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Rangers pleased with Tocci's early contributions

Rookie called into action after DeShields' injury Friday
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Rookie Carlos Tocci played in more Cactus League games than any other Ranger this spring, but he was not supposed to be a regular in the regular season, at least not this soon.

After Delino DeShields suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand Friday night, the Rangers had to implement their contingency plan at center, using Tocci there in his Major League debut Saturday in a 9-2 loss to the Astros.

ARLINGTON -- Rookie Carlos Tocci played in more Cactus League games than any other Ranger this spring, but he was not supposed to be a regular in the regular season, at least not this soon.

After Delino DeShields suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand Friday night, the Rangers had to implement their contingency plan at center, using Tocci there in his Major League debut Saturday in a 9-2 loss to the Astros.

As in Spring Training, when he batted .175 (10-for-57) but impressed manager Jeff Banister with his speed and defensive ability, Tocci's main contributions Saturday were in the field. He made an adept read on a line drive over his left shoulder, and got to it quickly enough to make it look like a routine catch, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

"His eye and the bat/ball relationship, how it comes off, he has that ability to read it very well and be under way very quickly," Banister said.

"It was fun to watch him play yesterday. I can imagine what was in his stomach and in his heart and in his mind, but I'm pleased with the defensive side of it and he was unafraid, he went to the plate and swung the bat."

Tocci, a 22-year-old Venezuelan whom the Rangers acquired in an offseason trade with the Phillies, had the day off Sunday. He played nearly every day in Spring Training as the Rangers wanted to see him as much as possible before deciding whether to put him on the Opening Day roster. As a Rule 5 Draft player, he'll need to stay on the Major League roster all season or be offered back to the Phillies.

The Rangers planned to stash Tocci on the roster, take advantage of his athleticism mostly as a late-game sub and help the lanky rookie get stronger and accustomed to the Majors over time. Now they'll need him to play a more integral role over the next four to six weeks while DeShields recovers.

"Of course I didn't like the way it happened [with DeShields' injury], but I'm ready for whatever they ask me to do," Tocci said. "If I play more often, I think I'm ready for it. I felt good [in spring] and I think I did what they asked me to do, to take advantage of my speed and the way that I field. I didn't hit the way that I'm supposed to, because of course, knowing the pitchers in the Majors is a different story. But I think I'll be able to help."

Waiting for Colon
Right-hander Bartolo Colon, the oldest pitcher in the Majors at 45, will officially be selected from the Minors on Monday to make his first start for the Rangers in Oakland. Colon is a quintessential journeyman, as the Rangers will be his 11th team in his 21st season in the big leagues. He's only five wins away from tying Dennis Martinez for the most wins by a Latin American pitcher (245).

Video: TEX@SEA: Colon strikes out two in scoreless outing

"I expect that he's gonna go out and throw strikes and have a veteran outing," Banister said. "Manage through the innings, give us an opportunity. … He's got a lot of practice at it. I don't know if there's anybody pitching in the Major Leagues right now who has had more pitches thrown. He's worked at a lot. He's had to transform himself from being a power pitcher to more of a control pitcher. I don't think we'll see any different than what he's been doing lately…. Very workmanlike and a lot of fastballs and some changeups and a few breaking balls."

Upside for Elvis?
Elvis Andrus entered Sunday's game hitting .600 (6-for-10) and hit his first homer Saturday. Coming off the best two offensive seasons of his career, Andrus still has room for improvement, Banister said Sunday.

Video: TEX@HOU: Andrus' solo HR puts Rangers on the board

"This is the guy who was described to me -- the potential of this type of player," Banister said. "What we're seeing is the effort of a player to challenge himself to be better. To continue to work hard at his craft. He's benefiting from that process. Where it continues to grow to, I'm not smart enough to know what a guy's exact ceiling is. What I do know is this is a guy who continues to improve. … Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, All-Stars. There are awards out there."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington.

Texas Rangers