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Botts cracks Rangers' roster

Botts cracks Rangers' roster

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jason Botts will be on the Rangers' Opening Day roster as backup first baseman and a right-handed-hitting designated hitter.

Botts, a switch-hitter who took a .357 average into Tuesday's game against the Mariners, was told by general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington that he had made the team.

Outfielders Kevin Mench and Jason Ellison, who were both hitting well over .300, have been told they will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma. Both were in camp on Minor League contracts.

Nelson Cruz was also told that he's not on the team, but he is out of options. At some point this week, he will be designated for assignment, meaning the Rangers have 10 days to trade him, release him or put him on outright waivers. The Rangers have had some discussions with other teams, but there has been little progress.

All were competing for the final spot on the bench.

"That was a hard decision to make," Washington said. "Botts just did what we asked him to do. His game has improved. He worked hard on his game and showed he could improve. He's somebody the Texas Rangers had high hopes for, so we'll see what he can do."

Milton Bradley, who played the outfield for the first time this spring on Tuesday, is expected to be the designated hitter on Opening Day. But at some point, he is expected to move to the outfield, leaving Frank Catalanotto, who is a left-handed hitter, to platoon with Botts at DH. Botts is also expected to spell Ben Broussard, another left-handed hitter, at first base.

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Botts is also out of options, and the Rangers were concerned they might lose him at the end of Spring Training. But Daniels said Botts earned his spot on the team.

"He has always been a productive hitter except his limited time in the big leagues," Daniels said. "We like the way he's gone about it this spring. He is better defensively in the outfield, solid at first base and a right-handed option at [DH]. He has played the game more aggressively and looked more comfortable."

Ellison is batting .387 for the spring and Mench is hitting .359. But Botts' ability to play first base seems to have given him an edge over both. Cruz hit .211 this spring and never really seemed to get serious consideration.

"[Cruz is] just [missing] the consistency at the plate," Daniels said. "He's a very good defender and shows the obvious physical abilities. In the role of competing for an everyday job, he just hasn't proven himself."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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