ST. LOUIS — Nelson Cruz isn’t going to be removed from the No. 3 spot in the Texas Rangers’ batting order through at least the end of this road trip, and has a chance to stay there even after Lance Berkman is healthy.Manager Ron Washington wouldn’t commit to Cruz over the long term, and he likes Berkman’s ability to draw a walk and hit from both sides of the plate. But he also likes the protection Cruz is getting from third baseman Adrian Beltre, and he likes the production Cruz has provided.Cruz, the right fielder, started his fourth game in the No. 3 hole Saturday night after hitting .357 (5 for 14) in his first three games there. He went 2 for 4 with the decisive two-run homer in the Rangers’ 4-2 victory.He has driven in seven runs hitting third, including three Friday in the Rangers’ 6-4 victory.“The more often you do something, the more chances you have to get comfortable,” said Cruz, who is hitting ..333 (17 for 51) in his last 14 games. “I’ve been going good for about a month. I feel like I can get hits in every at-bat.”Berkman is being rested this weekend, though he’s available to pinch hit, after receiving a cortisone injection Thursday in his achy right knee. He is hitting only .184 (16 for 87) over his last 23 games.But Washington is anticipating a turnaround, which could bump Cruz down in the order.“We’ll see when we get everybody back,” Washington said. “He’s there now. As far as long-term, it may end up there long-term. But I’m going to decide that when I’m ready to decide it.”What a stealIan Kinsler’s next stolen base will move him past Bump Wills as the Rangers’ all-time leader in stolen bases, a mark that the second baseman says won’t be his for long.“Elvis is going to fly by me while I’m playing with him,” Kinsler said.Indeed, shortstop Elvis Andrus trails the Kinsler/Wills mark of 161 by only 22 swipes, and Kinsler isn’t exactly taking bases with regularity this season. The record-tying steal Thursday was only his fourth of the season.The reduction in Kinsler’s running is a by-product of a different tack being taken by opposing teams and also by the Rangers having a different team. The lineup doesn’t have the same pop, so runs have more value.“We don’t have a No. 8 hitter with 30 homers,” Kinsler said. “We have to be more cautious and make sure we’re not giving [away] any outs.”Baker stalledUtility man Jeff Baker said that he remains unable to do baseball activities because of the right thumb that was strained June 13 by a high-five from an “over-excited” teammate.“It’s awesome, huh?” Baker said. “I love this.”But Baker, who went on the disabled list Monday, said that he has noticed improvement.Briefly• No Rangers player leads his position in All-Star balloting. Lance Berkman is a distant second at designated hitter, and A.J. Pierzynski, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler are third at catcher, third base, shortstop and second base. Nelson Cruz is sixth among outfielders. Fans can vote online at www.mlb.com.• Right-hander Alexi Ogando, on the disabled list for the second time this season, said that he will throw a bullpen session Sunday after the discomfort in his shoulder dissipated. He long-tossed Saturday.• Former All-Star closer Joakim Soria, out all season after Tommy John surgery last year and a strained pectoral muscle in April, is scheduled to make his second rehab appearance Sunday with Double A Frisco.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST