ARLINGTON -- Manager Ron Washington, now that the Rangers have clinched their second straight American League West title, has two goals for the final week of the regular season. He still wants to win as many games as he can, but he also wants to get his starters as much rest as possible. He believes the Rangers can do both in their final five games. "I want to win as many games as we can, but I'm not going to do it if we're going to go into the playoffs fatigued," Washington said Saturday afternoon. "We won our division and it wasn't easy. It was a grind. For us to go forward, we've got to be mentally sharp."
The Rangers had a depleted lineup on Saturday afternoon that included Leonys Martin making his first career start in center field. But Michael Young was also at third base. It was at his request. Young knew Washington wanted to give many regulars a day off on Saturday. But Young also knew that Washington couldn't give everybody a day off because the Rangers don't have that many backup infielders. So the veteran sent Washington a text message on Saturday morning telling him that he would play if needed. "That's Michael Young," Washington said. "He's priceless. He senses things and sees things. People talk about the MVP, anybody who says he's not an MVP candidate is wrong. I'd like for somebody to tell me another utility infielder who can do what he does." Young will likely get his day off on Sunday. There will be others, both for him and the other regular players. This is a team that still wants to have home-field advantage in the playoffs, but Washington said rest is more important. "I'm playing today," Young said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal. If we can find a way to get everybody a little bit of a blow, then that would be great. If not, I don't really think it's that big of a deal. We've got five games to play, and then we've got a day off." The Rangers went into Saturday's game tied with the Tigers for the second-best record in the AL. The team that finishes with the better record will join the Yankees in having home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers have that honor if they and the Rangers have the same record. "We prefer it, but it's not going to make or break anything," Young said. "I'm sure everyone would prefer home-field advantage. If we don't get it, we'll go out and play wherever they send us." "We're in the playoffs, that's all that matters," outfielder David Murphy said. "If you put all the teams on paper, you could say that one team is playing better than others. You could say the Red Sox had a tough September, and if they get in, they could be an easier matchup. "But once the playoffs start, it's like a whole new season. Nobody thought we would get as far as we did last year and we didn't have a great September. But from the first day of the playoffs, we played our best baseball. You can't predict what will happen." Washington also knows that the Angels could still be in the Wild Card race when they open a three-game series with the Rangers on Monday in Anaheim. "We're going to put the best lineup out there that gives us a chance to win," Washington said. "If that excludes Michael Young, the rest of the guys are good enough. If that excludes Ian Kinsler, the rest of the guys are good enough. We want to win every game, and that's still our intention. "Just because somebody is not in the lineup, that doesn't mean we're throwing in the towel. We won this year with everybody in that clubhouse in the lineup, and we won with everybody out of the lineup." Nelson Cruz had the day off on Saturday but will return to the outfield on Sunday. He hasn't played there since Aug. 28, when he suffered a strained left hamstring. His last six starts have been at designated hitter, but he was able to score from first on Friday night on Craig Gentry's inside-the-park home run. "I thought Cruz ran much better [Friday] night," Washington said. "He's ready to go to the outfield." The Rangers still have plenty of time to make other roster decisions before the playoffs. Washington has announced that C.J. Wilson will be the Game 1 starter for the playoffs, but said no other decisions have been announced. It is likely that the Rangers will go with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison in the rotation, with Alexi Ogando going into the bullpen, but that has not been officially decided. Washington said the Rangers will likely go with an eight-man bullpen for the playoffs, but two spots remain undecided. The bullpen will include Neftali Feliz as the closer, Darren Oliver and Michael Gonzalez as the left-handed setup relievers and Koji Uehara and Mike Adams from the right side. One of the starters will be the sixth reliever. The final two spots will come down to right-handers Scott Feldman, Darren O'Day and Yoshinori Tateyama, and left-hander Michael Kirkman. "We're still weighing things," Washington said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.