Cruz returns in flurry of Rangers moves

Cruz returns in flurry of Rangers moves

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are ready to make a series of moves they believe will get them back to full strength offensively.

The Rangers are planning to activate outfielder Nelson Cruz (strained right hamstring) and infielder Joaquin Arias (strained back) off the disabled list during their three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

General manager Jon Daniels said Cruz will replace backup first baseman Ryan Garko, who has just three singles in 33 at-bats. Garko will be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and then be placed on outright waivers. The Rangers want to give Garko a chance to be claimed by another team and get a Major League job. If not, he will be assigned outright to Oklahoma City. Arias will replace outfielder Craig Gentry, who will be optioned back to Oklahoma City.

Garko has been the Rangers backup first baseman. But that was more important when the Rangers had Chris Davis, a left-handed hitter, at first. Justin Smoak is a switch-hitter. Arias has also been playing first base at Oklahoma City, and the Rangers feel Max Ramirez and Andres Blanco can play there as well.

"Garko's just not quite the perfect fit as when we first picked him up," Daniels said. "He needs to get some at-bats and consistent playing time. He's better than he's shown."

Cruz has been sidelined since April 27 and was 3-for-9 in two games at Oklahoma City on a medical rehabilitation assignment.

"I played nine innings two days ago and I played nine innings [Wednesday]," Cruz said. "I ran the bases, I got a couple of hits and a couple of fly balls. It was pretty normal."

Cruz was hitting .323 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 19 games before he went on the disabled list. He was also among the league leaders with a .758 slugging percentage and a .419 on-base percentage.

Friday night is expected to be the first time that Ian Kinsler and Cruz have been in the lineup together this season. Kinsler started the season on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle and didn't return until after Cruz was on the DL himself. Now Cruz will bat sixth behind Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Kinsler.

"I'm loving it," manager Ron Washington said.

The Rangers' offense could use the boost. They entered Thursday's game sixth in the American League in runs scored, seventh in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage -- though they were also sporting a .303 average for May, the highest in the Majors.

"Our team has done a good job keeping our heads above water and playing well despite not having our 'A' lineup," Young said. "That's part of the big leagues: guys getting banged up and still playing well. We've done a good job of that. But it will be nice to get Nellie back in there, have the lineup we envisioned and get some momentum going.

"We haven't even touched what we're capable of offensively. That's something we constantly talk about. We want to make sure improvement is our biggest focal point."