SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Gerald Laird will begin the season as the Texas Rangers' starting catcher after the team optioned Jarrod Saltalamacchia to their minor league camp Wednesday.

Saltalamacchia, 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.

Right-hander Kameron Loe was also optioned to the minors.

The Rangers went into spring training letting Laird, the opening day starter last season, and Saltalamacchia compete for the starting job. The two split the job the final two months last season.

Saltalamacchia hit .250 (8-for-32) in 13 spring training games, with two home runs, eight RBIs and eight strikeouts. In 14 games before Wednesday, Laird was hitting .263 (10-for-38) with four homers and nine RBIs.

Texas could have kept Laird and Saltalamacchia on the major league roster. But the Rangers want Saltalamacchia to continue his development as a catcher by playing every day rather than splitting time with Laird. Saltalamacchia also played some first base last season, but the views him solely as a catcher now.

Adam Melhuse will likely be Laird's backup.

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.