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Notes: Coaches managing new roles

Notes: Coaches managing new roles

ARLINGTON -- Bob Geren and Ron Washington managed against each other twice during Spring Training, splitting two Cactus League exhibitions.

But on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the first-year managers of the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers locked horns for the first time in a game that counted. For two baseball lifers who spent the previous four seasons together as members of the Oakland coaching staff, it was an enjoyable, but odd, reunion.

"I'd like to see him do well," Geren said of Washington. "But, it's a little weird, because at the same time you want to do well yourself."

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Like it or not, the longtime friends now are rivals in the hotly contested American League West. Friday's series opener in Arlington was the first of 19 times they will oppose each other in the regular season. Still, it was special enough for some of Oakland's position players to want to visit Washington after early batting practice.

"I've been around those knuckleheads for 11 years," Washington said, "so there's no special feelings except it's nice to see them. I talked to a couple of 'em. It was nice."

It could be argued that Washington, who spent the last 11 years coaching both first and third base for Oakland, has something of an advantage because he knows the Athletics' personnel so well. But Geren shrugged off that theory.

"We know their personnel, too, because they've been in our division," Geren said. "There's really no big secrets in baseball."

Offsetting Washington's intimate knowledge of Oakland's players could be Geren's more extensive managerial resume. Before this season, Washington's only managing experience was a two-season stint (1993-94) at Class A Capital City, a New York Mets affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Geren managed seven Minor league seasons, including three (2000-02) at Triple-A Sacramento.

"I've never managed against him, so it will be a little different," Geren said. "But I have an idea of what he's like. He's an aggressive guy. He will put his guys in motion. I like his style."

Thefts on the rise: The Rangers entered Friday having stolen 10 bases in their first 15 games, on pace for 108 over the season. The Rangers stole just 53 bases last season under former manager Buck Showalter.

The Athletics came in with eight steals through 15 games, on pace for 86 after stealing just 61 last year under former manager Ken Macha. The Athletics haven't stolen this many bases in April since swiping 10 in 2001. They stole only three bases last April.

"We're not going to set any records for steals," Geren said, "but we have maybe had a little more pace than in the past."

Harden status uncertain: Right-hander Rich Harden played catch in the outfield before Friday's game, but remained non-committal about taking his side session in the bullpen Saturday, much less returning to the rotation Tuesday in Baltimore as tentatively scheduled.

"So far, it felt all right," Harden said. "We'll see how it feels [Saturday]. I'm not sure. We'll just see how it feels then."

Harden had to leave last Sunday's start against the Yankees after six innings because of shoulder stiffness, but a subsequent MRI exam revealed no structural damage.

Time to get hot? Catcher Jason Kendall took a .175 batting average into Friday's game, but there was reason for optimism. Kendall also came in as a .329 career hitter against Texas (51-for-155) and boasted a .370 lifetime mark hitting at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (30-for-81).

"I didn't know that," Kendall said before the series opener. "Every big-league ballpark is exciting. They're all fun to go to. But this is a nice park, and I've always enjoyed coming here."

Geren said he planned to start backup catcher Adam Melhuse in one of the weekend games, most likely on Saturday. But he said that was just to keep Melhuse sharp rather than any concern over Kendall's tepid batting average.

"He's throwing great," Geren said of Kendall, who has started 15 of the first 16 games and came into Friday leading the American League in basestealers caught (55.6 percent). "This year, he's been almost perfect every throw, which is nice. He's tremendous for us. And he calls a great game for us, too."

Briefly: Outfielder Milton Bradley returned to the starting lineup, playing center field and batting fifth after missing the previous six games with a strained left hamstring. ... Second baseman Mark Ellis (sore shoulder) also was able to start after missing Wednesday's game against the Angels. ... First baseman Dan Johnson and right-hander Esteban Loaiza are expected at Triple-A Sacramento by Monday for rehab assignments. Johnson (torn hip cartilage) will start out by playing five innings a night until he can handle the stress of a full game. Loaiza (bulging neck disk) will begin throwing early next week if he finally feels pain-free. ... The Baseball Tomorrow Fund drive, now in its third year, will accept new or used baseball equipment and financial donations Aug. 17 at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum. Every Major League ballpark will collect equipment and donations before a designated home game this year, with the proceeds benefiting youth baseball and softball organizations in each participating market.

Up next: Left-hander Joe Kennedy (0-1, 3.75) makes his third start of the year when he faces Rangers RHP Kameron Loe (0-0, 5.40) at 5:05 p.m. PT Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Kennedy is 0-2 with a 4.19 ERA in seven career appearances in the Texas ballpark.

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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