Ryal's Power Gives Diamondbacks A Weapon
TUCSON, ARIZ.—Rusty Ryal could not have made a much better impression when he joined the Diamondbacks last August. He had a pinch-hit single in his first game, two doubles in his first start and a home run in his third start.
By Ryal's second week, the Diamondbacks so wanted his bat in the lineup that they found a new position for him—first base—spotting him there for the first time in his five-year professional career since being the club's 14th-round pick from Oklahoma State in 2005.
It has continued this spring, where Ryal has seen more time at first base than anywhere else.
"I've said all along, I think Rusty is one of the few guys we have in camp who can play a bench role and have a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time he steps in. He is a strong hitter with a lot of power," manager A. J. Hinch said.
"Every time he gets in the batter's box, you feel something good is going to happen and he is going to hit the ball hard."
Ryal, 27, played primarily against lefthanded pitchers last season and had success, batting .273/.347/.614 with five doubles, two triples and two homers in 44 at-bats. While Ryal is more familiar with third base (255 minor league games) and second (225), he embraces the chance to play first. Lefthanded hitter Adam LaRoche is the starting first baseman, and left fielder Conor Jackson is the only other Diamondback with much experience there.
"If that's my responsibility and my role on the team and that gives me an opportunity to be in the big leagues, then I am going to do it the best I can," Ryal said.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Ryal, who seems to be competing with Tony Abreu and Cole Gillespie for the final roster spot, earned his promotion to Arizona last season after hiting .290/.347/.527 at Triple-A Reno. He had 33 doubles, six triples and 17 homers in 404 at-bats.
• Gerardo Parra, who hit a home run in his first big league at-bat last May, played primarily in left field last season. But Arizona wanted to take a long look at him in center field this spring to see if he could be a viable replacement when Chris Young takes a day off. Parra, 23, hit .290/.324/.404 in 120 games last season.
• The Diamondbacks released outfielder Tyrell Worthington, a prep football recruit they took a chance on in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, giving him a $220,000 bonus. Worthington hit just .175/.258/.232 in three years of short-season ball.