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Rangers' need for righty outfield bat grows

Rangers' need for righty outfield bat grows

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ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers have been looking for a right-handed outfield bat since the beginning of the season, and losing Craig Gentry to a fractured left hand could intensify the search.

The two names on the radar are Alex Rios of the White Sox and Josh Willingham of the Twins. Both could be of interest to the Rangers as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches and if the White Sox and Twins are unable to stay up with the Tigers in the American League Central.

Both appeal to the Rangers for several reasons. They are both right-handed hitters with power, and they are both under contract beyond this season. Rios, 32, is hitting .284 with 11 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .472 slugging percentage. He is also signed at $12.5 million for 2014 with a $13.5 million club option for '15.

Rios would have greater appeal than Willingham, but he likely would carry a higher price tag. Willingham is hitting .216 with 10 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .398 slugging percentage. He is signed for next season at $7 million. He hit .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBIs for the Twins last season.

The Rangers called up Engel Beltre on Sunday to replace Gentry as the backup outfielder; he gives them another left-handed bat in the outfield, along with David Murphy and Leonys Martin. That leaves the Rangers' outfield heavy from the left side.

"Yes, it is a little concerning, but we'll make it work," manager Ron Washington said.

The Rangers have other long-range concerns with their outfield. They still don't know what will happen with Nelson Cruz in regard to Major League Baseball's investigation of Biogenesis, the Miami anti-aging clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of Major League players. Cruz is among the names linked with the clinic and could face a possible suspension pending the completion of MLB's investigation.

Cruz and Murphy are also free agents after this season. Acquiring a player like Rios would help address the outfield concerns beyond this season.

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.

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