Notes: Andres Blanco ready to take swings

SEATTLE -- Rangers infielder Andres Blanco, on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his lower back, took ground balls at Safeco Field prior to tonight's game.

The backup infielder is scheduled to take swings with a fungo on Saturday and after a few days of that would swing a regular bat. If all goes well and he feels good after those sessions, he could go out for a rehab assignment. That would probably occur when the team returns home and only after Blanco can run the bases without any issues.

"I played with it and we iced it and it felt better," Blanco said about his back. "Then it started hurting again."

Blanco said he didn't have any issues with grounders, but conceded the big test was swinging a bat. He was hitting .233 with two homers and two RBIs at the time of the injury and it forced the Rangers to call up Omar Quintanilla. Manager Ron Washington said when he's ready to get Elvis Andrus a break, that Quintanilla would start at shortstop.

Washington said the lower back really started to bother Blanco when he was swinging. It wasn't as bothersome in the other parts of the game.

Other notes:

* Washington attributes the good defense played by his team during the 8-game winning streak to better focus and that the team was made aware of it by fans and the media.

"You guys brought it into a deeper focus than we would have liked it to have been," Washington said. "But you guys made them aware of how bad they were playing even though record-wise we were still successful. To me, that was a challenge to them because they take pride in playing defense. I think now they are more focused on their defense."

The beat writers joked that we'd like some of the playoff money if the club makes it.

"We'll see what we can do," Washington said, grinning.

* Washington said the only guy he really didn't get as many off days in the first half as he would have liked was Nelson Cruz. "That's because he's not been as consistent as he would like to be and I always think with him that today is the day. He loves to play every day and I got to make sure I start getting him some days too. He had some time down already earlier in the season, so he was able to play through."

* Washington plans on playing David Murphy against Felix Hernandez on Saturday. One big reason: Murphy has hit Hernandez well in his career. Murphy is 15-for-52 (.288) with four doubles, two homers and eight RBIs off Hernandez. That could shift Josh Hamilton to center, though Washington said he might put Hamilton at DH. He hasn't decided yet.

* Endy Chavez came in the game as a pinch-hitter late last night because Washington said he was planning on playing Chavez today and wanted him to have one at-bat before he started tonight. (Let him take some swings on Thursday after a break).