SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Texas Rangers cleared the way for Andruw Jones to make their opening-day roster by releasing Frank Catalanotto on Wednesday.
Jones, who won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as Atlanta's center fielder, recovered from a slow start and is batting .293 with three home runs and six RBIs in 58 at-bats this spring. The move gives Jones the team's final roster spot as a fifth outfielder and a right-handed designated hitter.
"From an organizational standpoint, we feel that he's made progress to that point where we want to let it play out during the season," general manager Jon Daniels said.
Catalanotto hit .317 this spring, but he's a lefty-hitting first baseman, left fielder and DH. The Rangers already have Chris Davis at first, David Murphy in left and Hank Blalock at DH. All hit left-handed.
Texas owes Catalanotto $4 million this year and a $2 million buyout of a $5 million club option for 2010. That figure could be lowered by $800,000 if he is signed for the $400,000 minimum this year and next.
Daniels said Jones' chances of making the roster improved dramatically when he told the club he was willing to be a backup outfielder and part-time DH. Daniels spent most of the past two weeks trying to trade Catalanotto.
Jones' slow start this spring came after he washed out quickly with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, hitting just .158 with three homers in 75 games after signing a $36.2 million, two-year deal. He showed up overweight and battled knee problems all season. The Dodgers ate $22 million to get rid of him.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure exactly what we were going to see," Daniels said. "It was clear that he had lost weight, that his knee was healthy and that he was in a good state of mind. He did not have a sense of entitlement. He really got after it to make the club."
The Rangers signed Catalanotto to a $13.5 million, three-year deal before the 2007 season. At the time, they were desperately thin in the outfield but have since signed or traded for several players, most notably center fielder Josh Hamilton.
"Frank has been nothing but professional," Daniels said. "I honestly believe that he can help a club. I wish him luck down the line."
The Rangers decided to go with another potential comeback story Wednesday by giving the final spot in their rotation to right-hander Kris Benson, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006.
Benson, who is 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in five spring games, pushed right-hander Scott Feldman into the bullpen.
Benson, the No. 1 overall pick by Pittsburgh in 1996, missed 2007 after surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 starts last year for Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia's Triple-A team, before the Phillies released him Aug. 30.
Benson signed a minor league deal with the Rangers a week into spring training after working out for team scouts.
In his last major league season, Benson was 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA for Baltimore. He has a career record of 68-73 with a 4.34 ERA in 195 starts.
Jason Jennings, a starter plagued by elbow problems the last two seasons, will start the season in the bullpen.
Daniels also said left-hander Eddie Guardado, the veteran reliever who like Jennings came to spring training as a non-roster player, will be in the bullpen. Right-handed relievers Dustin Nippert (back) and Willie Eyre (groin) likely will begin the season on the disabled list.
Former All-Star reliever Derrick Turnbow, who came to Rangers camp on a minor league deal after missing the second half of last season for Milwaukee with shoulder problems, has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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