ANAHEIM -- One big hurdle for the Rangers as they approach the playoffs: Get Nelson Cruz hot at the plate. Cruz is 5-for-32 with just one RBI in nine games since returning to the lineup. He missed two weeks with a strained left hamstring."Right now I want to make sure my swing is right for the playoffs," Cruz said. "It feels right and I'm seeing the ball well. I just need more at-bats. The more at-bats I need, the better I will be." Cruz will be in the lineup when the playoffs start and he will be in right field. Josh Hamilton continues to play center. Cruz said the hamstring is 100 percent and will be for the playoffs. "I have to be," Cruz said. "I have no choice. The playoffs are totally different. It's a one-time chance. It's no time to be thinking about anything else." Cruz hit .317 with six home runs and 11 RBIs in the playoffs last year. He was 0-for-4 on Monday night against the Angels, but manager Ron Washington continues to see progress. "I think he's getting close," Washington said. "He took some great passes [Monday night]. He could be our secret weapon on Friday. The passes he took were level, they were aggressive and on time. He just missed it."
Young makes first start at shortstop since '08
ANAHEIM -- Michael Young was at shortstop for the Rangers on Tuesday, his first start at the position since he won the Gold Glove there in 2008.Manager Ron Washington wanted Young to play the position in case he is needed there in the playoffs. Elvis Andrus was at designated hitter on Tuesday for the first time in his career. "I just wanted to get Michael reacquainted with shortstop in case there is a need," Washington said. "The only way that's a need is if something happens to Elvis." What has happened is the Rangers seem concerned about backup shortstop Andres Blanco. He has stress fracture in his lower back and has not been the same player he was last season. He has been on the disabled list twice and has played in just 35 games with 76 at-bats this season. Instead of being able to switch-hit, he has been limited to batting right-handed. "He missed a whole lot of time," Washington said. "He has been hurt a lot." This could impact the Rangers' postseason roster. If they think Young can play shortstop in an emergency, they could decide to keep Esteban German on the roster instead of Blanco. He offers the advantage of more speed off the bench. Young was told by Washington on Monday night that he was playing shortstop. Young just said that was fine with him. "It doesn't matter to me," Young said. "I like playing baseball in the big leagues. I just go out and play; whatever position they say is fine with me. I'll take ground balls, let my eyes get adjusted and then let my instincts kick in." Blanco was on the Rangers' postseason roster last year but did not play in any of the 16 games.
Uehara stands out in seventh-inning role
ANAHEIM -- Koji Uehara has better numbers in September than he did in August and is starting to lock down the seventh inning for the Rangers.
Uehara, after being acquired from the Orioles on July 30, had a 6.52 ERA in August with opponents hitting .265 off him. They are hitting .048 and he has a 1.42 ERA in September. In 6 1/3 innings, he has allowed one hit, no walks and struck out 11."In August, I didn't have my rhythm," Uehara said. "I'm back in rhythm and feel good. I also had some physical fatigue in August but that is gone now. You can see the results." Manager Ron Washington said he was never too concerned about Uehara and still trusts him to pitch the seventh inning. "He has been throwing very well," Washington said. "We all have periods where things don't go our way. He's no different. He had a couple of bad games and he has found his groove again." Washington has the bullpen set up where Uehara pitches the seventh inning, Mike Adams has the eighth and Neftali Feliz closes in the ninth. Left-handers Darren Oliver and Michael Gonzalez are used whenever needed. The Rangers are still weighing the possibility of going either with seven or eight relievers in the bullpen for the playoffs. Seven relievers means the Rangers carry Matt Treanor as the third catcher.
Beltre high on homers while limiting K's
ANAHEIM -- Third baseman Adrian Beltre went into Tuesday's game with 31 home runs, 25 walks and 52 strikeouts on the season. This marks the 35th time that a Rangers player has hit at least 30 home runs in a season.It will also be the seventh time that a Rangers player has hit at least 30 home runs and still have fewer walks than home runs. Juan Gonzalez did that four times and Ivan Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano did it at least once. The 52 walks are also the lowest ever by a Rangers player in a season in which he has hit 30 home runs. It's only the 11th time that a Rangers player has hit at least 30 home runs without striking out at least 100 times.
The Rangers met on Tuesday to vote on playoff bonus shares. Players on the World Series champions who get a full share can expect a bonus of more than $300,000. The Angels, after being eliminated, have changed their rotation. Instead of Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver, the Angels are going with Tyler Chatwood and Garret Richards in the final two games. Starting times for Game 1 on Friday have been set. If the Rangers play at home on Friday, Game 1 will begin at 4:07 p.m. CT against either the Red Sox or Tampa Bay. If the Rangers play the Yankees in Game 1 in New York that will begin at 7:37 p.m. CT at Yankee Stadium.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.