ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are undecided if suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz would be on their roster if they reach the postseason, but it will likely be an easy -- if not automatic -- decision in his favor when the regular season is over.
As the Rangers go down the stretch, it's easy to see that Cruz could fit on this team as its left fielder or designated hitter. The Rangers faced left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano on Tuesday night and Joey Butler was their designated hitter. Craig Gentry was in left field.
Texas' alternatives haven't been attractive lately. David Murphy is hitting .171 in his last 15 games and no longer starts against left-handers. Lance Berkman, a switch-hitter, is active off the disabled list, but still limited by inflammation in his left hip and doesn't even take batting practice from the right side.
"He can't hit on the right side," manager Ron Washington said. "It's not even an option."
Jurickson Profar is also a switch-hitter, but is hitting .194 against left-handers as opposed to .258 against right-handers.
"He's been successful as a switch-hitter, but it's tough to keep it going from both sides at the Major League level," Washington said.
Cruz was suspended for the remainder of the regular season Aug. 5 for violating the Major League Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Policy. But he is eligible for the playoffs and is working out at the Rangers' Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz., to stay ready. He is eligible to play in Instructional League games.
Ironically, his suspension might work in his favor when it comes to decisions about the postseason roster. While competing candidates for roster spots are getting limited playing time at the big league level, Cruz will be getting plenty of at-bats against live pitching in Arizona. He won't be facing Major League pitchers, but he will be able to work on his timing.
General manager Jon Daniels said among the factors that will determine if Cruz is activated for the playoffs is how he is accepted by his teammates. But Rangers players have made it clear they would welcome him back. Cruz was hitting .269 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs at the time of the suspension.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less