This was supposed to be the season that Rangers outfielder Ryan Rua asserted himself on the club.
In the spring, it certainly seemed that way. The rookie earned the Opening Day job in left field and had the strong backing of manager Jeff Banister. But then he broke a bone in his right heel during the home opener April 10 and was sidelined for nearly two months.
He returned to the minors on a rehab assignment in June and was back with the Rangers on June 19.
But he struggled to find his swing and rhythm at the plate as ankle discomfort was still lingering. He was hitting just .200 when he was sent to Triple A Round Rock on August 6.
“This year went from possibly the best year of my life to going downhill real quick with the injury and then the setbacks,” said Rua, who was recalled and started Saturday night against the Athletics. “But the team is playing good right now, and I’m excited to be back up here and hopefully here for the long haul.”
He continued to struggle at the plate in August before finally seeing some improvement late in the month. He had 16 hits in his final 16 games with the Express.
“The reports have been that he’s had quality at-bats, that he’s driving the baseball,” Banister said before Saturday’s game. “He’s on the fastball and he’s healthy and feeling good.”
Feeling healthy, especially in his ankle, is the key for Rua, Banister said.
“That’s their foundation,” he said. “When you crack that foundation, if you will, it throws the whole kinetic chain of events kind of out of whack. It takes some time.”
That wasn’t easy for Rua, who was savoring being a major league starter out of spring training.
“Not having to deal with that before, I think it was something a little different for me,” Rua said. “I think it did take a little bit longer for me to get back and get going.”
Cole Hamels is indifferent about being moved back a day in the rotation so that he’ll face the American League West-leading Houston Astros on Monday, and then again during a three-game series in Houston on Sept. 25-27.
Hamels didn’t complain but suggested that losing a start at the end of the season because of the move was unnecessary.
“It doesn’t really matter who I’m facing or what the situation is because I think when we really look at it we have to win today, we’ve got to win tomorrow,” Hamels said. “You can’t look at matchups and scoreboard watch.”
Hamels stopped short of specifically disagreeing with the move when asked if he deemed it unnecessary.
“That’s out of my jurisdiction, I guess,” he said. “I’m going to pitch no matter what, wherever they tell me, and go out and do well and help the team win. That’s always been my focus. They have those tough decisions to make and I’m just here to comply and be the best pitcher I can to help the team win games.”
Josh Hamilton felt great about 30 hours after having a tear in his left knee repaired, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
“Based on how he feels right now, we’re pretty optimistic that he has a chance to make it back and play a role down the stretch,” Daniels said.
Hamilton will have the stitches removed in a week. His availability will be day-to-day based on how he’s feeling, Daniels said.
▪ Outfielder Leonys Martin (left hand surgery) worked out with the team before Saturday’s game. He bunted, ran the bases, threw and shagged balls in the outfield. He hasn’t yet taken batting practice, but Daniels said Martin has “made considerable progress.”
▪ Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, who was recalled Friday, starts today’s series finale against the A’s. It will be the third time that Oakland has seen him. Gonzalez faced the A’s twice in June during his first stint with the club.
“I’d rather not say, specifically. But I’ll say they should call. He’s as qualified, as talented and as experienced as any candidate that’s going to be out there.” — Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on whether any of the three clubs with a GM vacancy have contacted him about talking to assistant general manager Thad Levine.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760