PHOENIX – With Eloy Jiménez entrenched in left and Luis Robert about a month away from making his highly anticipated major league debut in center, the White Sox probably don’t have to worry about two-thirds of their outfield for at least the next five years.
They’ve turned their attention to getting it right in right field, and Nomar Mazara gets the first audition.
“Mazara’s 24 years old, he already has [four] years of experience in the big leagues, he’s a left-handed power bat who does significant positive offensive contribution against at least right-handed pitching,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Given the control of a couple of years and the price points that he comes with, we think it’s a nice fit within the other things that we wanted to accomplish on the roster.”
Acquired in a Dec. 10 trade from the Rangers for minor league outfielder Steele Walker, Mazara has big power from the left side. He averaged 20 home runs and 77 RBIs a season after debuting with Texas in 2016 at the age of 21.
Being traded initially startled Mazara.
“It’s a little different when you’ve been with a team for a long time,” he said. “I was there since I was 16 years old, and it was a really good organization to me. But I can’t really get caught up in that. It’s baseball. This is a new beginning, and I can’t look at that anymore. I have a fresh start with my team here.”
If he shows he can hit left-handed pitching and stays healthy after dealing with a nagging thumb injury last season, Mazara is going to be seeing a lot of Robert and Jiménez in the Sox’s outfield this year and beyond.
In 2019, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder hit .288/.344/.500 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs against right-handed pitching. One of his homers was a 505-foot shot off the Sox’s Reynaldo Lopez.
Against left-handed pitching, Mazara’s slash line dipped to .220/.252/.394 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
Mazara has been working on his approach against lefties in the early days of spring training.
“You don’t have to get a hit to have a positive outcome,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “If you have a good at-bat, a good swing, a nice approach against a particular pitcher, that’s inching forward to where you want to be. We’ll continue to find ways to see if we can help him continue to develop that side of the plate in terms of the pitcher, the lefty.
“And, hopefully, we can get him in a position where he’s confident enough to get himself a good at-bat and help us.”
There are serious doubts whether Mazara is going to be a regular in the Sox’s lineup because of his numbers against left-handed pitching and subpar defensive play.
If Mazara doesn’t pan out, he’ll at least buy some development time for minor league outfielders such as Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and Luis Alexander Basabe.
Needless to say, Mazara sees himself sticking around with his new team.
“I’m still 24, and I still have room to grow,” Mazara said. “I keep working on my body, defense, hitting, on everything. I’m ready to take that next step.
“If you look back and see my second half, I had some really great approaches, and I’m really looking forward to putting that in place this year.”