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Josh Hamilton's injury puts the spotlight on Julio Borbon

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SURPRISE AZ - FEBRUARY 25:  Julio Borbon #20 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during Spring Training Media Day on February 25 2011 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
SURPRISE AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Julio Borbon #20 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during Spring Training Media Day on February 25 2011 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Continuing the theme of "fan confidence"...among the players on the Texas Rangers who are expected to play a significant role in the 2011 season, it would be hard to find a player who inspires less confidence in the fans right now than Julio Borbon.

His fall has been precipitous...late in 2009, he was a spark plug for the Ranger offense, and spring of 2010 had people worried about his defense and whether it would limit him, because what he brought to the offense was too important for him to be sent down to AAA.

2010 was a disaster for Borbon offensively, and although his defensive abilities in centerfield meant that he wasn't without value, his regression with the bat put into question whether he would be able to be the Rangers' starting centerfielder going forward.

This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the Rangers have David Murphy as their fourth outfielder.  Murphy is a solid player who has a large cheering section among the D/FW media and the fan base, resulting in regular questions about why Borbon is starting in the outfield rather than Murphy.

With the Josh Hamilton injury, those discussions can be put on hold, at least for the next six to eight weeks.  With Hamilton out of the outfield mix, we can expect to see Murphy, Borbon, and Nelson Cruz as the starting outfield almost every day for the next couple of months. 

This also means that, by the time Hamilton comes back, the Rangers should have a pretty good idea whether they've resolved their centerfield situation, or whether that's a need they'll need to address for the stretch run.  If Julio Borbon can post a 700 OPS over the next couple of months, his job is probably safe for the 2011 season, although it is still an open question what the outfield alignment would be come September, if the Rangers are in a close race, or in October, if the Rangers make the playoffs.

Continuing to bump around in the mid-600s (or lower), though, and the Rangers will likely be looking at a situation where they will need to go out and try to acquire a centerfielder for the second half of the season.  While there's excitement of Leonys Martin, the Cuban defector who is supposedly going to sign this week, Martin is unlikely to be ready to be a starting major league centerfielder before 2012 at the earliest.  And Engel Beltre is still Engel Beltre, lots of tools but not major league ready.

So consider this a two month extended audition for Borbon.  His glove will play if he can put up a 700 OPS, and he needs to show while Hamilton is gone that he can provide that level of offense.  If he can't do that, the Rangers will probably look to package him with a prospect or two to try to land a centerfielder on a non-contender, a Michael Bourn or possibly a Marlon Byrd (depending on how the Cubs fare).

With the Rangers expecting to win now, and with Martin and Beltre right behind him, the future is now for Borbon.  If he can't seize the Rangers' centerfield job over the next two months, I don't think he will ever have it.