CLEVELAND -- This is not the way Jason Botts wanted to return to the Major Leagues. Going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts was not ideal for a guy who had been eagerly awaiting this moment for months. But, in his sixth plate appearance of the night, Botts was able to contribute a sacrifice fly to a three-run rally in the 10th inning, and that helped turn his first game back with the Rangers into a successful one with a 9-6 victory over the Indians at Jacobs Field on Wednesday.
"I was definitely excited," Botts said after the Rangers won for the sixth time in nine games. "I was definitely pumped up for quite a few at-bats, maybe over-anxious, but I finally calmed down and had a good at-bat in the end." The Rangers called up Botts on Wednesday to be their designated hitter in place of Sammy Sosa, who is being relegated to a reserve role. "I'm just happy to get up here and show I can hit Major League pitching," Botts said. "I'm looking forward to taking advantage of it. I felt fine. There were some times when I didn't slow things down as much as I should have, but I'll learn from that." Jarrod Saltalamacchia, starting at first base, also was able to say he contributed to the cause in his first game with the Rangers, delivering a two-run single in the first inning. "That felt good," Saltalamacchia said. "That got me in the swing of things. I haven't had a lot of at-bats lately, and that helped me get my confidence up tonight." Texas manager Ron Washington knew Saltalamacchia could swing the bat, but he was more impressed with his defense at first base. "He made some great plays," Washington said. "They were normal plays for a first baseman, but this was his first game, and I thought he handled himself extremely well." The big thing is the Rangers' new-look lineup produced nine runs on 14 hits and rallied from being down 6-4 after six innings to win it. Frank Catalanotto tied it with a two-run double in the seventh. "It's a good sign," Catalanotto said. "Anytime you get nine runs and 14 hits, it's a good sign. But you throw in the fact that we had a new lineup and some young guys in there, that's a really good sign. Hopefully we can keep it going. Some of the young guys had some good at-bats today." It was an unusual evening from the beginning, as the Rangers had to keep Botts stashed at the hotel until they had informed Sosa of their new plans. That meeting didn't occur until a couple of hours before the game, and then the Rangers had to give Sosa time to digest the bad news before they could give Botts clearance to come to the ballpark. In the meantime, Travis Metcalf was out taking batting practice even though he was the one getting sent to the Minor Leagues. Botts finally was allowed to come to the ballpark just a little more than an hour before the game started. "I definitely felt rushed coming in late, but overall I was fine," Botts said. He lined out to center and to first base in his first two at-bats, then he struck out three straight times. One of those came in the sixth, when the Indians walked Michael Young with one out to face Botts, who stranded seven runners in his first five at-bats. But the same situation came up in the 10th, when the Rangers took advantage of rookie pitcher Jensen Lewis' fielding problems to score three runs. Ramon Vazquez led off the 10th for the Rangers with a single to center. Frank Catalanotto then dropped a bunt, and Lewis bounced his throw to second, allowing Vazquez to slide in safely. Ian Kinsler dropped a bunt, and this time Lewis threw wildly to first, allowing Vazquez to score the go-ahead run. The other runners moved to second and third, and again the Indians walked Young to load the bases. Botts fell behind in the count 0-2, but then he worked it full before hitting a fly ball to deep center that brought home the second run of the inning. "I had some opportunities to drive in some runs without getting a hit," Botts said. "The first at-bat wasn't so good, but the second time I got the job done." This wasn't Botts' Major League debut. He was up with the Rangers for 10 games in 2005 and 20 games in 2006 but only in a limited role. This time he's up here for good. Washington said Botts won't be in the cleanup spot every night. The manager said he'll tweak the lineup on occasion, but Botts will be hitting cleanup on Thursday. "He finally made it back to the big leagues," Washington said. "He knows he's going to play, and tonight, situations kept coming at him. He was trying to get things done so badly, and he finally did something in his last at-bat. He'll be fine."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.