ARLINGTON -- Nelson Cruz went 3-for-9 with a home run in his last two games of the regular season and pronounced himself ready to go for Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Cruz missed almost three weeks with a strained left hamstring and has been trying to get his swing back together for the playoffs.He said before Thursday's workout at the Ballpark in Arlington that he has achieved that goal. "I feel good," Cruz said. "My swing is there, my timing is there and my legs are fine. I couldn't be in a better situation." With Cruz back to full strength, the Rangers are expected to use him in right, Josh Hamilton in center and David Murphy in left. Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry will likely come off the bench, although manager Ron Washington has not officially announced his starting lineup for Game 1. There has been no doubt about Beltre's swing. He hit .374 with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs since coming off the disabled list at the beginning of September. He missed almost six weeks with a strained left hamstring but was named the AL Player of the Month on Thursday. The question is how much the hamstring impacts him on defense and his ability to react quickly on hard-hit balls. "I'm good enough," Beltre said. "It has been feeling better, but I haven't had the need to force it. The playoffs are different. Hopefully our team doesn't need for me to run crazy. I want to make sure I stay on the field during the playoffs."
Rangers tab three catchers, put Ogando in 'pen
ARLINGTON -- Matt Treanor will be on the playoff roster as the Rangers have decided to go with a seven-man bullpen for their American League Division Series against the Rays.Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman will be part of that bullpen. The Rangers wanted Treanor as their third catcher because it will give manager Ron Washington flexibility in how they use Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli. This allows him to use both in the same lineup, which could be the case in Game 1 on Friday with Rays left-hander Matt Moore on the mound. "It gives us versatility with both Torrealba and Napoli, with Napoli being versatile against left-handers," Washington said. "Both of them have been very productive for us this year, and I want both of them to stay engaged. And that's what it gives me. It gives me versatility, especially with Napoli being able to go in the DH spot and play some first base. May want to DH Torre [Torrealba] and catch Napoli, and I still have a catcher if something happens." Washington also confirmed that Napoli will be his No. 1 catcher. After hitting two home runs on Wednesday, Napoli batted .383 with 18 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .706 slugging percentage after the All-Star break. "I will keep the hot bat in the lineup," Washington said. "That's how I am going to handle that. Torre will get some time, but right now it is about putting the best team on the field. If Napoli gives me that, Napoli will be out there. Torre played as great a part of being here as anyone on that team, so there isn't anyone getting shunned right here. We are about winning ballgames with the best nine we can put out there." Washington still hasn't announced his starters for Game 3 or 4. Right-hander Colby Lewis will likely pitch Game 3 with Matt Harrison right behind him, but the Rangers haven't made a final decision. They have decided to move Ogando into the bullpen. "We only can use four guys, and he's been a stalwart in our bullpen before," Washington said. "We still consider him a starter, of course. So him making that transition is good for us and it gives us another power arm down there." Ogando was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 29 starts and two relief appearances. But he was 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA after the All-Star break. He was used strictly as a reliever last season and went 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA in 44 appearances.
Utility infielder German added to ALDS roster
ARLINGTON -- Infielder Esteban German has been told that he will be on the Rangers' playoff roster.
German replaces Andres Blanco as their utility infielder. Blanco has been dealing with stress fracture in his lower back and the Rangers don't think he is ready for the postseason."It's great to be a part of this," German said. "I will do what I can do to help this team." German was on the American League Division Series roster last year but did not get to play. Blanco was the Rangers' utility infielder last year and also didn't get in a playoff game. German does give the Rangers some speed off the bench if needed. But Michael Young has been playing third, second and first all season and started at shortstop on Tuesday against the Angels. The Rangers likely will have limited need for German. "If they don't need me, that's fine," German said. "I still want to be supportive of our team."
Moreland carries over postseason hit streak
ARLINGTON -- Mitch Moreland will bring a seven-game postseason hitting streak into Friday's game against the Rays. Moreland hit .348 with one home run and seven RBIs in 15 games last season, including 6-for-13 in the World Series."I just told myself it's the same game," Moreland said. "There's more people and more exposure, but you just treat it as the same way. When you get on the field, you play it the same way for nine innings. That helped me stay calm in certain situations and stay focused." Moreland still figures to be the Rangers' first baseman against right-handed pitchers, but manager Ron Washington hesitated when asked about that Thursday. Moreland ended the season with one hit in his 17 at-bats. When asked if Moreland would play first against right-handers, Washington said, "Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what comes out of my pen that day."
Waiting for ALDS foe was hardest part for Texas
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had nothing to do after they clinched home-field advantage on Wednesday but sit and watch with the rest of the baseball world as the Wild Card shuffle played itself out in most dramatic fashion.The Rangers ended their season with a 3-1 victory over the Angels in Anaheim but still had to wait around to see if they would be facing the Rays or the Red Sox. "We had the bus time at 8:50 (PT), so we were trying to push that bus time back as far as we could, trying to give Chris Lyngos, our travel secretary, a hard time and try to watch the end of those games, but we couldn't get it in," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. The Red Sox game ended at 9:03 p.m. PT, with the Rays-Yankees game ending just moments after that. The Rangers were on the bus on the way to the airport when they heard that the Rays had completed their improbable comeback to earn the American League Wild Card berth with the Boston loss. "We were watching the game after our game, and to see the craziness of those two games," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We found out before we took off. Everybody was really amazed. It was a great run for them."
The Rangers led all of baseball in batting average for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last four years. Texas also had the fewest strikeouts in baseball. MLB announced that Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rays will be at 6:07 PM CST on Saturday on TNT, and Game 3 will be at 4:07 PM CST on TBS on Monday. Pitchers Michael Kirkman and Mark Hamburger were sent to the Arizona Instructional League to pitch in games and stay sharp in case the pair are needed in subsequent playoff rounds. Both were left off the playoff roster. The Rangers improved their record from 90-72 in 2010 to 96-66 this season. It marks the fourth straight season the club has improved its record, which marks the longest stretch in Texas history.
Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman dressed up as scary clowns during the Rangers' workout as a prank to scare Michael Young. When Young caught sight of the posse, he bolted into the opposing dugout and down the tunnel toward the clubhouse.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.