The Texas Rangers announced today that the club has signed free agent outfielder Justin Ruggiano (pronounced roo-jee-AH-noh) to a one-year major league contract for the 2016 season. The team has also hired Howard Johnson as manager for its High-A High Desert affiliate.
Ruggiano, 33, owns a career .856 OPS figure against left-handed pitchers, ranking 10th among all active outfielders (minimum 500 plate appearances). Since the start of 2012, he owns a .290/.359/.571/.930 slash line versus left-handed pitching in 439 plate appearances. He split the 2015 campaign with the Mariners and Dodgers, combining to bat .248 (31-125) with 6 home runs and 15 RBI in 57 big league games while also batting .296 (53-179) over 49 contests with Triple-A Tacoma in the Seattle system.
The right-handed batter and thrower was a member of the Mariners Opening Day roster last season before being traded to the Dodgers on August 31. He batted .291 (16-55) with 4 home runs and 12 RBI in 21 games with the Dodgers, including a .333 mark (15-45) off left-handed pitchers. Ruggiano was on the Dodgers roster for the National League Division Series against the Mets, appearing in 3 games during the series.
He has played in 455 major league games over seven seasons with the Tampa Bay, Miami, Chicago-NL, Seattle, and Los Angeles-NL organizations, appearing at all three outfield spots during his career. The Texas native graduated from L.C. Anderson High School near Austin and played college baseball at Blinn Junior College and Texas A&M. He currently resides in the Metroplex.
With the addition of Ruggiano, the Rangers have a full major league roster at 40 players.
JOHNSON TO MANAGE HIGH DESERT: Howard Johnson has been hired as manager at High-A High Desert, returning to a managerial role for the first time since leading Short-A Brooklyn in the New York Mets organization during the 2002 season. He was named the Seattle Mariners major league hitting coach on November 26, 2013 and served in that capacity until June 20, 2015. He finished the 2015 campaign as a hitting instructor in the Mariners farm system. Prior to his time with Seattle, Johnson spent 11 seasons in the Mets organization in various roles, including major league coach, minor league instructor, and professional scout.
Johnson was two-time All-Star during a 14-year big league career with the Tigers, Mets, Rockies, and Cubs. The former third baseman batted .249 with 228 home runs and 760 RBI over 1,531 major league games, winning a pair of Silver Slugger Awards. He was part of the 1984 Detroit Tigers and 1986 New York Mets World Series Championship teams. Johnson led the National League in home runs (38) and RBI (117) in 1991, becoming the first switch-hitter to lead the National League in home runs.