Blalock will have rib removed, could miss 3 months of season

HOUSTON -- Texas Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock, who has
had shoulder discomfort in recent days, will have surgery to remove
a rib Monday and could be out up to three months.

Blalock missed Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, but the
Rangers thought he would be available for their first interleague
series this weekend against Houston.

Instead, team officials said Friday he had been diagnosed with
thoracic outlet syndrome, which affects the nerves that pass
through the shoulder into the neck. The surgery will remove a rib
on the right side of his upper chest.

The two-time All-Star was hitting .285 with five home runs and
16 RBIs.

"It's a huge loss," manager Ron Washington said. "Especially
when you realize he was rounding into the form people remember in
the days when he was knocking the ball out of the ballpark and
hitting for a high average.

"We're going to miss him. But you lose bodies and you bring
bodies in. The schedule continues on and we just bring other people
in and keep playing."

The Rangers will call up Travis Metcalf from Double-A Frisco.
Officials said he was driving from San Antonio on Friday afternoon
and they hoped to have him in uniform Friday night. Ramon Vasquez
started for Blalock on Friday, but Metcalf is expected to take the
job on a regular basis.

Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said there were no
immediate plans to trade for a major league third baseman even
though the Rangers are also missing infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.
(pinched nerve in shoulder) and outfielders Frank Catalanotto
(right biceps tendinitis) and Brad Wilkerson (right hamstring).

"We looked at teams like Anaheim and Oakland and they've both
been decimated by injuries but they're still competing," Levine
said. "We're facing a lot of adversity right now but our
expectations are to still be competing.

"If there were a veteran third baseman out there that we
thought could make a significant impact right away, we'd consider
that. But it's important to note that we're not panicking. We
expect to still be competitive."

Dallas surgeon Dr. Greg Pearl will operate on Blalock, and the
team is optimistic he will return in 10 to 12 weeks.

"The solution we need is a 10-week solution," Levine said.
"But we're going to give Travis an opportunity. We think he has
dramatically improved this year in his second time in Double-A.
He's one of the brightest spots in our minor leagues."

Metcalf is known as a strong defensive player, but has had
problems at the plate. He has never played in Triple-A but was
hitting .294 with 11 doubles, six home runs and a team-high 25 RBI
in 38 games with Frisco.

"The kid is supposed to be a glove man," Washington said. "So
at least we don't lose a lot defensively. He's one of those kids
who has had problems hitting in the minors but he has improved
lately and now he'll get a chance up here and we'll see what