It was July 1, 2009. It was his second career Major League Baseball game. Julio Borbon was called on to pinch hit for Nelson Cruz in the 6th inning with the Rangers leading 2-1. Jared Weaver was on the mound. On a 2-2 pitch, Borbon rips a line drive single into centerfield. Marlon Byrd scores, Hank Blalock advances to 3rd, and on the throw home Julio Borbon shows his blazing speed by advancing to second base. After being ruled safe, he jumps up and emphatically claps his hands together. The crowd goes wild. The Rangers finally had their coveted spark plug and center fielder of the future.
Sadly, just like in life, all good things must come to an end. Some good things last longer than others. You can ask my ex-girlfriend about that, although my opinion of a good thing and her opinion of a good thing are most likely not identical.
Just as life presents with the "all good things must come to an end" mantra, we can also easily detect the "second chance" or even "third chance" cliche. After initially serving the Rangers with a lightning bolt essence--just as Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, and Elvis Andrus did in 2009---Borbon closed out 2009 with a line of .312/.376/.414 in 46 games.
These numbers easily cemented him as the everyday 2010 center fielder, as the Rangers continued to implement their "Josh Hamilton to left field" plan. Things could not have been better heading into 2010 for the cheery, lovable, and seemingly always smiling Julio Borbon. Then came the collapse...
Borbon started the season ice-cold, going 4-40 out of the gate. He finished the month of April hitting .191, but put together two quality months in May and June, raising his average all the way up to .282. He found a way to maintain that and finished 2010 with a fairly respectable line considering he was just wrapping up his first full year in the big leagues. He also was labeled the 5th best center fielder in the AL in terms of range factor.
Borbon was allowed the same opportunity in 2011. He was the Rangers' opening day center fielder, but nothing sticks out like a sore thumb more than a slow start to one's MLB season. Through 20 games, Borbon hit .179 while only getting on base a fourth of the time. Borbon rebounded though, much like his 2010 campaign.
He strung together a 10-game hitting streak in the beginning of May to lift his batting average near .280 while raising his on base percentage to .315. That's still not great by any means, but Jules appeared to be on his way to again putting up a respectable 2011 season.
In the midde of May, Borbon's career took a dramatic twist. He was sent to the DL with a hamstring strain, but instead of being called up after his disabled list stint, he was demoted to AAA Round Rock. During Borbon's absence, Endy Chavez had won the hearts of Rangers fans as he put up video game numbers.
Just like my current girlfriend's feelings towards me, the Rangers fan could not have been more indifferent towards Julio Borbon. He was forgotten. Alone. Hungry. Scared. Ok, maybe i'm being overly dramatic, but Julio Borbon wasn't getting a look at the big leagues anytime soon. Things unexpectedly worsened for Borbon...
He responded to his demotion well, posting a .298/.376/.435 line with 16 stolen bases for Round Rock. Borbon was quickly becoming a trade chip, until he severely sprained his ankle on July 8th after sliding into second base to break up a double play. This was the ender, as Borbon would miss the rest of the 2011 season.
From opening-day center fielder to nothing more than a forgotten trade chip, Borbon had hit the powerbottom. Throw in the Rangers' signing of Leonys Martin, and the hype factor for Borbon was at an all-time low entering spring training this year. It seemed Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin were favorites to win the everyday center field job entering camp, but comments from Ron Washington have recently surfaced that have led pretty much everyone to believe that Leonys Martin is not a serious option to take over centerfield this season.
It should be noted that 'everyday center fielder' is an extremely vague term, because Josh Hamilton will spend time in CF, which in turn means an outfield of Cruz, Murphy, Hamilton. Theoretically, if the Rangers stick to their word of keeping Hamilton in left field as much as possible, then the Rangers would need someone like Gentry or Borbon to be that "everyday center fielder".
What's this? A glimpse of hope for Julio Borbon. It's no secret in my inner circles, which consist of mostly hollywood A-listers, that I'm in full support of Julio Borbon. Whether i'm doing a bit or not is yet to be determined, but I truly do see something in him that I like. He's not someone I want out there for 150 games, but I have no issues with him being out there for about 100 games and holding the unstable title of 'everyday center fielder.'
With Conor Jackson and Brad Hawpe in camp, along with Mitch Moreland's ability to play the outfield, that does in theory eliminate a 25-man roster spot for either Gentry or Borbon. I don't like that theory though. If Borbon shows a concentrated effort to cut down on strikeouts and improve his patience at the plate, I'd like to see Borbon and Gentry both make the team.
Borbon in CF against righties, Gentry in CF against lefties, while on David Murphy starts they are on the bench as late inning defensive replacements, or bunting/baserunning threats. Granted, this is more about my love for Borbon than it is my general lack of excitement for Conor Jackson or Brad Hawpe providing anything to the team.
Julio Borbon's career has been quite the roller coaster ride, but it'sonly just begun. An opporunity has presented itself. Will he seize this opportunity like he did in the summer of 2009, or will he again disappoint us like the past two Aprils? I'm pulling for you, Julio. You're my boy.