OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Jason Botts has a new attitude, a new approach to hitting and a .318 batting average with 74 RBIs for Triple-A Oklahoma. Everything has gone well for him, but in a place he seems to have out-grown. He is waiting for a call from Arlington, but so far, that telephone line has been silent. He remains in Oklahoma, basically waiting to see what the Rangers will do with Sammy Sosa. Botts has improved defensively, but his future is still as a designated hitter, the job Sosa has -- for now.
"Once it worked out the way it did, and I was supposed to come here for another year, I just looked at it as an opportunity to approach the game differently," the 27-year-old Botts said. "I took advantage of that and still feel I'm ready for the challenge to hit in the big leagues. ... Without a doubt, I can hit in the big leagues." "Jason will get an opportunity this year," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "But I don't want to call him up until we can get everyday at-bats for him." Botts came off the disabled list on Wednesday and went 1-for-4 with a single. Before his brief stint on the disabled list, Botts was on a tear at the plate over the past two months in Triple-A. After beginning the season hitting .220 in April, he hit .361 in May, .360 in June and, entering Thursday, .362 in July. He leads the Pacific Coast League with a .436 on-base percentage and 75 walks, and he's second with 34 doubles and 51 extra-base hits. Botts said the slow start was because of his new hitting approach. He went to Spring Training wanting to change his stance and swing with more of a leg kick approach. After studying the top hitters in the game such as Alex Rodriguez and former Ranger Juan Gonzalez, Botts felt he needed to make the adjustment to become more productive. "It's something to time with the pitcher, and now I've gotten to the point where I can adjust it to the tempo of the pitcher," the 6-foot-5, 250-pound switch-hitting outfielder said. "Some pitchers are a little quicker to the plate and some take a while, and now I feel I can adjust to them -- that's why the consistency is better." Botts made his Major League debut in 2005, batting .296 with three RBIs in 10 games with the Rangers. Last season, Botts hit .220 with four doubles, one home run and six RBIs in 20 games. With his new hitting approach, Botts plans to stay in the big leagues longer his next time around. RedHawks manager Bobby Jones thinks Botts is definitely a big-league hitter. He knows pitchers had to change their approach to Botts this season. "Last season, the scouting report on Jason was to pound him inside because he couldn't get to the inside fastball," Jones said. "He's made that adjustment. The way he's swinging right now, how hot he is the last couple months, he could go to the big leagues and do well." There's no doubt Botts will be used primarily as a designated hitter, however, he feels comfortable in the outfield too. "It's something where I finally feel that I have the mindset of what it takes to be a defensive player," he said. "I would have told you before this year and years past that I don't have that confident mindset that I have in the batter's box. Now, I've got to a point where I feel it [in the outfield]." Botts is not getting everyday playing time in an overcrowded outfield with Nelson Cruz, Kevin Mahar, Freddy Guzman and Victor Diaz all at Oklahoma. But, when he does get an opportunity, he's shown improved defensive mechanics. "What's happened on defense is just being more natural, being more athletic about stuff," Botts said. "I've worked so hard on mechanics for so many years that they're there, I've just got to put myself in position to utilize them." Jones said Botts would be OK in the outfield at the big league level. However, Botts' main role for the RedHawks is at DH, which will be his role in Arlington, too -- something he's fine with. "I just want to be in the big leagues and whatever way I can get that done and start my career, I'm just going to have to jump on it," Botts said.
Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.