Texas has to adapt to make playoffs without Cruz

With their big boomstick out of the lineup, the Texas Rangers
are going to have to adapt to get in the playoffs again.

”This is a club that has never shied away from a challenge
before,” general manager Jon Daniels said. ”It’s got a track
record of success and we believe in this team, believe in the guys
on the club and our pitching staff, our athleticism and the
leadership there. We have every expectation that we are going to
continue to win and make it to the playoffs, in spite of the
situation.”

Without Nelson Cruz, the suspended All-Star right fielder and
2011 AL championship series MVP who leads the Rangers with 27 home
runs and 76 RBIs.

”The game doesn’t stop because one guy is not there,” manager
Ron Washington said.

Texas will be without Cruz the rest of the regular season after
he was suspended 50 games Monday by Major League Baseball following
its investigation into the Biogenesis clinic accused of
distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

While the absence of Cruz will be noticeable, Ian Kinsler and
the rest of the Rangers insist that shouldn’t affect their playoff
chances.

”None. We’re missing a guy. Someone is going to have to step up
and play right field,” Kinsler said. ”That’s the way this team
works. We’re not really worried about who’s not on the field. We’re
worried about who’s on the field, and winning.”

Instead of having another slugger to take over in right field,
and more pressing in the middle of the batting order, the Rangers
for now have five outfielders that will be in some sort of platoon
system.

David Murphy, primarily a left fielder, was in right field for
the first game without Cruz while Engel Beltre, recalled from
Triple-A, was in left. Leonys Martin started in center, and later
moved to right when Craig Gentry came into the game. Joey Butler,
called up without ever playing in a major league game, is a right
fielder to be used against left-handers.

”Certainly it makes it more challenging on us offensively,”
said Murphy, whose 12 homers and 34 RBIs top the group that has a
combined 19 homers and 70 RBIs.

Even with Cruz, who is eligible for free agency after the
season, the Rangers were averaging about 4.3 runs per game and on
pace for their fewest runs in a full 162-game season since
1992.

The Rangers went into their game late Tuesday night at the
Angels two games behind AL West-leading Oakland. Texas was six
games back before winning seven of eight games, including 5-2 in
the series opener Monday night at Los Angeles only hours after the
discipline against Cruz and 12 other MLB players was announced.

”Does it hurt us more than losing Matt Harrison for all year,
Colby Lewis for almost all season? We’ve lost guys, we’ve gained
guys,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. ”Obviously Nellie’s numbers
are what they are, and his presence is what it is.”

Harrison, the team’s opening day starter before two operations
on a herniated disk in his lower back, is pitching in rehab games
and could be back by the end of the month. The Rangers also had
anticipated having Lewis back, but said Tuesday that their most
successful postseason pitcher will have surgery to remove bone
spurs from his right hip. He had been coming back from elbow
surgery last year.

Texas was unable to add a right-handed hitter before last week’s
non-waiver trade deadline. But right-hander Matt Garza was acquired
to join Yu Darvish and Derek Holland in a rotation that is backed
by a solid bullpen led by Joe Nathan.

”When you look at our pitching staff and some of the people
that we have that are rehabbing, you feel like one of your
strengths is certainly your pitching,” Rangers CEO and Hall of
Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said. ”We have to feel good of where we
are and what we have as a club.”

If the Rangers make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive
year, Cruz would eligible to play in the postseason.

Daniels said the team is ”open-minded” to Cruz returning for
the playoffs, with one of the primary considerations how the
slugger would be accepted in the clubhouse.

”It was just a big mistake. He knows. He came out and told the
team,” Holland said. ”We won’t put a cloud of him or anything
like that. We’ve got all the love for him. … We’ll be waiting for
him, and we know he’s going to be a key member of this team when it
comes to the playoffs.”

Cruz apologized to his teammates in the clubhouse Monday.

The slugger didn’t speak publicly, but said in a statement that
a gastrointestinal infection he had from November 2011 through
January 2012 wasn’t properly diagnosed. He said he lost 40 pounds
before getting proper treatment and just weeks before spring
training ”made an error in judgment that I deeply regret.” He
provided no other specifics, including what he might have
taken.

”He’s one of my favorite teammates. Everyone knows it’s going
to hurt, but there’s no way to replace him,” Kinsler said. ”It’s
the next guy in line. We’ve been doing this many times in many
different circumstances. It’s not like we’re going to give up
because he’s missing.”

AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Anaheim, Calif., contributed to
this report.