ARLINGTON -- Chris Davis could be almost as important to the Rangers as Cliff Lee in seeing if Friday's blockbuster trade pays off in a division title or more at the end of the season.The Rangers included Justin Smoak in the trade that brought Lee to Texas. That meant Davis was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Davis was the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman but was sent to the Minor Leagues on April 23 after hitting .188 with no home runs and one RBI in his first 15 games. Smoak was struggling at the plate as well, and Rangers first basemen went into Saturday's game hitting .197, the lowest combined average in the American League. Their .326 slugging percentage was the second lowest combined in the league. The Rangers still need more production from a premium offensive position, and now Davis has the job again. There is no doubt he was disappointed and frustrated while being stuck at Triple-A for two and a half months, but he still hit .354 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs in 67 games with a .403 on-base percentage and a .555 slugging percentage. "I think the biggest thing for me was going down there relaxed and finding something I was comfortable with mechanically and sticking with it," Davis said. "At some point, you have to say enough's enough. I'm going to do this, I'm going to hit this way, and give yourself a chance to get comfortable with it and familiar with it." One tangible upgrade in the switch is Davis is considered the far better defensive player. There was some sentiment for bringing him back to the big leagues on that basis alone if Smoak did not improve offensively. "He's quicker. His hands are better. To me, he's more instinctive," manager Ron Washington said. "That's not taking anything from Smoak. Smoak's young. As Smoak's career develops, he'll figure it out, too. That's the difference for me.
"[Davis] one of the best first basemen in the league."The Rangers also have to decide how much playing time Davis will get against left-handers or if they'll use Joaquin Arias against them. The Rangers began the season with right-handed-hitting Ryan Garko on the roster as a complement to Davis. But he was sent down as well, and the Rangers didn't see a need to fill that role because Smoak was a switch-hitter. "He's going to get a chance to do it. Sometimes, when there's a tough lefty out there, I'll go with Joaquin again," Washington said. "In the sixth inning when they go to a righty in a bullpen, I'll get Chris in there. At that point, if they got any lefty's late in the game, he'll have to face him. "I'll pick and choose some of the left-handers I may not want him to face." But Davis feels he's improved on his previous struggles against left-handers. But if he hasn't, a right-handed-hitting corner infielder is likely the last unfulfilled need on the Rangers' mid-season wish list. "It was a few weeks ago, we played Nashville and we faced four lefties in a row," Davis said. "It helped going out there, seeing how they were pitching me, attacking me. I actually found out what I did in the past that helped me have success, and kind of the way I approached them in the past when I was having success. "When I came up the first go around, I hit left-handers really well. I kind of found my rhythm and my stride against them. I think I'm a lot more confident in the box against them now."
Young honored during pregame ceremony
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers honored third baseman Michael Young prior to Saturday's game against the Orioles for becoming the franchise's all-time hits leader.Young, who accomplished the feat on June 16 against the Marlins, received gifts from both his teammates and the organization for passing the 1,748 hits mark. Ivan Rodriguez had held the record before Young passed him with a two-run single. "It was great," Young said. "I really appreciate the team's efforts in doing that, and, of course, the fan's reception was pretty special. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it kind of blew me away." Second baseman Ian Kinsler presented Young with an autographed Kobe Bryant jersey on behalf of the team. Bryant also wrote a personal congratulations for Young who's an avid Lakers fan. Naturally, some fans booed. "That's fine," Young said with a smile. "I looked at [emcee] Eric [Nadel] and I just think he did it on purpose so I could have some humble pie tonight. But it was pretty cool. I appreciate the fact that Dallas fans are loyal." In addition, artist Vernon Wells presented Young with a painting of the third baseman's accomplishment. A special limited edition lithograph of the original work will be produced and sold at the Rangers Foundation auction kiosk to benefit the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and the Carson Leslie Foundation. Finally, the third base being used in Saturday's game was signed by Young and auctioned through the foundation during the game, with proceeds also benefiting the Carson Leslie Foundation. The Rangers also made Saturday "Coca-Cola and Walgreens Michael Young Cap Night," where the first 20,000 fans that entered the Ballpark received a red and white cap honoring Young. "It was pretty cool," Young said. "It was definitely a night I'm not going to forget."
Cruz still trying to find his timing at the plate
ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was given another day off on Saturday against the Orioles, and Rangers manager Ron Washington still isn't happy with his performance at the plate. Cruz is hitting just .207 (6-for-29) with two RBIs on this homestand."I don't really know. I just know his timing is bad," Washington said. "Some at-bats you see him have good timing, and most at-bats you don't see him have good timing. He's still fighting that timing thing." But Washington doesn't thing Cruz's once-injured hamstring -- which placed him on the disabled list twice this season -- is a reason behind his offensive struggles. "He's running well, so I don't see where the hamstring is into play," Washington said. "He's running well. It's just a matter of timing." Washington knows that despite how he may look in the cage, Cruz has to translate it into the game, which he hasn't had much success with recently. "I can take you in the cage and simulate everything correct," Washington said. "It's just making adjustments from the side work to live. Because now you have to adjust to the speeds. You have to adjust to the location ... you have to adjust to movement." David Murphy took Cruz's place in the lineup and Washington hopes Cruz will continue to work his way back to consistent offensive production. "Some of us come back early and are able to catch back on and some of us have to fight our way back," Washington said. "He's in that mode where he's going to have to fight his way through it."
Fans at Friday's game to get free tickets
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers announced on Saturday that any fan holding tickets to the Friday, July 9 game against the Orioles will be offered tickets to a future game.A fireworks show was scheduled for after the game, but after first pitch was delayed nearly 2 1/2 hours due to rain and the game itself went into extra innings, the Ballpark at Arlington was legally not allowed to shoot fireworks at the conclusion. The city does not allow fireworks to shoot after 1 a.m. CT, which the game ended well after. "We did not receive word until after 1:00 a.m. this morning from the City of Arlington Fire Marshall that due to the late hour and weather conditions [low ceiling of clouds due to all the earlier rain], we could not have a fireworks show," said Rangers executive vice president of ballpark operations Rob Matwick. "We are working with the City of Arlington to define the parameters related to length of game and weather for our future fireworks shows to best serve the interest of our fans and neighborhood residents." That's when the Rangers decided to offer tickets to an upcoming game for any fan still in possession of Friday's tickets. The club is also planning a fireworks show after Saturday's game against the Orioles, after newly-acquired pitcher Cliff Lee makes his debut for the Rangers. Fans holding tickets for the July 9 game can exchange them for regularly priced tickets in seating locations up to Corner Box for select dates during the remainder of the 2010 season, subject to availability. Excluded dates include all Saturday games as well as games against the Yankees (Aug. 10-11; Sept. 10-12) and Red Sox (Aug. 13-15). The ticket exchanges must be made either in person at the Ballpark in Arlington ticket office or through the mail by sending their tickets to: Texas Rangers Ticket Office, P.O. Box 90111, Arlington, Texas 76004-3111. The Rangers have asked that all fans allow approximately 7-10 days for exchanges by mail. The exchanges at the Ballpark in Arlington Ticket Office may be made beginning Sunday.
With Cliff Lee being activated, the Rangers recalled reliever Matt Harrison and optioned Doug Mathis and Pedro Strop to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Mathis will start for the Redhawks on Sunday ... The Rangers held a 15-minute ceremony for Michael Young before Saturday's game against the Orioles, honoring him for becoming the club's all-time hits leader ... Josh Hamilton is just one game off the club record of longest hit streak at home, currently held by Al Oliver at 30 games.
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.