Rua gets nod as Rangers' starting left fielder
28-year-old's defense separated him from competition
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ryan Rua has won the job as the Rangers' left fielder.
What appeared to be a platoon situation has changed into Rua being the starter and Drew Robinson either serving as a utility player or going to Triple-A Round Rock to play every day.
"Ryan has been a good player for us," manager Jeff Banister said. "He has a good skill-set, he is on the club, let him go and play. Ryan Rua has earned the right to play left field for us."
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Rua, 28, is hitting .211 but with three home runs and a club-leading 13 RBIs. The Rangers also like his defense in left field and his speed on the bases. Defense was the biggest difference between Rua and Willie Calhoun, who came into camp as the leading candidate. He was sent to Triple-A earlier in camp to continue to work on his defense.
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"Things have gone really well," Rua said. "My body feels the best it's ever felt. I'm ready to go and be able to contribute, whatever my role. I need to be able to play defense, I need to be able to hit, do everything well."
The big thing is hitting right-handed pitching and cutting down on the strikeouts. He has 178 in 557 career at-bats and 18 in 57 at-bats this spring before Friday's game against the Padres.
"Yeah, that's something I need to cut down on," Rua said. "I have been focusing on that the last 10 days and will continue to do so at the end."
Rua was the Rangers left fielder on Opening Day in 2015 but suffered a foot injury five games into the season and never got the job back. He has been a utility player for the past year and now the Rangers are eager to see if he can seize left field.
"I think he gets overlooked," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I don't think his prior track record shows what he is capable of doing because of the inconsistent playing time."
Tocci makes the team
The Rangers have informed outfielder Carlos Tocci that he has made the team. Tocci is a Rule 5 Draft pick out of the Phillies organization and will be in the big leagues for the first time in his career.
"It's a dream come true," Tocci said. "As a child, your dream is to get to the big leagues. It means a lot to me that the Rangers took me in the Rule 5 Draft and are going to give me that opportunity."
As a Rule 5 Draft pick, Tocci has to stay with the Rangers. Otherwise, he is put through waivers and, if he clears, is offered back to the Phillies.
The Rangers want to keep him because of his superior defensive skills. Offensively, he played at Double-A Reading last year and hit .307 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage.
"He is an advanced defender," Daniels said. "We have seen him since he was 15 or 16 years old. He has always had the instincts in the outfield and the basepaths. Very natural defender. Offensively, very simple approach to the plate. Not a lot of swing and miss, not a lot of power but we think that is something that can develop in time."
Pitching updates -- Lincecum, Colon, Barnette
The chances of Timothy Lincecum making the Opening Day roster have evaporated because of the blister on his right middle finger.
Lincecum, who was signed on March 7, was supposed to pitch against the Padres on Friday night, but was scratched because of the blister. Instead of trying to speed up the process, the Rangers are going to slow it down with Lincecum.
"He was trying to pitch through it," Banister said. "We've got to let it heal up. I don't think you want to force it with any pitcher. Now that you have the blister, let's tap the breaks and let the finger heal up."
Daniels said the Rangers are still working through the situation with Bartolo Colon, who is in camp on a Minor League contract and doesn't appear to have a shot to make the rotation. The Rangers might consider him for long relief.
Tony Barnette remains sidelined with tightness in his lower back. Barnette is reporting improvement but has not been in a game in 10 days, and it looks like he could start the season on the disabled list.
• The Rangers have released third baseman Trevor Plouffe, but still have hopes of signing him to a contract and have him play at Triple-A Round Rock. Plouffe is currently considering all his options.
• Daniels addressed the backup catching situation by saying Juan Centeno, "is in a good spot. We are still looking around, but he has played well."
• First baseman Tommy Joseph has been optioned to Double-A Frisco. The Rangers want him playing regularly there while Ronald Guzman is playing at Triple-A Round Rock.
Left-hander Cole Hamels pitches against the Indians at 2:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Surprise. This will be Hamels' last start of Spring Training before pitching on Opening Day against the Astros. He has a 5.40 ERA in three Cactus League starts.