If at first: Ruggiano to try 1B in 'B' game

March 5th, 2016
Playing first base may mean more at-bats for the Rangers' Justin Ruggiano. (Getty)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Justin Ruggiano has done a lot of things in his Major League career. He's played in the American League and in the National League. He's played all three outfield spots and logged plenty of time as a designated hitter.

Ruggiano is 33 years old and is playing for his fifth organization since 2011, and on Sunday, he'll play first base for the first time in his professional career.

Ruggiano is being viewed as a possible right-handed platoon complement for lefty Mitch Moreland, much in the way Mike Napoli was used for the Rangers at the end of 2015 after Napoli came over from Boston in a trade last Aug. 7.

So on Sunday at 10 a.m. MT, Ruggiano will put on a bigger glove in the Rangers' "B" game at the club's complex in Surprise, Ariz., and get after it under the tutelage of coaches Tony Beasley and Steve Buechele, who have been working with him on the transition.

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"It'll give us an opportunity to get him out there," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Saturday before the Rangers' game against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. "And it's a somewhat less stressful situation than on the big diamond. I think he's excited about it. We'll see how it works out."

Ruggiano was signed to a Minor League deal on Dec. 17, but the move was not about his defensive versatility. It was about the potential that he has to lock into what he has done at his best in the batter's box, particularly against left-handed pitching. Ruggiano has a career .856 OPS against southpaws, with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs in 481 career at-bats.

So why not first base? And why not in a "real" game?

"You get to a point where it's, 'Let's go ahead and start seeing some live action,'" Banister said. "Tony's good with it. [Buechele's] good with it. And more importantly, Ruggiano's good with it. And you have to have the desire.

"When I approached him this morning with the idea, he was up for it."