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03/20/10 5:00 PM ET

Recovering Boggs makes first start

Rangers outfielder continues comeback from surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Boggs started in left field for the Rangers on Saturday against the Dodgers. This was the first time he has been in the starting lineup in a Cactus League game this spring.

It's another step in his recovery from the chronic problems in his left shoulder that kept him from being a bigger factor for the Rangers last season and ultimately required surgery.

"It's been pretty tough," Boggs said. "When you have surgery to reattach your shoulder, it's hard to snap your fingers and get back to where you left off. It's a process."

Boggs played a significant role for the Rangers in 2008, a switch-hitter with both power and speed. He hit .226 but with 30 runs scored, 17 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 283 at-bats. That's about a half-season's worth of at-bats.

"We've always liked Brandon," Rangers manager Jon Daniels said. "He's always had quality at-bats, and he can play all three outfield spots."

But his shoulder has been a problem for years and finally caught up with him last season. He had decent numbers at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but was just 1-for-17 in a limited stay with the Rangers in May. On July 3, he finally went on the disabled list for a couple of weeks and hit .241 in his final 41 games when he returned.

By then, Julio Borbon had soared past him among the Rangers' outfielder prospects. Boggs was not a September callup. Instead, the club called up Craig Gentry and Boggs had surgery on Oct. 9 to repair his dislocated left shoulder.

"When you start catching routine fly balls and your shoulder is popping out, it's time to do something about it," Boggs said.

He was limited at the start of camp while still rehabilitating the shoulder, but he is now finally starting to catch up, which is why Saturday was a big step for him.

"His shoulder put him back a little bit," manager Ron Washington said. "Early in camp, he couldn't do everything everybody else can. At least I can start getting him some repetitions now."

The Rangers won't have a spot for him on the Opening Day roster. David Murphy is the fourth outfielder behind Josh Hamilton in left, Borbon in center and Nelson Cruz in right. That leaves three other spots on the bench.

One will be a catcher and one will be a utility infielder. The other is undecided, but conventional thinking is a right-handed-hitting corner infielder is needed most, not another outfielder.

Boggs will be in an Oklahoma City outfield that will also include Gentry, Mitch Moreland and Chad Tracy. None will be forgotten. Someone will be one injury away from getting a phone call.

"It's crucial to have depth everywhere," Washington said. "We've got a ton of depth in our pitching staff, but we have to make sure we maintain our depth in the infield and the outfield."

Murphy, as the fourth outfielder, will fill in at all three spots and he started in center for Borbon on Saturday. If Borbon were to go down for an extended period, Hamilton would move over from left field, Murphy would take Hamilton's spot, and the Rangers would need a fourth outfielder.

Boggs would be a strong candidate for all the reasons he showed in 2008: his combination of speed, power, versatility and ability to switch-hit. But Gentry would also receive strong consideration as well.

Boggs just needs to be healthy and productive again.

"Injuries, they can either suck you down or make you a better player," Boggs said. "I never planned for it to suck me down."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.