miguel Cabrera being awarded $7.4 million in his arbitration case against the Marlins. And the Nationals signed Ronnie Belliard to a minor league deal. Belliard was one of the most prominent position players still on the market.

And Ken Rosenthal has a notes column up, focusing on why Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs should agree to a contract extension. Rosenthal suggests that settling the arbitration case, then doing a 5 year, $80 million extension, would be best for everyone, with Zambrano taking a deal similar to Roy Oswalt's because he's not as accomplished as Roy Oswalt. The reality, though -- as I mentioned a few days ago -- is that Zambrano has been better than Oswalt and Barry Zito both, and Zambrano, in the open market, is going to be able to get a lot more than a 5 year, $80 million deal. Unless Zambrano pulls a Mulder and breaks down in 2007, he'd be taking a fair amount less than he could get in free agency if he were to cut a deal like that.

Rosenthal also has a weird note on the Rangers:

The Rangers, who might need another reliever if they trade right-hander Akinori Otsuka, have long coveted Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood. It's doubtful that the Cubs would trade Wood quickly, however, given the loyalty he showed by signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract when he likely could have received at least twice that on the free-agent market. Cubs G.M. Jim Hendry, likewise, remains loyal to Wood, who could emerge as a late-inning option if -- ahem -- he stays healthy.

That doesn't make much sense to me. The whole motivation behind the Rangers dealing Otsuka is that they could do it and not need another reliever.