Nelson Cruz back from Biogenesis suspension, batting sixth

Thearon W. Henderson

Outfielder Joey Butler has been designated for assignment to make room for the chastened slugger.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz, one of the Texas Rangers' most productive hitters prior to his accepting a 50-game suspension for his relationship with the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, has been activated and will bat sixth and DH in tonight's one-game playoff with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card.

Rookie Joey Butler, 27, has been designated for assignment in order to open up a spot on the 40-man roster. Butler, a 15th-round pick back in 2008 (you know the writer is indicating "an unthinkably long time ago when includes a "back in" as part of the descriptive package), Butler took a slow journey through the minors during which he established himself as a tweener, a corner outfielder who hits more like a center fielder. In three seasons at Triple-A he hit .300/.392/.468 with 44 home runs, or about 19 per 162 games. Via con dios.

The Rangers will see left-hander David Price on Monday evening and Cruz excels at hitting lefties. He was averaging .290/.372/.480 against them when he went away, and has hit .286/.357/.516 against them in his career. He also has a .557 career slugging percentage at Rangers Ballpark. Cruz has hit .429 (9-for-23) against Price with three home runs, so bank another statistical cookie in his favor. The foregoing assumes that he's not at all rusty from his enforced vacation, a possibility which might mitigate the averages as much as anything-can-happen-in-one-game luck.

The designated hitter position has been a mess for the Rangers this year. Lance Berkman got off to a good start but rapidly turned into an old timer who at times seem to be practically begging to be allowed to retire. Rangers DHs hit only .247/.315/.388 this year; that this kind of production was only a little below average rather than dead last speaks more to the degraded nature of the position than it says anything good about the Rangers. Given the solid right field played by Alex Rios after he came over from the White Sox in an August 9 trade, Cruz's return gives the Rangers a chance to enjoy an upgrade at both positions simultaneously -- at least for one night.

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