ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton was back in the Rangers' lineup on Monday. He left Saturday's game against the Rays early with soreness in his right knee. He had a cortisone shot and was held out of Sunday's starting lineup, though he did pinch-hit in the sixth and stayed in the game.
"The knee's OK," Hamilton said on Monday. "This is the first time in a month that I've been able to flex my quad muscle, and there's no pain in my kneecap."
Hamilton started in center field on Monday, instead of his usual post in left. Craig Gentry, normally a center fielder, started in left against left-hander Cliff Lee in place of Julio Borbon.
"Hamilton, to me, seems to feel a little better when he's in center field," said Rangers manager Ron Washington in explanation of Monday's lineup. "His attitude is better. I haven't talked to Hamilton. I talk to him today during [batting practice]; he may want to change. The knee is fine."
Washington added that he had noticed Hamilton's recent struggles.
"It's just a matter of him wanting to be on the field," Washington said. "I recognized that the past eight or nine days. The knee's been bothering him for a while. My own opinion is he's starting to turn the corner. Sometimes you go out there and realize how important to the team you are even if you're not at your best. You can't be at your best all the time."
Rangers' staff prepping for Interleague Play
ARLINGTON -- Ranger pitchers were out early Monday in preparation for Interleague Play.
"We've got nine straight games. Getting ready for that -- fielding bunts, bunting, things like that," manager Ron Washington said.
After the Seattle series, Texas will play Milwaukee, Florida and Houston on the road -- games in which the designated hitter cannot be utilized.
The pitchers also did some baserunning drills, and when asked if any pitchers might be candidates to pinch-run -- even in American League games -- Washington said, "C.J. [Wilson] can run. [Rich] Harden can run. I think those are the two serious athletes we have on that pitching staff."
Andrus gets breather; Arias starts at first
ARLINGTON -- Andres Blanco started at shortstop on Monday night in place of Elvis Andrus, who needed a breather, according to manager Ron Washington.
"[Andrus] played the last two games and it was very hot," Washington said. "He's played every game for almost two weeks. He needed a day. He's been grinding it out through Minnesota. He grinded it out through Chicago. He gives signs when he's getting tired, so I'm going to give him a day [off].
"He's a big part of our lineup. I just wanted to give him a day off so he can gather himself mentally and be ready to go [Tuesday]."
Washington said that Andrus is available to play Monday night if needed. Andrus made errors in back-to-back games over the weekend for the first time this season and just the second time in his career. He currently has a 12-game hitting streak and is hitting .450 with runners in scoring position, second best in the American League.
Joaquin Arias started at first base, just his third Major League start at first. Washington made it clear he is not unhappy with starting first baseman Justin Smoak.
With Seattle starting southpaw Cliff Lee in the opener, Washington said, "My only chance to get [Arias] some at-bats at first base is against a tough left-hander.
"If we've got a lead in the seventh, [Smoak's] out there."
Cruz's injury status unchanged
ARLINGTON -- There was really no update on outfielder Nelson Cruz on Monday.
"So far, no setback," manager Ron Washington said.
Cruz is on the disabled list for the second time this season and is eligible to be activated this coming Sunday.
Derek Holland is also on the DL and is eligible to be activated two days after Cruz. Washington said there is no timetable for his return yet.
"Still got to throw long one more time, then get on the mound, then we'll make a decision," Washington said.
Texas pitchers threw a total of 210 pitches in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, one of the eighth-highest pitch totals in a nine-inning Major League game this season. That was the most thrown by Ranger pitchers in a game since 224 in a 17-4 loss to the Tigers on April 17, 2008. ... Sunday's game time was four hours and six minutes, the longest nine-inning game this season for Texas and one of just eight nine-inning games in Rangers' history that lasted more than four hours. The longest was on Aug. 31, 2000 -- a 14-7 win over Cleveland. ... The bottom third of the batting order has hit .402 (35-87) over the past eight games, with five home runs and 20 RBIs. The bottom third hit just .219 with six home runs and 35 RBIs over the first 48 games of the season.
Dic Humphrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.