Lance Berkman to begin season on disabled list

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Lance Berkman was doing well enough in his recovery from March 13 knee surgery that he took batting practice and did some running yesterday, but afterward his knee swelled up and this morning the Astros placed him on the disabled list.
Berkman will miss at least the first four games of the season and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that veteran utility man Geoff Blum is expected to replace him at first base. Seriously.
Berkman batted .274 with 25 homers in 136 games last season, posting a .907 OPS that actually ranks as the second-worst of his excellent career. By comparison, Blum batted .247 with a .681 OPS in 120 games last season, hasn’t topped a .705 OPS since 2002, and sports a career line of .250/.310/.398 in 11 seasons.
Obviously the Astros are hoping that Berkman will be ready to come off the disabled list by mid-April, in which case replacing him with Blum isn’t such a big deal, but if their best hitter needs an extended stay on the disabled list and his replacement is a 36-year-old with a .698 career OPS … well, they may be headed for a third losing season in the past four years.

Rangers hire Julio Rangel as new pitching coach

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The Texas Rangers have hired Julio Rangel as their new pitching coach.

Rangel has spent 12 seasons a minor league pitching instructor for the Giants and Indians.

Rangel replaces departing pitching coach Doug Brocail. Under Brocail the Rangers ranked 13th in runs allowed per game in the American League.