Rangers drop Jones, boosting Stubbs' case

Outfielder competing for bench spot with Rua, Ruggiano

March 26th, 2016

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers returned outfielder James Jones to Minor League camp, opening up the possibility that Drew Stubbs could make the Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder.

If the Rangers open the season with a four-man bench, they would likely go with Ryan Rua and Stubbs over Justin Ruggiano. Rua has had a terrific spring and can play first base. Stubbs gives the Rangers defense and speed off the bench, an important element for manager Jeff Banister.

"To have the opportunity late in the game -- tie score or one run behind -- you can create opportunities against late-inning relievers," Banister said. "You have to maximize any opportunity, and you want to add an element that can give you that opportunity to score."

Ruggiano was signed in the offseason as a right-handed alternative to Josh Hamilton in left field. But that plan went out because Hamilton's knee problems led the Rangers to signing Ian Desmond as their everyday left fielder.

The Rangers will likely try to trade Ruggiano before the end of camp, but the market may be flooded with veteran outfielders being let go before Opening Day. David Murphy (Red Sox), Nick Swisher (Braves) and Will Venable (Indians) are among the many who are on the bubble going into the final week.

If the Rangers decide to go with an extra reliever and a three-man bench, then they would likely have to decide between Stubbs and Rua as the extra outfielder to sit next to the utility infielder and backup catcher.

Jones, a left-handed hitter, was acquired from the Mariners in the offseason and came to camp as a non-roster player. A former pitcher in college, he hit .289 for the spring but also had 13 strikeouts in 45 at-bats.

"Impressive Spring Training in the sense a lot of things I was told about were there: a speed player with raw power," Banister said. "He knows he has to use the speed aspect of his game instead of being one-dimensional. This guy has the skill set to play center field and be dynamic running the bases. It's about putting it all together."

Worth noting

• Second baseman Rougned Odor hit three home runs on Friday night but did so with flu-like symptoms. Odor, who did not make the trip to Scottsdale, said he has been sick for a few days although that hasn't slowed him on the field. Said Odor, "I want to be sick like that all year."

• First baseman Ronald Guzman has not been in Major League camp but has had enough at-bats as a Minor League extra player to lead the Rangers with 11 RBIs going into Saturday's game.

• The Rangers, before Sunday's game in Surprise, will present championship rings to the members of the Class A Hickory team that won the 2015 South Atlantic League championship.