ARLINGTON -- Major League Baseball and the Players Association are making a joint $100,000 donation to help support individuals and families impacted by the April 17 explosion and fire in the central Texas town of West.
"Major League Baseball is proud to support the people of West, Texas, during their community's difficult time of need," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Major League Baseball, our 30 Clubs, MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network offer its sincere condolences to all the individuals and the families affected by this tragedy, and we hope that our industry's contribution will assist in the community's recovery."
Major League Baseball will encourage fans to contribute to the cause and is accepting donations online. The Rangers have already organized a number of relief efforts, including collections of essential items and cash as well as holding a blood drive. Fans and the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation have donated thousands of dollars in gift cards and $40,000 in cash for victims and residents of West.
"Major Leaguers are honored to join the Commissioner's Office and Clubs in supporting efforts to help the people of West, Texas, recover from this tragic event -- our thoughts and prayers are with them all," said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner.
Baker put back in lineup after White Sox change plans
ARLINGTON -- The White Sox scratched right-handed starter Jake Peavy from Thursday's game because of back spasms and started left-hander Hector Santiago instead.
That move impelled Rangers manager Ron Washington to change his lineup. David Murphy was originally scheduled to start against Peavy, but Washington went with Jeff Baker in left field instead. Washington is keeping Baker's right-handed bat in the lineup against left-handers and right now Murphy is the one getting bumped.
"We have a right-handed bat that can hit left-handers," Washington said. "That's all it is. It's not a platoon. Murphy is still going to play against left-handers."
The arrangement is noticeable because the Rangers are facing a run of left-handers. Santiago is the fifth left-hander the Rangers have faced in the last six games and there are two more coming this weekend. The Red Sox are scheduled to pitch left-hander Felix Doubront on Friday, right-hander John Lackey on Saturday and left-hander Jon Lester on Sunday during their three-game series against the Rangers.
Baker went into Thursday's game hitting .444 (8-for-18) with three home runs against left-handed pitchers. He had home runs in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday for the fifth time in his career as he is taking advantage of the increased playing time of late.
"Any time you get to play a lot and get at-bats, it helps your timing and you can build off it," Baker said.
The only issue is his right knee. Baker bruised it in a game last week against the Angels in Anaheim and he is still recovering from his collision with the left-field stands. Washington has taken him out of the game defensively in the late innings of the last two games and will continue to do so until the knee is at least close to 100 percent.
"It's progressing … slowly, but progressing," Baker said. "You just go out and play with it."
The run of left-handers stops on Monday. The Rangers play a makeup game with the Cubs on Monday in Chicago and are scheduled to face right-hander Scott Feldman. The Rangers then play a two-game series with the Brewers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Brewers have an all right-handed rotation and right now the Rangers are scheduled to face Hiram Burgos and Wily Peralta. The Rangers will also face at least two right-handers during a three-game series with the Astros next weekend in Houston.
Rangers to face hot-hitting Napoli during weekend series
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have a three-game series with the Red Sox starting on Friday at the Ballpark in Arlington and that means another reunion with a former teammate. Mike Napoli is coming to town, and he is swinging a hot bat.
Left-hander Derek Holland will get the first crack when he starts on Friday night. Napoli is 3-for-6 with a home run in his career against Holland.
"I have been joking around with him about it," Holland said. "We've been texting back and forth. I miss him as a teammate, but now he's on the other side, so who cares about him?"
Napoli, who signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox in the offseason, went into Thursday's game with the Blue Jays hitting .287 with a .342 on-base percentage and a .602 slugging percentage. In 27 games and 108 at-bats, he has 14 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBIs. He was leading the American League in doubles, extra-base hits and RBIs.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Napoli is healthy again, he is taking advantage of the dimensions of Fenway Park that favor right-handed hitters and he is also hitting the ball to the opposite field again.
"You look at the configuration of that ballpark, he has hit a ton of balls that have been off the [left-field] wall or over the wall that didn't do anything here," Washington said. "He's comfortable. He never got comfortable here last year. I don't know if it was all the injuries, but he's certainly healthy again.
"He's also hitting to the opposite field. The year before, when he had that big year for us, he was hitting the ball all over the place. Last year he just couldn't go the opposite way. The Red Sox knew what they were doing. Even when he was struggling he hit the ball well [at Fenway]."
• Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was back in the lineup on Thursday for the first time in three games. Pierzynski was out of the lineup for the first two games against the White Sox because of a strained oblique muscle in his right side.
Pierzynski did pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 5-2 loss and was hit by a pitch from White Sox closer Addison Reed.
"He was ready to go [Wednesday]," manager Ron Washington said. "He was ready to go the day before. He could have played, but we gave him two days to make sure there are no issues."
• Triple-A Round Rock third baseman Mike Olt remains sidelined while dealing with some vision issues. Olt has been evaluated by an eye doctor and no issues were found. But the doctor did recommend Olt be examined by an eye specialist and that is the next step.
• Justin Grimm was named the American League Rookie of the Month for April after going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts. Nick Tepesch, who was 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in four starts in April, finished second in the voting.
• Colby Lewis is scheduled to pitch two innings in an extended spring game on Saturday. If that goes well, his next start would be May 9 for Triple-A Round Rock in Las Vegas. That would start the clock on his 30-day medical rehabilitation assignment.
• Martin Perez, who is recovered from a broken left arm, pitched three innings in an extended spring game on Wednesday and did not have any problems. Perez could pitch for Double-A Frisco as early as Monday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.