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Updated: August 12, 2010, 2:29 AM ET

Rangers sending a message this week

Kruk By John Kruk
ESPN
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The Rangers know they can compete and I think it all started in the offseason when they picked up Vladimir Guerrero.

I've heard Texas Rangers president and soon-to-be part owner Nolan Ryan say that the team has gotten a lot more out of Guerrero than it expected. He's had an unbelievable presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse.

[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJosh Hamilton is putting together an MVP-type season.

Nelson Cruz was an MVP candidate at the beginning of the season and then he got hurt and tailed off. Since then, the Rangers seem to be doing an excellent job of picking up the slack for each other offensively. When Josh Hamilton wasn't hitting, Cruz and Guerrero stepped up. When Cruz got hurt, Hamilton started picking it up and now he's having an MVP-caliber season. At one point, Texas relied heavily on hitting home runs, but now the Rangers are more diverse offensively. Manager Ron Washington has them executing different ways to score runs and he's completely changed the team's mindset.

Guerrero was potent in his prime and was one of the most feared players in baseball. Vlad was that guy. When he came up to bat, everyone took notice. People don't understand what it means to have a guy in the middle of your lineup that everyone fears. There's something about that one swing or clutch hit that you know he will deliver on a nightly basis that's comforting. Hamilton and Michael Young can rest assured that they won't have to carry the team by themselves.

I remember how relieved I was when we got Jack Clark during my second or third year in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres. I thought, "Wow we have a dominant force in the middle of our lineup. This is great!" When one guy can take the pressure off you to perform it's an incredible feeling.

The Rangers are in a great position right now because not only do they have Guerrero in the middle of their lineup, but they also have veteran Cliff Lee as the ace of the staff. Lee has proved over the past few years that he's one of the best pitchers in baseball. What Lee managed to do in the postseason for the Phillies was incredible. The Yankees won the World Series because they were by far the best team in baseball last year, but Lee was still able to dominate them in two World Series games. He has the ability to pitch in big games and now he can share his experience with other guys on the team like Tommy Hunter and C.J. Wilson.

In their first three outings against the Yankees this season, the Rangers lost all three contests. The Rangers have a chance to send a message this week. I don't care how hot it is in Texas; it's hot across the United States, so don't expect the Rangers to wilt. By the end of this week Texas will have crossed off games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays and with a strong showing they'll stamp the AL East's best with a clear sign: "We'll see you in October."

John Kruk is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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