Rua wins Rangers' starting left-field job

Smolinski will be fourth outfielder; Rosales earns utility spot

Rua wins Rangers' starting left-field job

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' outfield competition has come to an end. Ryan Rua is going to be the starting left fielder and Jake Smolinski will be the fourth outfielder.

The Rangers are still weighing the possibility of keeping Rule 5 Draft pick Delino DeShields as an extra outfielder or going with Carlos Peguero off the bench.

Texas likes the offensive potential Rua brings to the outfield, the ability of Smolinski to play all three outfield positions well defensively and the explosive speed that DeShields brings off the bench. But Peguero has also had a good spring.

Smolinski's RBI double

Rua finished last season as the Rangers' starting left fielder, and he kept the job this spring despite a slow start. He went into Tuesday hitting .298 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 19 games.

"I like the potential," manager Jeff Banister said. "I like the upside Rua showed after he calmed down and started controlling the strike zone. The power showed up and the ability to go the other way. Offensively, there is going to be some growth for all our guys, but he was the one that continued the upward trend all spring."

Rua played in 28 games for the Rangers last season, hitting .295 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. He was an infielder for most of his Minor League career and is still learning how to play the outfield. But Banister said Rua will get the "bulk of the at-bats" in left field.

"It's still a process," Rua said. "There is still a lot to learn, but I feel more comfortable every day. The offense has gone well, but I still want to work on my defense and get better."

Smolinski went into Tuesday hitting .348 for the spring, with a .412 on-base percentage and a .630 slugging percentage. He has also impressed the Rangers with his defense, especially in center field. He made a terrific catch crashing into the center-field wall in the ninth inning on Monday.

"I'm just excited to start the season," Smolinski said. "My job is just to be ready when my name is called -- whether that is starting or coming in."

Rosales' RBI double

Versatile Rosales wins utility spot

Banister said Adam Rosales has made the team as the utility infielder. Rosales was hitting .275 entering Tuesday, and he has again showed his invaluable versatility in playing all four infield positions.

"He has an infectious energy about playing the game that's great to have on a ballclub," Banister said.

That leaves one spot open on the bench. Banister wants another outfielder, and the Rangers are still trying to work through DeShields' Rule 5 Draft situation, as the 22-year-old has to make the team or be put through waivers. If he were to be claimed, he would become another team's Rule 5 player. If DeShields were to clear waivers, he would have to be offered back to the Astros for $25,000. At that point, the Rangers could trade for DeShields and shed the Rule 5 tag.

"We're trying not to look at him as a Rule 5 guy," Banister said. "We're looking at it as, 'What does he add to the team as opposed to what another player adds?'"

Other developments

• The Rangers have sold infielder Elliot Johnson to the Dodgers. Infielders Ed Lucas and Tommy Field are still in camp, but they not expected to make the team.

Tanner Scheppers has been sent back to Arlington to have his right ankle examined by Dr. Keith Meister. Scheppers had an MRI on Monday, and the Rangers are waiting to hear back from Meister about the results.

• Banister had an end-of-spring meeting with closer Neftali Feliz, who has a 3.86 ERA this spring. Banister said, "He feels fine. He feels good. He is getting his work in. He tells me he is right where he needs to be. Closers are a different cat -- they either run on high octane or they have ice water in their veins."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.