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04/21/08 12:55 PM ET
Botts gets shot to play consistently
More at-bats in future as Rangers discuss lineup possibilities
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington have spent much time talking about their team lately and at least one decision has been reached. A concerted effort is going to be made to get Jason Botts as many at-bats at possible. He could get them at designated hitter, first base or the outfield, but the Rangers want him to play more than he did in the first two weeks of the season. "I don't think it's a mandate," Daniels said before Monday's game with the Red Sox. "We talked about it as a staff. Part of what this year about is answering questions about our younger players. Jason has been swinging the bat well lately." Botts was in the lineup on Monday as the Rangers designated hitter with right-hander Clay Buchholz on the mound for the Red Sox. Botts was in there instead of Frank Catalanotto, who is hitting .385 (10-for-26) in his last seven games. "The way I decided that was Cat is one of our older guys, it's an 11 o'clock game and I wanted to get some young guys out there," Washington said. Catalanotto was supposed to be the Rangers' designated hitter against right-handed pitching coming into the season, but has made just four starts at the position in the first 20 games. He has started nine times in left field but Milton Bradley was out there on Monday morning. "As I get older, I don't get my feelings hurt when I'm not in the lineup," Catalanotto said. "I know when I get in there I've got to produce to stay in the lineup. But I'm not thinking that when I go into a game. The bottom line is trying to help the team win. If somebody is more suited to helping us win that day, I expect that guy to play." Bradley, who has been one of the Rangers' hottest hitters lately, has started 11 games at DH because his right knee is not at full strength yet. The Rangers still think that he could start playing regularly in the outfield in the next month or so. David Murphy is also playing out there regularly, which would leave Botts and Catalanotto competing for playing time at DH. Botts will also get at-bats at first base for Ben Broussard. Things could get even more complicated if the Rangers were to pursue Frank Thomas, who was released by the Blue Jays on Sunday. He's available, the Rangers had interest in him before last season and there is still some interest among some in the organization. Washington knew him in Oakland and would take him "in a heartbeat." But that's not likely to happen. The Rangers aren't ready to make any drastic moves, despite taking a 7-12 record into Monday's game. "We're not going to panic," Daniels said. "It's 19 games. Obviously, I'd like to see us hold a couple of leads or push a few more runs across and be a couple of games better. But we need to keep it in perspective that it's only 19 games. We need to give these guys a chance." The Rangers made the decision to get Botts more playing time before they embarked on the road trip and he has now started four of the first six games. Washington said Botts could get a start in the outfield during the three-game series in Detroit. "We just need to get him in the lineup, get his bat going and see what he has to offer," Washington said. "It was pretty tough with the few at-bats he got early on. We decided on this road trip that we would get him in when we could and where we could. He's swinging the bat better, that's for sure." Botts, going into Monday's game, was 4-for-15 with three double and a home run on the roadtrip and said the increased playing time has made a difference. "I definitely think in the last week or so I've been getting a good flow and a comfort zone," Botts said. "I'm seeing the ball better and getting good swings. That has a lot to do with getting in there a little more. Early in the season, it was here and there and the ball seemed a little faster." Botts has had chances before to crack the lineup on a regular basis in parts of the last three seasons. He hasn't been able to do that yet, but admitted this might be the time. He has been able to work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and understands better what he is trying to do at the plate. He has been able to take his mind off his mechanics and swing at the plate -- a must according to Jaramillo's philosophy -- and focus more on the pitcher and what's being thrown. Jaramillo calls it "trusting yourself and your mechanics" and Botts has a better grasp of the concept. He focuses on the pitch, rather than worrying about his footwork. It's a big step toward taking advantage of this opportunity. "It's another chance," Botts said. "I've had a couple of chances before. Every time I'm in there it's a chance. I can't look at it as my last chance but I finally do feel like I'm in my comfort zone and whatever happens now is a better indication of how I can be as a big league hitter."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.