Cruz returns in flurry of Rangers moves
Arias also activated as Garko, Gentry sent out
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are ready to make a series of moves they believe will get them back to full strength offensively.The Rangers are planning to activate outfielder Nelson Cruz (strained right hamstring) and infielder Joaquin Arias (strained back) off the disabled list during their three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. General manager Jon Daniels said Cruz will replace backup first baseman Ryan Garko, who has just three singles in 33 at-bats. Garko will be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and then be placed on outright waivers. The Rangers want to give Garko a chance to be claimed by another team and get a Major League job. If not, he will be assigned outright to Oklahoma City. Arias will replace outfielder Craig Gentry, who will be optioned back to Oklahoma City. Garko has been the Rangers backup first baseman. But that was more important when the Rangers had Chris Davis, a left-handed hitter, at first. Justin Smoak is a switch-hitter. Arias has also been playing first base at Oklahoma City, and the Rangers feel Max Ramirez and Andres Blanco can play there as well. "Garko's just not quite the perfect fit as when we first picked him up," Daniels said. "He needs to get some at-bats and consistent playing time. He's better than he's shown." Cruz has been sidelined since April 27 and was 3-for-9 in two games at Oklahoma City on a medical rehabilitation assignment. "I played nine innings two days ago and I played nine innings [Wednesday]," Cruz said. "I ran the bases, I got a couple of hits and a couple of fly balls. It was pretty normal." Cruz was hitting .323 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 19 games before he went on the disabled list. He was also among the league leaders with a .758 slugging percentage and a .419 on-base percentage. Friday night is expected to be the first time that Ian Kinsler and Cruz have been in the lineup together this season. Kinsler started the season on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle and didn't return until after Cruz was on the DL himself. Now Cruz will bat sixth behind Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Kinsler. "I'm loving it," manager Ron Washington said. The Rangers' offense could use the boost. They entered Thursday's game sixth in the American League in runs scored, seventh in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage -- though they were also sporting a .303 average for May, the highest in the Majors. "Our team has done a good job keeping our heads above water and playing well despite not having our 'A' lineup," Young said. "That's part of the big leagues: guys getting banged up and still playing well. We've done a good job of that. But it will be nice to get Nellie back in there, have the lineup we envisioned and get some momentum going. "We haven't even touched what we're capable of offensively. That's something we constantly talk about. We want to make sure improvement is our biggest focal point."
Treanor, Ramirez set as backstops
ARLINGTON -- When the Rangers talk about being back at full strength offensively, that includes Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez at catcher. They are considered the Rangers' two catchers."They've been doing a great job," manager Ron Washington said. The Rangers are not sitting around waiting for Jarrod Saltalamacchia's return to be at full strength. He is at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and there are no plans to bring him back anytime soon. "He's still trying to get it together," Washington said. "Like anything else, if Salty gets back here, it's because he forced us to bring him back. Am I sitting here worried about that? The two guys here are doing a good job. Nobody has forgotten about Salty. We all know what Salty can bring to the table." Taylor Teagarden, who started the season as the Rangers backup catcher before being optioned to Oklahoma City, was sent to Double-A Frisco earlier this week. Kevin Richardson was promoted to Triple-A. Treanor was back at catcher on Thursday, the day after Ramirez had three hits and again worked well with pitcher Derek Holland in a 10-1 victory over the Athletics. Ramirez hit one of the Rangers' five home runs, the first time he has gone deep in the Majors since July 10, 2008. "What I really wanted to see him do is get Holland through the ballgame," Washington said. "It was just a matter of time before he started swinging the bat. He's doing a very good job. You've got to give Max a lot of credit, he's worked awfully hard. He's been hanging out with the pitching staff learning what they do. He's come a long way with his catching."
Murphy back to reserve role
ARLINGTON -- The return of Nelson Cruz means David Murphy goes back to his fourth outfielder role. But manager Ron Washington insisted he will still get Murphy time even though his regular outfield will have Josh Hamilton in left, Julio Borbon in center, Cruz in right and Vladimir Guerrero will remain the primary designated hitter."I'm going to give him opportunities," Washington said. "I'm just not going to sit on David. I don't know how many games but I'm not going to sit on him. He just happens to be the fourth guy, but he's a very productive fourth guy. I'm definitely looking forward to keep David in there. I will. He's important. We need him." Murphy was 0-for-5 on Wednesday, but he is still 10-for-28 on the homestand with five RBIs in six games. He is hitting .222 with two home runs and 14 RBIs on the season. "I feel great," Murphy said. "If you look at my season last year, I feel like I had a decent season but I feel now like I did in 2008. Even though I had a decent season last year, I was passive at the plate. Now I feel I can hit the ball hard every single time at bat."
Centers of attention
ARLINGTON -- Returning Craig Gentry to Triple-A Oklahoma City removes the Rangers' right-handed-hitting option in center field. The Rangers are left with three players who can play center field and all are left-handed hitters: Julio Borbon, Josh Hamilton and David Murphy.Borbon started against some left-handers early in the season but has just seven at-bats against lefties since April 16 and no more than one per game. He is 1-for-22 against left-handers, the lone hit coming against Indians reliever Aaron Laffey on April 14. Gentry has been starting against them since he was called up on April 27 and is 2-for-11 against lefties. Before Gentry arrived, manager Ron Washington was using Murphy when he wanted to sit Borbon against a left-hander. "If we face a left-hander, it may be a day David gets his at-bats," Washington said. "It depends on the lefty. I still intend on giving Borbon games against left-handers but I'm not playing him against Cliff Lee and those guys. The lefties we've been facing are pretty good."
Darren O'Day, going into Thursday's game, had pitched 13 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Colorado's Jhoulys Chacin was the only Major League pitcher with more innings and no earned runs. Chacin was at 15 1/3 innings entering Thursday. ... The Rangers scored 10 runs on Wednesday, despite going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. It's the most runs they've ever scored without a hit with runners in scoring position. ... Triple-A Oklahoma City pitcher Omar Beltre is on the disabled list with a strained elbow.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.