<
>

Salty, Teagarden step up to the plate

Jarrod Saltalamacchia won't be alone when he hits leadoff in every inning of a minor league game for Triple-A Oklahoma City this afternoon against the Mariners' Triple-A team in Peoria, Ariz. The man he's competing with for the Rangers' starting catcher's job will be right there, too.

The Rangers want both Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden to get as many at-bats as possible, so both will be traveling to Peoria today, with Teagarden playing in a Double-A game. Matt Treanor starts at catcher here in Surprise against Oakland.

Manager Ron Washington declared the catching position a competition between Salty and Teagarden in January but he's not ready to name a winner yet. Saltalamacchia has missed games with two different issues this spring, first a breakup of scar tissue from last year's thoracic outlet surgery and, more recently, neck and shoulder spasms.

Washington plans on carrying just two catchers during the regular season. The exception would be if Max Ramirez should earn a spot on the bench in a role where he could be a third catcher and also play some first base and DH.

While Washington intimated that Teagarden might be stronger defensively, he added that he doesn't believe the team loses much with either catcher behind the plate. Salty is believed to have the far bigger upside offensively.

* If all goes well in Peoria today, Saltalamacchia will start behind the plate for the Rangers against the Brewers in Maryvale on Sunday.

* Once Washington declares a starter, he hopes to pencil his name into the lineup for about 115 games with the backup getting 40-50 starts.