CLE@TEX: Berkman drills a two-run homer to left field

ST. PETERSBURG -- Lance Berkman is still looking for his first hit since coming off the disabled list, but he was back in the lineup on Tuesday night against Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.

Berkman was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Monday night's 6-2 loss to the Rays and is 0-for-11 since being activated at the beginning of September. He was on the disabled list from July 7 to Sept. 1 with inflammation in his left hip and a chronic sore right knee.

"He's an experienced guy, so I'm going to give him another shot and see where it goes," manager Ron Washington said.

"Obviously not having been in there, it's not like you're in midseason form," Berkman said. "You just keep going up there and doing the best you can."

The Rangers signed Berkman to a one-year deal in the offseason and have a $12 million option for 2014, but the club is not going to exercise that. Instead, Berkman will get a $1 million buyout and then have to make a decision if this is the final act of an outstanding career.

"It's hard to say, I'm taking it one day at a time and doing whatever I can to help us win games," Berkman said. "That kind of speculation and analysis will come later."

Daniels affirms Washington's job security

Richard Justice on The Rundown to talk Rangers

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers went into Tuesday's game still holding on to one of the two Wild Card playoff spots in the American League. But their seven-game losing streak, as well as losing 13 of 16, has prompted people to ask questions about manager Ron Washington's job security.

General manager Jon Daniels addressed that Tuesday by saying he fully expects Washington to be back in 2014.

"My full expectation is he'll be back," Daniels said. "My full expectation is I'll be back. Beyond that we'll address everything in the offseason. I view Wash as a partner, and I fully expect the partnership to continue.

"It's a distraction. There is no substance to it. It's not something remotely being discussed. The bottom line is we need to go out and have a good at-bat, a good inning and a good game and get this turned around. Everything else is a distraction."

Washington scoffed at the suggestion that he was concerned about or in fear of losing his job.

"I'm not going to give that any legs," Washington said. "Let the people who put that out there answer it. I never said one thing about fearing for my job. I'm steadfast in what my job is on this ballclub, and that's to be the best manager for this organization and back my players, back my coaches and back the organization. I want to be the best manager possible, and that hasn't changed."

Washington is finishing his seventh season as Rangers manager and is signed through 2014. He called this season perhaps his most challenging on the job.

"It has been the most challenging year because of all the adversity, losing one-fourth of my pitching staff, losing some of my best players to the disabled list and losing a big part of the power out of our lineup," Washington said. "But we're still in position to get this done, and I feel confident we can. The game is not constructed so everything is hunky-dory. That's the beauty of the game."

Washington said the Rangers just need to win a game.

"One win would change it," Washington said. "One win would get things in motion. We need one win to get it right. I'll take two, then three, four, five and keep going. But we have to get one."

Daniels said the Rangers' focus should be on finishing strong and earning one of the two Wild Card playoff spots.

"The reality is we have a playoff spot as we sit here today," Daniels said. "We haven't played that way, but there's not much more I can do and not much Ron can do. It's about the guys between the lines. Hopefully they are focused and get it done.

"Last year, we had the division and we lost it. Nothing against the Athletics, but that's what happened. This year, they beat us. It's not over, but they have a sizable advantage. But right now, we're in a position to make the playoffs. It's our job to hold on to it, and I expect us to do it."

Rangers evaluating Cuban first baseman Abreu

CHN@CUB: Abreu's grand slam adds insurance to lead

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers have begun doing their homework on Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu and are planning to attend a showcase for him later this month in the Dominican Republic.

Last month, Abreu defected from Cuba, where he was one of the premier power hitters in the Cuban National Series. He also hit .360, with three home runs and nine RBIs in the World Baseball Classic last spring.

The Rangers will go into the offseason looking for ways to upgrade their offense, and first base could be an area of focus. Mitch Moreland went into Tuesday's game hitting .234 with 22 home runs and 57 RBIs in 133 games.

Eyeing playoff roster, Cruz set for instructional league

Cruz apologizes to fans and Rangers organization

ST. PETERSBURG -- Instructional league games begin on Tuesday and will be the next step for Nelson Cruz in his quest to be on the Rangers' postseason roster. Cruz is currently serving his suspension at the Rangers' facility in Surprise, Ariz., and is eligible to play in instructional league games.

"He has been working out in the outfield, hitting and doing baserunning drills," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I don't know if he'll be in every game, we've got a lot of guys who need work, but he'll get at-bats so he can be ready as an option. Then we'll make a decision."

Cruz is suspended through the end of the season because of a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Policy. He is eligible to be on the postseason roster, and club officials have indicated it's pretty much a given that Cruz will be on the roster. The Rangers still want to make sure no new information comes out regarding his situation, and they also want to see how he conducts himself in Arizona, especially around their young players.

Cruz was hitting .269 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs in 108 games at the time of his suspension.

Worth noting

• The Rangers are expected to face right-handers Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and James Shields during their three-game series against the Royals that starts on Friday at Kauffman Stadium. Shields is 7-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 career starts against the Rangers. That's the fifth-lowest ERA among active pitchers with at least five starts against them.

• Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin threw out Yunel Escobar trying to score on a single in the third inning of Monday's game for his 14th assist, third most by an outfielder this season. Gerardo Parra of Arizona has 16 and Alex Gordon of Kansas City has 15. Martin's 14 assists are also the most by a Rangers outfielder since Ruben Sierra had 15 in 1991.

Alex Rios has been successful on 11 straight stolen-base attempts for the Rangers.