OAKLAND -- Rangers manager Ron Washington confirmed what the daily lineup has already made clear. Both David Murphy and Jason Botts have surged past Nelson Cruz in the Rangers' plans. Murphy has been a huge hit with Washington since being acquired from the Red Sox, but the manager is also starting to get quite impressed with what he has seen lately from Botts. "I've seen more production and I've seen more aggressiveness," Washington said. "He looks like a threat up there. He's putting some fear in some people. If they put it in the wrong place, he'll knock the heck out of it."
Botts is reinforcing the notion that he is a slow starter who starts figuring things out after a month. He hit .207 in August, but was 8-for-22 (.364) in September going into Friday's game against the Athletics. Botts has shown some selectivity since coming up here, which Washington likes. He has 14 walks in 33 games. But Washington wants Botts to be a serious run-producing threat in the middle of the order, not a leadoff guy. "When he sees the ball in the strike zone, he's letting the bat go," Washington said. "Before, he would take the pitch." Cruz is not showing the same aggressiveness. Since Aug. 1, he is hitting just .237 with a .291 on-base percentage and a .331 slugging percentage. He was out of the lineup on Friday, even with a left-hander pitching for Oakland. Botts was in left field, with Murphy in center and Marlon Byrd in right. "Cruz is still tentative," Washington said. "Murphy has battled his way into the lineup, and when you compare Botts and Cruz, Botts has figured it out." Blalock zapped by virus: Third baseman Hank Blalock was hit by a stomach virus that kept him from testing his throwing arm. The Rangers are hoping that it's just a 24-hour bug and Blalock can try again on Saturday. Blalock has not played third base since coming off the disabled list, because he hasn't completely felt comfortable with his throwing. He's also had some soreness in his elbow and was hoping to put his arm through the test on Friday. That's now on hold until the stomach virus passes. A's go after Kinsler: Ian Kinsler went into Friday's game hitting .315 since the All-Star break, and one reason is that he's become better at going the opposite way instead of pulling everything. Opposing teams are reacting by pitching him inside more, and the Athletics went to the extreme in Thursday's game. Twice Kinsler had fastballs thrown at his head. He dodged the first one, but got hit in the wrist by the second one, thrown by reliever Santiago Casilla. Kinsler wasn't happy. "I was pretty upset," Kinsler admitted. "I know they didn't do it intentionally, but two balls at my face is not fun. Balls at your waist aren't that bad, but balls at the face are kind of scary." Volquez, Davis honored: The Rangers have named Chris Davis as their Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year, and Edinson Volquez as their Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Davis split time between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, and hit .297 with 36 home runs and 118 RBIs. He was second in all of the Minor Leagues in home runs and RBIs. Volquez was a combined 14-6 with a 3.67 ERA at Bakersfield, Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma. Relief work adds up: Rangers relievers went into Friday's game leading the American League with 532 2/3 relief innings, the most in the American League. The Rangers have an outside shot of breaking the club record of 601 1/3 relief innings from the 2003 bullpen. That's not a record that Washington wants. He would prefer a bullpen that throws around 470 innings in a season. But the Rangers haven't had a bullpen with less than 500 innings since 2000. The 601 1/3 innings from the 2003 bullpen was the highest by an American League team in the past 40 years. "The amount of innings our bullpen has is too much," Washington said. "If we could have pulled back 50-60 of those innings, it might have been different." He said it: "Nellie has the ability, but he's got to have the mental toughness to make adjustments. That's what the great ones do." -- hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on Cruz Instructional League roster: The Rangers will have 35 of their top young prospects participating in their Instructional League that starts next week in Surprise, Ariz. Among those participating are Blake Beavan, Neil Ramirez and Kyle Ocampo, three high school pitchers taken in the First-Year Player Draft who have yet to pitch in the Minor Leagues. Pitchers: Beavan, Ramirez, Ocampo, Wilfredo Boscan, Jacob Brigham, Fabio Castillo, Chris Dennis, Neftali Perez, Wilmer Font, Brennan Garr, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Beau Jones, Kasey Kiker, Andrew Laughter, Josh Lueke, Michael Main, Juan Peralta, Martin Perez, Carlos Pimentel, Jorge Quintero, Evan Reed and Robert Wilkins. Catchers: Leonel De Los Santos, Jonathan Greene, Manuel Pina, Max Ramirez and Cristian Santana. Infielders: Elvis Andrus, Mauro Gomez, Andres James, Edward Martinez, Marcus Lemon, Mitch Moreland, Emmanual Solis, Wilson Suero, Tomas Telis, Jose Vallejo, Johnny Whittleman and Johan Yan. Outfielders: Miguel Alfonzo, Engel Beltre, Julio Borbon, David Paisano and Tim Smith. Briefly: Travis Metcalf made his first start at third base Friday since coming off the disabled list with a strained hamstring muscle. Washington said Metcalf was "moving pretty good." ... The Rangers' game against the Mariners on Saturday, Sept. 29, is going to be moved to 9:05 CT if it's not picked up for a national telecast by FOX. If FOX does pick it up, it will be an afternoon game. Up next: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy pitches against right-hander Joe Blanton when the Rangers play the A's at 3:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at McAfee Coliseum. The game will not be broadcast back to Dallas-Fort Worth.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.