Two Rangers outfielders will be receiving MRIs on Monday for leg ailments. Hunter Pence left today’s game in the fifth inning after suffering right groin tightness while chasing a fly ball. Pence was in right field in place of Nomar Mazara, who received a day off after coming out of Saturday’s game early due to right knee soreness. Mazara told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (article links) and other reporters that he has been dealing with the issue for a couple of weeks, though curiously, the injury “doesn’t hurt during games, more when I am just standing around,” the outfielder said.
Of the two injuries, Rangers manager Chris Woodward said “If I was a betting man, I would assume Hunter” would be the one heading to the injured list, if the team was forced to make a roster move. Mazara’s MRI sounds more precautionary in nature, and Woodward noted that the younger outfielder was already feeling better on Sunday.
If only one player hits the IL, Texas has a replacement ready to go in Willie Calhoun, who is finishing off a rehab stint from his own injured list stint from a left quad strain that has sidelined him since May 22. If both Mazara and Pence have to miss time, the Rangers’ outfield wouldn’t be shorthanded for long, as Joey Gallo is roughly a week away from recovering his rehab from an oblique strain, though the team is expected to be cautious with Gallo. These twin IL returns were lining up as a potential roster crunch situation for the Rangers in the outfield/DH mix, though this problem could be put off for a while longer if Pence and/or Mazara end up injured themselves.
An IL visit would interrupt the feel-good story that is Pence’s comeback season, as the popular veteran is hitting .294/.353/.608 with 15 homers over 215 PA. It seemed as if Pence’s career was winding down following subpar years with the Giants in 2017 and 2018, but after overhauling his swing in the offseason, Pence signed with Texas on a minor league contract and has suddenly delivered one of his very best seasons. Some regression is inevitable, as Pence’s .396 wOBA far exceeds his .368 xwOBA, though even the latter figure is more than respectable.
While Pence is overachieving at age 36, the 24-year-old Mazara has still yet to break out in his fourth Major League season. Considered one of baseball’s top prospects heading into the 2016 season, Mazara is hitting .265/.316/.435 this season, which is just about in line with his overall career numbers over 1995 PA in the big leagues. Between this lackluster offensive production and subpar defensive metrics, Mazara has only a 1.5 fWAR to show for 486 career games. One bright spot from this year’s numbers is a 45.2% hard-hit ball rate, easily the best of Mazara’s short career, though is also walking less and has a career-high swinging strike rate.