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Back For A Wakeup Call

DALLAS–It all depends on the average.

When outfielder Kevin Mench was hitting as a rookie major leaguer last season, the Rangers could live with his been-here-for-a-decade ways. The club considered him amusing. When Mench stopped hitting, the perception changed. The Rangers decided Mench needed a wakeup call and returned him to Triple-A Oklahoma when an extra pitcher was needed.

Mench’s return is up to him, the Rangers indicated.

"This doesn’t mean we don’t like Kevin," general manager John Hart said. "He really didn’t spend a lot of time in Triple-A. There are some things he needs to work on, and we’ll see how it goes. He knows he has to work his way back."

Mench did not get off to a good start. As is his right, he took 72 hours to join Oklahoma. The organization was less than thrilled at that.

Mench went to the majors last season after just 98 at-bats at Oklahoma. He hit .260-15-60 in the majors and received the club’s rookie-of-the-year award.

But while he was hitting, some warning signs did surface. Once he lost track of the number of outs. He did not run out a grounder. He skipped a team flight. He seemed immersed in the life of a sudden celebrity.

And most importantly, he stopped hitting. As opponents worked him inside more often, Mench hit just .195 for his final 87 at-bats and did not homer in his last 117 at-bats.

The power did not reappear upon his return to the Pacific Coast League, as he didn’t homer in his first 30 at-bats with Oklahoma.

Mench opened this season on the disabled list because of a late-spring ribcage injury. Hart admitted the club might have hurried him back. Mench was hitting just .219 with no homers in 32 at-bats when demoted in what amounts to a wake-up call.

The Rangers need Mench to make it back. Two of their front-line outfielders, Carl Everett and Juan Gonzalez, can become free agents after this season.

Ranger Roundup

• Two of the lefthanders in the rotation with Double-A Frisco were headed in opposite directions. C.J. Wilson came out of an early lull to work 15 consecutive scoreless innings, during which he allowed only five hits. Ben Kozlowski, the 2002 organizational pitcher of the year, was struggling with control problems. Kozlowski had more walks than strikeouts (22-21) through 37 innings.

• Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, recovering from last year’s hip fracture that required the insertion of a screw, was spending most of his time with Oklahoma as the DH. Ludwick had made infrequent appearances on the outfield corners but was not close to playing his natural center field again.

• Previous organization report: Ramon Nivar

 
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