Clubhouse notes: Cruz back, catcher talk

ARLINGTON -- Nelson Cruz proclaimed himself healthy and ready to return to the lineup as he spoke to reporters before Thursday's game. He played in two full games for Triple-A Oklahoma City this week and his hamstring feels good.

Manager Ron Washington said Cruz will make his first start Friday in Toronto. He'll do so as the No. 6 hitter.

"It was tough and it was boring too, seeing guys play everyday and you are on the bench," Cruz said. "It's not something you expect, especially this early in the season. I'm excited to be back and I want to try to help the team as much as I can."

Cruz's return means the Rangers will have a lineup that includes both Kinsler and Cruz for the first time all season.

"I'm excited to see what we can do together," Cruz said.

So is Washington, who was running through the meat of his order as a smile crept on his face.

"To have Michael, Josh, Vlad, Kinsler and Cruz hitting in a row...I love it," Washington said.

Other notes:

* Washington considers his club at full strength and that includes the catchers. He's pleased with the job Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez have done the last few weeks. That doesn't mean the club isn't still keeping an eye on Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But the young catcher who was the Opening Day starter (and walk-off hero) is still working on his throws and isn't ready to return. He is hitting the ball, though, for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

"When Salty is back, he'll be back because he forced us to do so," Washington said. "No one has forgotten about Salty. We know what he brings to the table."

Washington's top priority from his catcher isn't offense. He wants solid defense and an ability to call games and help pitchers through innings. But, of course, some added punch at the plate is a big plus. That's something the club has missed most of the year. But there are small signs that things are coming around there. Treanor had two hits Tuesday against the A's. Ramirez had three hits on Wednesday.

Washington said Ramirez caught Derek Holland -- and did an excellent job -- because Treanor had to play 13 innings on Tuesday. Washington said he'll put his catchers out there where they fall in terms of the opposing pitcher and when they need a break. He won't make any sort of decision to put one specific catcher with a specific pitcher. But there's no doubt that Holland was comfortable with Ramirez receiving him after throwing to Ramirez in the minors.

* Playing time for David Murphy will get a lot tougher with Cruz back in the lineup. We'll be discussing that more in the next few days, but Murphy is this club's fourth outfielder. He could play against lefties some, which is what he was doing for a number of games when Cruz was healthy. Washington wants Julio Borbon to get a chane to hit some lefties, but not some of the tougher ones. So Murphy would play then. Obviously, he'll play when the other outfielders need a break as well.

"I won't sit on him for very long," Washington said. "He knows what he has to do. He just happens to be our fourth guys. He's a very productive fourth guy. I definitely have to find ways to keep David engaged."