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07/03/10 2:13 AM ET

Cruz trying to snap skid at plate

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was not in the starting lineup on Friday night due to his recent struggles at the plate.

Cruz hit .250 (3-12) in the Rangers' recent three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels, and he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the rubber game on Thursday.

"He's struggling. I'm seeing him try and press a little bit because he wants to do well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I just felt like giving him a day and give him a chance to get some extra work with Clint [Hurdle]. He'll come back tomorrow and start relaxing. We need him."

Washington attributed the slump to Cruz's approach at the plate and the lack of quality swings.

"It's what everybody is else is seeing, not taking good swings," Washington said. "It seems like his timing is off. When you're trying to do too much, your bat head slows down. And that's what we've been seeing lately."

Molina gets hit in first Rangers at-bat

ARLINGTON -- Newly acquired catcher Bengie Molina said that he is happy to be with the Rangers and hopes to help push them to their first division title since 1999. He got a hit in his first at-bat on Friday, finishing 1-for-4 during a 5-3 loss to the White Sox.

"I'm very excited, very excited. I can't wait to go out there and see the guys," Molina said prior to facing the White Sox. "If you see the lineup, most of these guys are All-Stars. It's an amazing feeling. Going through the lineup, I couldn't believe it. I want to be a part of that and, hopefully, everything will work out."

Molina, who was traded to the Rangers from the Giants for reliever Chris Ray and Minor Leaguer Michael Main, said that he's eager to work with the Rangers' young pitching staff, much in the same way he did with the Giants' All-Star rotation.

"I'm not here to make a miracle happen or anything like that," Molina said. "I'm just here to put my little input on whatever I know about the game, and whatever I can do to help the team, so be it. I'm not going to try and do too much other than what I know."

Molina, in the six-hole on Friday against the White Sox, said that he's excited to get started with his new team despite the sudden trade.

"You've got to turn the page because they didn't want you there. I'm not necessarily talking about the players, but the ownership and GM obviously traded me," Molina said. "You've got to turn the page, and you've got to see the positives. The positive is we're in first place, and we're trying to win the whole thing. I'm just coming here to help. That's the way you've got to see it."

Added Rangers manager Ron Washington: "I think when you come to a team that's making strides and looks like they have the opportunity to do something, you're going to conform. I just told Bengie to just be Bengie. I don't want him to come up in here and think he has to put on some kind of show for us. The good thing about our clubhouse is those guys are who they are, and I want him to be who he is."

Molina said he first got the news when he was flying with his former team.

"It was kind of weird. We were flying, and I was sleeping on the plane," Molina said. "Everybody started coming over to me, saying goodbye and saying how great of a teammate I was. I was like, 'Wow, I got released.'"

Despite the change in scenery, the Rangers' division is a familiar spot for Molina. Prior to his four-year run with the Giants, the catcher spent eight seasons in the AL West with the Angels.

"It helps, but at the same time, it's been so long," Molina said. "When I played in the West, it was a long time ago, and hitters might be different now."

But Molina says he's not worried about the Angels or the Giants and is looking forward to working with the Rangers' rotation.

"I'm the type of guy that's never been selfish," Molina said. "I never consider my numbers. I'm up to the pitchers and try to help them out."

Washington wants Smoak to adjust

ARLINGTON -- Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak went hitless in the Rangers' three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, despite making good contact and hitting the ball hard.

But that's not going to be good enough for Rangers manager Ron Washington.

"I don't see it the way you see it. You just can't keep sitting around here talking about hitting the ball hard and not getting any luck. Justin is holding his own, and we'll just leave it at that," Washington said.

Smoak was hitless in four at-bats on Friday while batting in the eighth spot, something Washington says is because of the presence of David Murphy and Bengie Molina in the lineup. But that's not going to change how teams pitch to him, according to Washington.

"Will he get any different pitches? Scouts are going to do the same thing," Washington said. "Teams are going to do the same thing, and he has to make the adjustments. I can hit him ninth and he's going to have to make adjustments. I could hit him leadoff and he'll have to do the same thing. He has to make adjustments."

Despite that, Washington still understands the struggles rookies often encounter and doesn't credit Smoak's slump entirely to him.

"They don't come as quick as a veteran guy would make them. But he's conscious of it," Washington said. "Also, in his defense, they've been making some good pitches. Breaking balls down and in. They've been making some good pitches."

Rangers trio named to PCL All-Star Team

ARLINGTON -- Two members of the Rangers' Triple-A team were named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game, and a third was named prior to being called up to the Majors.

Oklahoma City's Chris Davis and Michael Kirkman were selected, and reliever Pedro Strop was named to the team prior to being called up to the Rangers to replace the traded Chris Ray.

Davis, who was named the starting third baseman, is second in the league in hitting at .339, while adding eight home runs and 47 RBIs. He started the season with the Rangers before being replaced by Justin Smoak.

Kirkman leads the Redhawks in wins this season, compiling a 7-2 record through 15 starts. He carries a 3.09 ERA and has 80 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.

Strop was called up on Thursday to replace Ray, who was traded to San Francisco in the deal that sent catcher Bengie Molina to the Rangers. The recall marks Strop's third stint in the Majors this season.

Strop leads the Redhawks with seven saves and at one point earlier this season retired 24 consecutive batters. Strop has pitched one inning so far with the Rangers, walking one and striking out one.

Rangers affiliate offers LeBron contract

ARLINGTON -- Basketball superstar LeBron James has the pick of the litter in choosing his next team.

But James, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who became a free agent on July 1 and has since been courted by teams such as the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, may have the option of choosing a different sport entirely.

The Rangers Minor League Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate has made an offer to James to become the newest Redhawk.

Oklahoma City doesn't have a multimillion-dollar contract to offer James, but it has offered lawn care service, a "LeBratwurst," named in his honor, and four tickets to the "All You Can Eat" section at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.

"We have contacted LeBron James' agent and left several messages," said team representative Jason Black. "I have still not heard back from him. However, I believe that our offer is valuable, and we look forward to sitting down with Mr. James and going over it."

The Redhawks lead the Pacific Coast League by 2 1/2 games over the Albuquerque Isotopes entering Friday. That may be a big draw to James, who has yet to win a championship in the NBA.

Worth noting

Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore was absent on Friday due to the death of his father-in-law. As a result, hitting coach Clint Hurdle served as the bench coach. ... Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to pitch Omar Beltre in his scheduled start on Monday against the Indians. ... The Rangers' series loss to the Angels snapped a club-record-tying eight consecutive series wins. ... The Rangers entered Friday even with the 1996 club for the best mark in club history through 78 games, 47-31. ... Vladimir Gurerro went 0-for-3 with a walk on Thursday against the Angels but still reached base safely for the 25th consecutive game, the longest streak by a Ranger since Ian Kinsler's 54-game streak in 2008.

Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.