"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 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."
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.