SEATTLE -- Jason Botts is on his way to Triple-A Oklahoma. He'll join a crowded field of sluggers down there trying to earn playing time and the Rangers' attention. Botts cleared waivers on Tuesday and was assigned outright to the RedHawks. It will be the fourth straight season he has had to spend time at Oklahoma. He is hardly alone. Nelson Cruz is tearing up the Pacific Coast League once again in right field, and this is the fifth straight season he has had to spend at least some time in Triple-A. Jason Ellison, the RedHawks' center fielder, has been in Triple-A for parts of six of the last seven seasons. First baseman Nate Gold is in his second season with the RedHawks.
The other veteran trying to reclaim his big league career is Kevin Mench. He spent the past three seasons at the big league level with the Rangers and Brewers, but had to start this season in Triple-A. The newcomer is John Mayberry. He was recently promoted from Double-A Frisco and is 16-for-32 (.500) since his arrival. Mayberry, the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick in 2005, is likely to get priority for playing time. The others will have to fight for attention. "It's crowded, but hopefully we'll be able to clear that up soon," general manager Jon Daniels said. There is no room at the big league level and none expected anytime soon. Outfielder Marlon Byrd, on the disabled list with a bruised knee, is expected to start a medical rehabilitation assignment on Saturday and could be activated at some point next week. Right now. the Rangers are going with a set outfield of Brandon Boggs, Josh Hamilton and David Murphy, with Milton Bradley as the primary DH and Frank Catalanotto and Chris Shelton platooning at first base. Ben Broussard is the odd-man out and could be out all together when Byrd returns. Cruz could be first in line to be promoted if there is a need, even though he is not on the 40-man roster. He is once again showing that he can terrorize Minor League pitching, hitting .359 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 29 games. He has a .504 on-base percentage and a .748 slugging percentage. "He's had some kind of month," Daniels said. "He's right there with Chase Utley as the most productive player in all of baseball. Of course there is a big difference between the big leagues and Triple-A, but I'm glad he's off to a good start." Cruz has had 636 at-bats at Triple-A over the past three seasons and is hitting .324 with 133 runs scored, 46 home runs and 155 RBIs. But at the Major League level he is hitting .231 in 442 at-bats with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. The Rangers aren't looking at Cruz's Triple-A numbers with skepticism, but they do want to make sure that it's more than just a hot start. "At some point he may get another opportunity if we need him," Daniels said. "Guys take different paths here, some take longer than others. He's an unbelievable athlete and a good person, the kind you root for. If [Oklahoma manager] Bobby Jones or our scouts who go down there call and recommend him, he could get serious consideration." Mench is hitting .267 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. It doesn't seem likely he'll make it to Arlington anytime soon, but he may not be with Oklahoma much longer. The Rangers have had some preliminary inquiries from other teams and he can also take his free agency if he's not called to the big leagues by June 1.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.