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Jan Hubbard writes on the battle for the 25th man role, the utility infielder/maybe sometimes utility outfielder job that Jerry Hairston Jr. filled for much of last season.

We have JHJ, Matt Kata, Desi Relaford, Ramon Vazquez, and Drew Meyer all vying for the job, with Hairston, Kata and Relaford considered the favorites because of their ability to play the outfield as well as the infield.

I still tend to believe that Hairston will end of with the job, although Ron Washington says the competition will go down to the last day, because this is the type of job he used to be fighting for in spring training, and he always wanted to get every possible opportunity to win the job.

Hubbard also writes that Washington was critical of Robinson Tejeda for a lousy outing yesterday, and of Gerald Laird for not doing a better job of getting Tejeda back on track. Laird has generally gotten good reviews for his handling of pitchers, and as Hubbard points out, Laird caught Tejeda late last season when he was pitching well, so hopefully this is just one of those spring things.

T.R. Sullivan has some blogginess over at the Rangers website, with some random notes on various and sundry topics...

Over at BP, John Perrotto discusses the Phillies' interest in dealing Jon Lieber to the Blue Jays for Alex Rios, which would then allow them to turn around and move Aaron Rowand to the ChiSox for relief pitching.

I've said before that I'm not a fan of the talked about Lieber for Brad Wilkerson deal, because I think Wilkerson is the safest bet of all the OF/DH types in camp other than the Cat, and the idea of a starting outfield of Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton, and Nelson Cruz, with a Cat/Botts platoon at DH, troubles me. I guess if Sosa flops, you could call up Victor Diaz, and have him platoon with Cat, with Cruz and Botts playing every day, but I think that doesn't give you much margin for error.

On the other hand, if you could get Lieber for a reliever, I think that's something you may have to look at, although I'm not convinced that the difference between, say, Jon Lieber and Bruce Chen -- who would not make the team, and sign elsewhere, if the Rangers acquired Lieber for their rotation -- is enough to make giving up, say, Akinori Otsuka worth it.

Still, I think the possibility of a deal with the Phillies exists, and if one of the Ranger starters goes down this spring, I'd be surprised if something didn't go down with the Phillies soon thereafter.

Another possibility, just sitting here speculating, would be dealing Wilkerson for Lieber, and then moving prospects to the Brewers for Geoff Jenkins, who would essentially take Wilkerson's place on the Ranger roster. Jenkins would also seem to be a better fit for the #5 slot than anyone the Rangers are currently considering for that role.

Steve Phillips chastises the Cincinnati Reds for taking Josh Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft:

The decision to acquire Hamilton and give him a chance to be a major league player without doing anything to earn it over the past four seasons makes a statement to current Reds major leaguers and especially to the organization's minor league players. This one decision contradicts everything the organization claims is important.

* * *

Maybe the organization can spin the decision and find a way to justify it to its young prospects. My experience is that ballplayers see through that. Their take will be that if you have talent, it doesn't really matter what you do or how you behave -- there is a place for you at the top. That is not the attitude that leads to championships.

I'm not entirely sure how to respond to Phillips' comments. A Rule 5 pick is, almost by definition, a guy who doesn't really deserve to be in the majors. Does the fact that the particular Rule 5 pick is a guy with Hamilton's checkered past send more of a wrong message than, say, keeping a Fabio Castro on the roster does?

And for today's Sammy Sosa blurb...from Ken Rosenthal, in his notes column at Fox Sports:

Give Sammy Sosa credit -- he is in better shape and showing greater bat speed than most scouts and executives expected. His bigger test, however, will come when opposing pitchers start bearing down later in spring training.

Both of Sosa's homers have come on fastballs down the middle -- he hit a 91-mph pitch off Royals right-hander Luke Hudson and an 85-mph pitch off Diamondbacks righty Livan Hernandez. Still, the Rangers view his early showing as a pleasant surprise.