Injury of Nelson Cruz forces Rangers to explore outfield options

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    While Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz heads toward another extended trip to the disabled list for another hamstring injury, the Rangers need to start looking for another bat.

    The slugger is expected to miss three weeks after a left hamstring strain, which only means negative things for the Rangers. Cruz is hitting .270 and leads the club in homers (28) and is second in RBIs (84).

    Without that production, the Rangers will struggle to take the AL West.

    With the trading deadline passed, options for the Rangers are few. Triple-A prospect Leonys Martin is the probable candidate and likely temporary option for Cruz’s replacement. 

    Martin hit .263 with no homers and 17 RBIs in 40 games for the Triple-A Round Rock Express and has hit a combined .295 with 19 stolen bases in Arizona, Frisco and Round Rock this season. The 23-year-old may bring a temporary fill to Cruz’s void, but he clearly lacks the power to bring in the home run and RBI numbers that Cruz brings.

    Beyond the farm system of the Texas Rangers, another option lies in St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and outfielder Lance Berkman has been cited as a possible candidate for the Rangers.

    Berkman makes a lot of sense in the Texas lineup. Critics may say that Berkman is older and nearing the end of his career, but the numbers seem to say otherwise. Berkman has hit 30 home runs so far this season with 81 RBI. His .289 batting average certainly helps his case as well.

    With Mitch Moreland doing an average job at the first base position, Ron Washington could continue to play around with the lineup, possibly putting Berkman into a designated hitter role or possibly putting him into the outfield, as well as first base.

    Berkman has largely stayed healthy in recent history whereas Cruz has found himself injured multiple times over the past few years. Just last season, Cruz had three separate stints on the disabled list with hamstring strains—two of them his left hamstring—missing 51 games of the 2010 season. He was on the DL for a few weeks in May of this season because of another leg issue in—his right quadricep.

    While Cruz is forced to sit out because of injury, the Rangers are still in the middle of an important playoff hunt. With Cruz going to the bench and Adrian Beltre still in rehab, Texas needs as many bats as they can.

    A bat like Berkman’s would help tremendously.

    J.D. Moore is a sophomore journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii. He is also the host of the Fort Worth Four Sports Show on 88.7 FM The Choice.