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.