Soto back in action ahead of schedule

Soto back in action ahead of schedule

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Geovany Soto returned to the Rangers lineup Thursday, his first start since having surgery Feb. 22 to have a bone removed from his left ankle.

The plan for Soto was to catch four innings Thursday, take Friday off and catch five innings Saturday. The Rangers will probably repeat that plan next week and then decide if Soto is ready to play in back-to-back games. He was originally planning to make his debut Saturday but felt good enough to play Thursday.

"I have been testing it all week and I feel good," Soto said. "Why wait a couple of days? First and foremost I need to get as many at-bats as possible. The next week or so, I'll go to the Minor Leagues and get us some extra at-bats and get game ready. We've still got time but it's go time."

The Rangers still expect him to be ready for Opening Day and get the bulk of the catching time in the early part of the season. J.P. Arencibia was signed during the offseason to be Soto's backup but Robinson Chirinos has taken advantage of Soto's absence to get club officials to notice him. He was 7-for-15 going into Thursday's game against the Giants.

"Chirinos has been very impressive," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Arencibia, who was the Blue Jays' starting catcher the past three seasons, hasn't enjoyed the same success at the plate. He was 3-for-22 with six strikeouts in his first eight Cactus League games.

"It hasn't been as good as Arencibia would like it," Washington said. "We'll keep working and keep giving him at-bats and try to get it worked out."

Arencibia is still likely to be the backup catcher going into the season with Chirinos pairing with Brett Nicholas at Triple-A Round Rock. But the Rangers are still keeping an open mind about a number of areas and catching is just one.

"Everybody has got to show something," Washington said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for 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.