MILWAUKEE -- Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski was sent for a precautionary MRI exam on his ailing right oblique. Pierzynski was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day while the team awaited the results of the test.
"It's something he's been dealing with and he said he's played with it," manager Ron Washington said. "So we just wanted to get a precautionary MRI and get some fact on it. We don't know what's happening right now. But if I need him to catch tonight, if for some reason [Geovany] Soto goes down, he can do it."
Pierzynski was given a regular day off on Monday and was originally in Tuesday's starting line up before being scratched with a flare-up of the oblique injury.
He said the injury is something that has been bothering him for a while and just hasn't gotten any better. After not starting the first two games of last week's three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, Pierzynski started the next four. On Sunday, he struck out in all four of his plate appearances against the Boston Red Sox and hasn't played since.
"I think Sunday was probably the height of [the pain]," Pierzynski said. "That's not an excuse for my performance on Sunday, but it doesn't help. I showed you all the bruising I had in there when I didn't play earlier in the week. That's kinda what we're trying to get out of there, and it's slowly gone away."
Pierzynski said he was hoping to avoid a DL stint but was unsure what would happen until they had the MRI results. Pierzynski has been on the disabled list only once in his career when he fractured his wrist while with the Chicago White Sox in August 2011.
"I like to play and I like to come every day to work and not miss days," Pierzynski said. "I work very hard in the weight room and with trainers to stay on the field. It's disappointing that something like this happens and you have to miss time with something that seems so minor. But at the same time, it affects you and you can't swing, it really only affects me when I swing."
Pierzynski is putting up a .263/.297/.411 line on the season with four home runs, as well as being the main catcher for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
Washington said no decision had been made as to who would replace Pierzynski on the active roster if a move were needed. However, Robinson Chirinos, currently getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate at Triple-A Round Rock, would seem to be the logical choice since he's the only other catcher on the 40-man roster besides Pierzynski and Soto. Veteran catcher Eli Whiteside is also on the Round Rock roster.
Chirinos has a .295/.404/.487 slash line in 94 plate appearances with Round Rock.
Yu not concerned about pitches: Yu Darvish indicates his arm has responded very well after Sunday's 127-pitch outing against the Red Sox. Darvish leads the majors with 72 strikeouts, which contributes to elevated pitch counts.
"I don't feel that I'm going for the strikeouts," Darvish said through a translator. "Strikeouts are effective, but I don't think I'm going for them. I know that the manager and the pitching coach are concerned about my pitch count because I get too many strikeouts."
Darvish said that as long as he has four days in between starts, he can recover and doesn't care about his pitch count. He added that he had no plans to change his pitching style to reduce his pitch count.
Darvish was asked how many pitches he thought he could throw in a game.
"Up to 200," Darvish said without hesitation.
Berkman sit in NL parks: Despite hitting his former teammate Kyle Lohse pretty well (9-for-31, four home runs and six walks), Lance Berkman once again sat without the DH available at Milwaukee's Miller Park.
Washington and Berkman both agree that they'd rather be cautious with Berkman's ailing right knee -- which he has had two surgeries on in the past 12 months -- than watch him suffer an injury while playing the field.
Berkman says he hasn't even had any fielding practice recently.
"They can run me out there not having taken ground balls, but I don't think they're going to," Berkman said. "The thing you guys are overlooking we have a first baseman. It's not like we have a revolving door at first base, we got a guy that's hitting over .400 the last two weeks with power. It'd be one thing if, oh man, we didn't know who was going to be playing over there. We have a first baseman."
Berkman was referring to Mitch Moreland, who has an .808 OPS on the season and has put up an impressive 15-game stretch in which he has a .393/.433/.607 line with two home runs and six doubles.
"It's all about what gives you the best chance to win a game," Berkman said. "Right now [Moreland] gives us just as good a chance to win a game and he's also playing good defense. You have to look at a risk-and-reward scenario, too. How much of a reward do you get if I go out there and tweak my knee playing defense and have to miss some time because of that? Do you really want me in there that badly for one game or two or three at-bats? To me, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Berkman was asked if he could play left field, and he admitted that actually might be easier on his knee than playing first. He said all the lateral movement and starting and stopping at first base would be more difficult than running in a straight line, which is what he'd mostly do in left.
"I'm glad he gave you that information," Washington said with a laugh when told that Berkman thought he could play left. "If he came to me and suggested something like that, I'd take it under advisement.
"Thing with Berkman, for me, is he's healthy and can swing the bat. We're gonna play a lot of National League teams the rest of the way in the season and he's going to get his opportunity to get on the field. It's not going to be where I'm not going to play him, we just make sure that this guy is ready to go and can endure those types of things. But right now, I know he can endure the DH spot, I know he can endure going up there and pinch-hitting. Before this year's over, he's gonna come up real big for us."
Berkman said his knee was "OK" right now and, if needed, he could play first base in a pinch.
"I don't think it's to the point where I can go out there for multiple games," Berkman said. "If you're looking for somebody to be out there every single day, then that's something I'm probably not ready to do yet."
Wash on Houston: Washington was asked about the struggling Houston Astros, who sit at a league worst 9-24. The Rangers head to Houston for a three-game set over the weekend.
"They're young, they're inexperienced," Washington said. "They're learning on the job, and what comes with learning on the job at the major league level is what you see. As an organization, they've proven that they have faith in their guys. Sometimes you gotta take a whippin. I can go back to 1981 and 1982 in Minnesota. We took a whippin, a terrible whippin. And in 1987, five years later, that same group won a World Series. [Frank] Viola lost 18 ball games and became a Cy Young winner. Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner, all those guys, they were getting the [butts] handed to them. So, if you got the talent and you believe in it and you can put up with the process, it'll work for you."
Both the 1981 and 1982 Twins finished in last place, with the '82 team losing 102 games. Washington said the fact that neither the Astros front office nor coaching staff is panicking is a good thing and will help the young players on the team.
Astros manager Bo Porter played on the 2000 Oakland Athletics team that had Washington as an infield and third-base coach. Porter has always looked up to Washington, and Washington said the two are still in frequent contact and often gives the new manager words of advice.
"He and the GM are on the same page, so he doesn't have to look over his shoulder, he can be who he is," Washington said. "And that'll rub off. As long as someone has his back and ownership has the general manager's back, they're doing what they think they gotta do. They're gonna feed off of [Porter]. They know the situation they're in, it's no secret."