OAKLAND -- Craig Gentry wasn't even planning on looking at the lineup card when he arrived at the Oakland Coliseum on Thursday morning. He didn't see the need.

He had not been in the starting lineup once since being called up from Double-A Frisco on Sept. 1. That changed on Thursday.

Gentry was batting ninth and playing right field against Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson.

"I've been waiting for this pretty much my whole life," Gentry said. "Just being up here has been awesome. You want to play, and you're anxious to play, so to get out there is a great feeling. I've been waiting for this for a long time."

Gentry replaced Nelson Cruz, who was given the day off. Cruz has just four hits in 28 at-bats and has one home run in his last 19 games.

"He just needs a little break, like [Ian] Kinsler yesterday," manager Ron Washington said before Thursday's game. "It's nothing physical, he just needs a break."

Gentry was a surprise September callup because he was not on the 40-man roster at the time. But the Rangers wanted him after he hit .303 with 100 runs scored, 21 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 53 RBIs at Frisco. He also led the Texas League in steals and was the first Frisco player in history to score 100 runs.

"I liked him when I saw him in Spring Training," Washington said. "His numbers really jumped out in Double-A. I told him a couple weeks ago to hang in there and I would try to get him a start. With a left-hander out there, I'm going to get him four at-bats and see what happens."

Gentry, a 10th-round pick out of the University of Arkansas, was 0-for-2 in three games since being called up before getting his first start on Thursday.

"I've just been trying to pick everybody's brains and learn from the older guys," Gentry said. "Take in as much as I can. These guys have been around the game a lot longer than I have."