SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Gerald Laird beat out Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the job as Texas Rangers starting catcher.
Saltalamacchia was optioned to the Rangers' minor league camp Wednesday. The 22-year-old switch-hitter, acquired in the July trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta, will catch every day at Triple-A Oklahoma.
"I'm disappointed because I did everything I possibly could," Saltalamacchia said. "I left it on the field, but at the end of the day, it wasn't good enough. … But I'll take it and go to Triple-A and be an MVP there."
The Rangers spent spring training allowing Laird, the opening-day starter last season, and Saltalamacchia to compete for the starting job. The two split playing time the final two months of last season. Laird threw out 40 percent of attempted basestealers, third-best in the major leagues, but hit .224 in 120 games last year.
Saltalamacchia batted .250 in 13 spring training games, with two home runs, eight RBIs and eight strikeouts. In 14 games before Wednesday, Laird was hitting .263 with four homers and nine RBIs.
"I was confident I could be the starting catcher," Laird said. "Last year was a humbling experience."
Texas could have kept Laird and Saltalamacchia on the major league roster, but the Rangers want Saltalamacchia to continue his development by playing every day rather than sharing time with Laird.
"Gerald came in here as the incumbent," manager Ron Washington said. "We were very fortunate that we have two guys of major league caliber, but only one could get it. Salty is a guy who needs to play. He doesn't need to sit around."
Laird broke camp in 2004 as the starter, but tore a ligament in his left thumb in a home-plate collision six weeks into his rookie season. He spent most of 2005 in the minors and 2006 as a backup to Rod Barajas before reclaiming the starting job last spring.
Adam Melhuse, who came to spring training on a minor league contract, will be Laird's backup. He played 23 games for Texas last season, and has played 296 games for four teams since 2000.
Right-hander Kameron Loe also was optioned to the minors. Loe was 0-1 with a 6.59 ERA in 13 2-3 innings over nine spring appearances. Loe began the past two seasons with the Rangers.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.