Could Michael Young's playing time dwindle?

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington banished Roy Oswalt to the bullpen Tuesday afternoon because he's pitching poorly.

It's absolutely the right move, especially since the Rangers acquired starter Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs just before Major League Baseball's trade deadline.

The Rangers find themselves in a heated race for the AL West title after a 6-2 loss to Los Angeles trimmed their lead over the Angels and Oakland Athletics to three games.

So there's no time to placate any player -- even a former star such as Oswalt, who made it clear when he signed with Texas that he wasn't interested in being a long reliever.

Of course, that was before Oswalt had a 6.49 ERA and opponents were hitting .358 against him.

Michael Young, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored in the loss to Los Angeles, should be the next player to see his playing time dwindle, if he can't be more than a $16 million singles hitter. This offense needs Young to be a difference-maker.

Mitch Moreland's return from the disabled list gives Washington options at first base and designated hitter against right-handed pitchers. Mike Napoli can play first base or DH against left-handers on days Geovany Soto, acquired Monday, is catching.

Or Washington can use some other combination of players at first base and DH.

The point is the Rangers have entered the point of the season when winning is all that matters.

This isn't May or June. The Rangers no longer have what seems like an insurmountable lead in the division. This is winning time.

"It's going to go down to the wire," general manger Jon Daniels said. "All three clubs are going to fight for it, and we want to put our best foot forward. Ownership has stepped up in this situation."

The Rangers' owners have sacrificed their cash to acquire Dempster. Daniels sacrificed some quality low-level prospects to acquire one of the National League's best players this season.

Young will have to sacrifice playing time, if he's not producing.

And that's the key.

If Young, a seven-time All-Star, hits the way his career .302 average suggests he can, then it will render any and all discussion about his place in the lineup moot.

But if sitting Young a few games each week gives the Rangers the best chance to win to win the division, then that's what Washington must do.

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