Rua earns playing time with versatility, hot bat

'Whatever my role is, I have to be ready,' Rangers utility player says

Rua earns playing time with versatility, hot bat

SEATTLE -- The early returns suggest Ryan Rua can handle the limited role of being a utility player, but it might not stay limited for long.

Rua, the Rangers' fourth outfielder and backup first baseman, was in the lineup for the third straight game in Tuesday night's 8-0 win over Seattle. He was playing first base after getting four hits in his first 12 at-bats on the season, and he added two more hits Tuesday and scored a run.

"There is always a concern about a young player adapting himself to not playing every day," manager Jeff Banister said. "Finding a way to get him the appropriate number of at-bats that allow him to find the rhythm of the season is a challenge. But he has earned the opportunity to have more at-bats, based on how he has swung the bat and played."

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Tuesday was Rua's fourth start overall, with two at first base, one in left and one in right.

"As I said in Spring Training, whatever my role is, I have to be ready," Rua said. "The versatility helps out. I'm getting more comfortable at first base."

Rua gave an indication of things to come when he hit .404 in Spring Training. The good start to the regular season is further evidence that he has overcome what happened last year. Rua began the year as the Rangers' left-fielder but fractured his right heel in the first week of the season. He missed almost three months and never recovered his swing, hitting .193 for the Rangers and .197 for Triple-A Round Rock.

"It's definitely behind me 100 percent," Rua said. "I'm healthy and I'm confident. It's good to be out there and contributing. It's a lot of fun."

Rangers rotation starts well

Rangers starters went into Tuesday's game with a 4-1 record, a 3.35 ERA and an opponent's batting average of .220. The ERA was sixth lowest in the American League and the batting average was the second lowest. They had seven quality starts in eight games, the most in the Major Leagues.

The Rangers did not record their seventh quality start until the 19th game of last season.

"I think we showed late last year what we are capable of doing," pitcher Cole Hamels said. "We are feeding off each other and pushing each other, trying to keep each other honest and motivated. We are pushing each other to new heights."

Hamels' six strong innings

Worth noting

• Pitcher Yu Darvish, who had Tommy John elbow-reconstruction surgery on March 17, 2015, is scheduled to throw live batting practice in Arlington on Wednesday. It will be the first time he has thrown to hitters during his rehab program. The Rangers want Darvish to throw at least three live batting practice sessions before beginning a medical rehabilitation assignment in the final week of April.

• The Rangers haven't allowed a stolen base through eight games. Their catchers are 3-for-3 in throwing out basestealers. The Rangers didn't allow a stolen base in their first 11 games of the 2001 season when Ivan Rodriguez was still playing for them.

Nicholas nabs Aoki

• Outfielder Nomar Mazara made his Major League debut on Sunday and catcher Brett Nicholas did on Monday. This is the first time in Rangers' history that two position players made their debuts in back-to-back games.

Nicholas' first Major League hit

• Mazara is the fifth Ranger to have two or more hits in his first two Major League games. The others were Jose Hernandez in 1991, Jeff Frye in 1992, Rusty Greer in 1994 and Brandon Boggs in 2008.

Mazara helps Rangers offense

• Rangers reliever Jake Diekman has not allowed a run in his last 10 2/3 innings going back to last season.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.