June 18, 2013

Slow-to-improve thumb finally sends Baker to DL

Injured in a high-five exchange, thumb has been slow to improve.

The overzealous high-five a teammate exchanged with Jeff Baker last week has forced the Texas Rangers’ utility man to the disabled list with a sprained right thumb.

The unique injury wasn’t a laughing matter for Baker, who hasn’t been on the disabled list since June of 2011.

Baker headlined four moves the Rangers made Tuesday. They also optioned first baseman Chris McGuiness to Triple A Round Rock, and recalled left-handed reliever Joseph Ortiz and catcher/first baseman Robinson Chirinos from Round Rock.

“It’s progressing, but in baby steps,” Baker said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s something that is out of your control. At the same time, it’s a delicate situation because it is a teammate and he feels terrible about it.”

The Rangers met with Baker before Tuesday’s game to gauge his progression and see if he would be ready by this weekend when they travel to St. Louis. Baker couldn’t guarantee he would be, leaving the Rangers little choice but to place him on the DL, retroactive to Thursday.

The Rangers strung it out as long as they could, as Baker was injured last Wednesday, but will need a full roster under National League rules.

“They asked me for an honest assessment and if I would be ready Friday, and it was one of those things I really couldn’t answer,” said Baker, who received a cortisone injection Saturday but will not have an MRI.

“The last thing I want to do is hurt the team.”

Baker, who still can’t swing or throw, was batting .317 with nine home runs and 16 RBIs.

With Baker and Mitch Moreland on the disabled list, and McGuiness headed back to the minors, the Rangers went with Lance Berkman at first base Tuesday.

It was Berkman’s fourth start at first, and he could be there tonight and Thursday until Moreland is eligible to come off the disabled list.

“I think I can do at least two out of three,” Berkman said. “We’ll see how I feel.”

If Berkman can’t go one of the next two days, Rangers manager Ron Washington said Chirinos would get the start at first. Chirinos is primarily a catcher, but has played first base for the Express this season. He was with the Rangers from May 10-20 while A.J. Pierzynski was on the DL, batting .250 with two doubles in three games.

Washington said the team didn’t discuss bringing up top power hitting prospect Mike Olt. Olt hit two homers on Sunday and is having better results since vision issues cost him all of May, but wasn’t deemed ready.

“More than anything else, we’re trying to get Mike Olt comfortable,” Washington said. “We’re just going to hold it together for the next few days.”

As far as Ortiz, Washington said he gives the team another left-handed reliever in the bullpen. Neal Cotts threw 2 1/3 innings Monday, and Robbie Ross has also endured a heavy workload.

Oakland features several lefties in its lineup, too, and Ortiz has posted a 2.35 ERA over four appearances since being optioned to Round Rock on June 5.

“We just felt we needed to get another lefty up here,” Washington said. “That’s all.”

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