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Notes: Cordero, Mench return to Texas

Notes: Cordero and Mench's return

ARLINGTON -- Their words said it was nothing special, but their eyes betrayed a bit of extra intensity Friday as Brewers closer Francisco Cordero and outfielder Kevin Mench made their official returns to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Brewers played their final spring exhibition here on a rainy weekend at the end of March, but all that stop did was familiarize the longtime Rangers with where to find the visiting clubhouse. And remind them of how they had to leave in a whirlwind last July 28 when Texas sent them and two Minor-Leaguers to Milwaukee in exchange for outfielders Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz.

The trade looks like a steal for Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who held the same job in Texas from 1996-2001. Cordero is awaiting his second career All-Star invitation after entering Friday with 22 consecutive save conversions to start the season. Mench (.282, 2 HR, 17 RBIs) has been a serviceable outfielder, if a disappointment as a run-producer.

The Rangers, meanwhile, lost Lee to Houston as a free agent last winter. They tried to establish Cruz as their starting right fielder this season, but on Tuesday finally sent the .188-hitting outfielder back to Triple-A Oklahoma for more seasoning against softer competition.

Cordero, leading the Majors in saves and holding opponents to an .089 batting average, might have reason to gloat. But he hasn't forgotten that he blew five saves and had an 11.46 ERA for Texas in April 2006, losing his closer's job to Akinori Otsuka.

"I know I was struggling a little bit at the beginning of last season," Cordero said. "And I understood when they came to me and said they were going to give me a little breather. But the thing is, I never got my job back, even when I was pitching as good as the other guy.

"It was obvious I was not going to get my job back with the Rangers. But they traded me, and it worked out well for me. I believe in my stuff and I came to Milwaukee, where they believe in me, too."

For their last several months in Texas, neither player felt he enjoyed the confidence of Buck Showalter, the former Rangers manager who was fired after last season by the team's first-year general manager, Jon Daniels.

"There was just one person I didn't have a good relationship with here," said Mench, a Rangers fan favorite who signed autographs for 30 minutes before Friday's series opener, "and that person's gone now."

"I'm not going to name names," Cordero said. "But somebody has got to make the decision and put their hand down and say, 'We're going to do this.' I don't know who did it, but whoever did it thought it was time for me to go.

"I don't know who made the decision. But, whoever did it, it worked out well for me."

All-Star invites drawing near: Little more than a month remains before the July 10 All-Star Game in San Francisco, and chances look good for at least three Brewers to be named to the National League team.

First baseman Prince Fielder entered Friday leading the NL in home runs (21) and slugging percentage (.647), was tied for second in RBIs (48) and tied for eighth in runs scored (39). He added a solo home run in the second inning of Friday's contest.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy was second in NL home runs (16), fourth in RBIs (47), eighth in slugging percentage (.537) and tied for 10th in hits (70).

The aforementioned Cordero has simply been the best relief pitcher in either league thus far, and was an All-Star for the Rangers in 2004.

"I've been pitching good and I feel like I deserve to go," Cordero said. "If not, that's fine, too. But it would be nice to go to San Francisco to the All-Star Game this year."

Weeks improving: Second baseman Rickie Weeks (right wrist tendinitis) said he was feeling improvement since a cortisone injection earlier in the week and was hopeful he could begin hitting off a tee and resuming other baseball activities within three days.

"I'm trying to speed things up," said Weeks, who is eligible to come off the disabled list next Thursday. "Hopefully, [the injection] will improve me for some period of time."

Rotation plans in flux: Brewers manager Ned Yost said he won't decide until Saturday which starting pitchers will face the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers next week.

If the rotation remained unchanged, the series at Comerica Park would fall to Claudio Vargas, Jeff Suppan and Chris Capuano. But with a scheduled day off Monday, it is believed Yost is considering skipping Vargas' next turn and sending Suppan, Capuano and Ben Sheets to face the Tigers.

He said it: "It's rare these days to see a guy stay with one team his entire career. I thought I could've been that guy." -- Outfielder Kevin Mench, on returning to Texas, where he was a remains a favorite of Rangers fans

Briefly: With American League rules in effect, Yost employed Gabe Gross as his designated hitter Friday and dropped the struggling Bill Hall to the No. 8 spot in the batting order for the first time this year. Hall entered Friday with just one RBI in his last 15 games, and none in his last 11. ... FSN Wisconsin has added the Aug. 2 game against the New York Mets to its broadcast schedule, a 1 p.m. CT start. ... WMLW-Channel 41 has added the July 28 game against St. Louis to its schedule. First pitch for that game is at noon CT. ... Fans wishing to pledge donations to baseball's annual fundraising drive to battle prostate cancer can call 1-88-798-CURE (2873) or visit www.gillettepcc.org. Major League Baseball, its teams and fans can make set donations or link pledges to the number of home runs hit between June 6-17.

Up next: Right-hander Ben Sheets (6-3, 3.51) is scheduled to oppose Rangers righty Brandon McCarthy (4-4, 6.35) in the second game of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. CT.

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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