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08/09/09 2:57 PM ET
Another audition for prospect Borbon
Rangers slot rookie at leadoff for Sunday finale vs. Angels
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Julio Borbon, in perhaps an audition for next season, batted in the leadoff spot for the Rangers on Sunday in only his second start and fourth Major League game. Manager Ron Washington normally likes to keep his rookies down in the order and away from high-pressure spots in the lineup. He even had an alternative on Sunday because he started Esteban German at second base. German led off on Thursday against Oakland. But German was in the seventh spot with Borbon batting leadoff on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. "This is where this kid has been hitting and September is around the corner," Washington said. "If he's up here, he's going to be out on the field and that's where he's going to bat. So I said the heck with it, I'm going to use Borbon at the top." Borbon, who was called up for the second time this season on Friday, batted leadoff at Triple-A Oklahoma City and hit .307 with a .367 on-base percentage, 71 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. Those are good leadoff numbers. "That's what he does," Washington said. "Once again he's certainly in our plans for the future. If he's here next year, that's where he'll be." Ian Kinsler has been the Rangers leadoff hitter all season, but he is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring muscle. He is expected to be ready on Thursday although he may need a medical rehabilitation assignment first. Washington said that Kinsler will still be the leadoff hitter when he returns. But Borbon could be an attractive alternative either later in the season or more likely next year if he makes the team. That's hardly a given. The Rangers already have three outfielders -- Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy -- who currently have less than three years of service time. Marlon Byrd is a free agent after this season and there is likely to be strong sentiment within the organization to re-sign him, although money needed for pitching could be a factor. But Borbon, better than anybody, fits what the Rangers are looking for in a leadoff hitter. "He can run and make things happen," Washington said. "That's what he does. He's just not a guy who swings the bat. He can get on-base, drop a bunt, put the ball in play, steal bags and run the bases." Kinsler has been the Rangers leadoff hitter for two years. Last season he had a .377 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter, the third highest in the American League. This year he has slipped to .313, which ranks 16th out of 19 qualifying players. He has still scored 71 runs, tying him for 10th in the league, and still leads the Rangers in RBIs. But Washington has never considered him the prototypical leadoff hitter. "He's still dangerous," Washington said. "If we get a guy who we feel is a leadoff guy, then Kinsler can become a run producer in the middle of the lineup. He can drive in runs."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.