Rangers’ thinking on replacing Nelson Cruz starts to emerge

Nelson Cruz has been put on notice that punishment for his ties to the Biogenesis of America clinic and its performance-enhancing drugs will be doled out Monday.

Commissioner Bud Selig is finally ready to swing his hammer in a continued effort to clean up Major League Baseball. According to a report, players under investigation have until Sunday to negotiate their penalties and will be hit with suspensions the next day.

Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin and David Murphy will become the Texas Rangers’ regular outfielders if Cruz is lost to suspension. Jurickson Profar will see his playing time increase, just not much in the outfield.

The same goes for Adam Rosales, who was claimed Friday from the Oakland A’s. Cruz’s plight had no bearing on that move, but the Rangers have made other plans for life without their leader in home runs and RBIs.

“Profar will not be the solution,” manager Ron Washington said. “He might play out there. It would be Gentry and whoever else we decide we want to put out there throughout the system.”

Rosales isn’t a significant part of the fallback options should Cruz be lost. The utility infielder was on the bench Friday night as the Rangers and A’s opened a three-game series, and the game was still in progress at press time.

Rosales could end up playing some left field, though he has only a handful of big-league games there.

“In Adam, we feel like we got a versatile player who can play all four infield positions,” assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “He’s somebody who, obviously, knows the American League West very well. We’ve always admired the way he plays.”

The Rangers have five outfielders in the minors who are candidates to take Cruz’s spot: Engel Beltre, who was optioned to Triple A to make room for Rosales; Round Rock outfielders Joey Butler, Aaron Cunningham and Jim Adduci; and Double A outfielder Joe Benson.

Each has factors that play in his favor for consideration.

Butler, Cunningham and Benson are right-handed hitters; Butler, Cunningham and Adduci were invitees to big-league spring training this year; Beltre and Benson are on the 40-man roster; and Cunningham, Beltre and Benson have some big-league experience.

None of them add up to Cruz, who entered the weekend with 25 homers and 73 RBIs. He also had continued soreness in his left quadriceps muscle after getting hit there Tuesday by an errant throw in the infield.

Washington said that Profar could spell infielders Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre at least three times a week in an effort to keep them fresh for a September playoff push, and he also might see a game or two at designated hitter.

But his outfield experience produced mixed results. Profar can make the routine plays, but there is some uncertainty that can only be calmed with playing time.

“I’m not saying that you won’t seem him out there, but you certainly don’t need to be coming to the ballpark looking for it,” Washington said. “He can go catch the ball. The tentative part comes when it’s in between. He just doesn’t have the gamesmanship yet to know if he can get on something or if he can’t.

“The only way that can happen is for him to go play out there, and right now, I can’t afford to play him out there.”

The Rangers will continue to seek help via an August trade, though a player must first clear waivers before he can be dealt. The asking price for outfielders like Alex Rios and even Mike Morse was deemed too high ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver deadline, said a baseball official who anticipates a busier-than-normal August trading period.

For now, the Rangers have to sit and wait for word on a possible suspension for Cruz. He could appeal his punishment and be allowed to keep playing, but serving a suspension now would help his value this winter as he tests free agency for the first time.

Levine said that the Rangers have received no indication which way Cruz is leaning. But they have plans in place in case he is lost for an extended period of time.

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