Rua, Mazara among candidates to replace Hamilton

Rangers have several internal options but will consider some free agents

Rua, Mazara among candidates to replace Hamilton

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With Josh Hamilton headed to the disabled list, the Rangers aren't sure who will be their 2016 Opening Day left fielder.

But among the possible alternatives are their 2015 Opening Day left fielder and their expected 2017 Opening Day left fielder.

The Rangers are going take a close look at Ryan Rua and Nomar Mazara in Spring Training.

"When a player goes down, it opens the door for the entire group of outfielders," manager Jeff Banister said. "They'll get extra at-bats."

Rua's catch at the wall

Rua won the Opening Day job last year by hitting .297 with a .547 slugging percentage in the Cactus League. Rua had also hit .295 with a .419 slugging percentage in 28 games for the Rangers the previous summer, so he appeared ready to break out. Instead, he sprained his right ankle during the home opener, and a subsequent examination discovered a non-displaced fracture in the heel. He missed over two months, lost his job in left to Hamilton and never got going either with the Rangers or Triple-A Round Rock.

"It was just good to go home and put it behind me," Rua said. "I had never been out that amount of time before and never struggled like that. It was a learning year, more mentality than physical, watching these guys up here, how they go about their business and what it takes to be successful up here."

The Rangers would like to see him show what he did last spring.

"He is more than capable," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "It was unfortunate for him he had the bad ankle and never got untracked. But it looks like he came into camp in good shape. He looks strong but not as bulky. He looks athletic."

Top Prospects: Mazara, TEX

Mazara is currently the No. 2 prospect in the Rangers system according to MLBPipeline.Com, and he posted a .284/357/.443 slash line with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs at Double A Frisco. He also hit .358 in 20 games at Triple-A Round Rock at the end of the season.

He is only 20 and is supposed start the season at Round Rock. But things can change quickly. Rougned Odor was only 20 when he showed up for Spring Training in 2014, and he ended up playing in 114 games for the Rangers that season.

"When you get an opportunity, you have to have the confidence you can do your job and have fun," Mazara said. "I don't make the decisions, it's up to them."

The two are hardly the only internal candidates. Justin Ruggiano is a seven-year veteran with 455 games played, a career .256 batting average and a .436 slugging percentage. The Rangers also want to look at James Jones and Patrick Kivlehan, two of the players they picked up from the Mariners for outfielder Leonys Martin. Rookie Lewis Brinson is another possibility. Joey Gallo played in 19 games in left field last year, although the Rangers would prefer for him to concentrate on third base.

The Rangers could also go outside. They remain in touch with David Murphy, and have been rumored for a long time to have some interest in Austin Jackson. Others like Shane Victorino or Alex Rios are not on the Rangers list.

Agents have been calling the Rangers daily, trying to sell their clients. But any deal will likely include only a Minor League contract.

Worth noting

• Pitcher Yu Darvish threw 20 pitches on Wednesday off the half-mound. It was second time off a half-mound this week for Darvish, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

• Reliever Luke Jackson is day-to-day with tightness in his lower back.

• The Rangers only intrasquad game is scheduled for Monday.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.