Choice not yet clear for Rangers' left-field competition

After struggling during 2014, young outfielder has chance to seize role

Choice not yet clear for Rangers' left-field competition

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- While Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo watched batting practice on Thursday, Rangers manager Jeff Banister turned his attention to outfielder Michael Choice.

Banister put his arm around the second-year outfielder and reminded him that there is a job to be won in left field. Choice then went 0-for-1 with a walk in a 7-3 win over the White Sox and is 1-for-10 for the spring.

Choice, who had a minor hamstring issue earlier in camp, will start on Friday against the Giants in Scottsdale. The Rangers would like to see Choice step up his game and become a force in the crowded left-field competition.

"[Banister] was saying it without saying it," Choice said. "I know when I step in that box what is at stake. There hasn't been much in the way of results, but I feel good and my swing is where I want it to be."

Choice was one of the top players in the Cactus League a year ago after the Rangers acquired him in a trade with the Athletics. In 28 games and 65 at-bats, Choice hit .369 with 13 runs scored, five home runs and 17 RBIs.

That earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder. But it was a difficult role for him after being an everyday player coming up through the A's farm system. He ended up playing in 86 games and hit .182 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs.

"Having been an everyday player, I had never been in that situation before," Choice said. "Once I got in that position, it started snowballing and I couldn't stop the snow ball."

If Choice has another big Spring Training, he could win a job as an everyday player. But the competition is fierce and the at-bats may not be as plentiful as they were in 2014.

The Rangers are also looking at Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Carlos Peguero and Jared Hoying in left. Rule 5 Draft pick Delino DeShields could also be considered, along with Antoan Richardson, a career Minor Leaguer with speed who was just added to the 40-man roster.

Throw in Mitch Moreland and Kyle Blanks, who are being used at first but can also play the outfield, and the Rangers have as many as 11 candidates to play left field. That doesn't even count utility-infield candidates Adam Rosales and Ed Lucas, who have also played left field in their careers.

So far, nobody has stepped out and emerged as a clear favorite for the job. That's part of why Banister had his little chat with Choice on Thursday.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.