Mazara relishes spring starting assignments

Mazara relishes spring starting assignments

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nomar Mazara, the Rangers No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com, started in right field on Saturday for the second straight game.

Manager Jeff Banister said circumstances dictated Mazara getting two consecutive starts and he is not being evaluated for the possibility of making the Opening Day roster.

"No," Banister said. "That would be a stretch. Every club has players that come over and play in Major League games. It's a valuable experience for those guys."

Mazara played in right field because Shin-Soo Choo is sidelined for at least a couple of days with tightness in his left triceps. The Rangers are also short on outfielders because so many made the trip to San Antonio, including Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Peguero, Jake Smolinski and Jared Hoying, for a split-squad game against the Dodgers.

"Obviously, we want to protect them and make sure they have enough players," Banister said. "That left us thin on the number of players here."

Mazara won't turn 20 until April 26. But the Rangers have never been shy about pushing players through their system. Rougned Odor was three months past his 20th birthday when he was called up on May 8 last season.

Mazara spent most of last season at Class A Hickory, hitting .264 with 19 home runs and 73 RBIs in 106 games. That earned a late-season callup to Double-A Frisco, where he was the youngest player in the Texas League. Mazara played in 24 games for the Roughriders and hit .306 with a .381 on-base percentage and a .518 slugging percentage.

Mazara is rated as the 55th best overall prospect by MLB.com. The Rangers signed him in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic with a $4.95 million signing bonus.

"It's good they have high expectations for me, but I don't feel any pressure," Mazara said. "I just want come up and do what I normally do. I don't want to put any extra expectations or pressure on me. Just show them what I can do."

Mazara wouldn't mind it if the Rangers wanted to keep him around for good. He is not on the Rangers' official Spring Training roster, but neither was Nick Martinez last year when he made the Opening Day rotation.

"Of course, that's what everybody dreams of, to come up and play in the big leagues," Mazara said. "But I'm up here to learn and get better. I'm very proud to be on the big league team to get experience and learn from some of these guys."

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.