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Inspired Mazara has 'a ton of room' to grow

@scottmerkin
July 12, 2020

CHICAGO -- When White Sox fans put together their 2021 dream lineup, there’s inevitably an All-Star free agent or two on their wish list to occupy the spot in right field. But those same fans shouldn’t overlook Nomar Mazara, the team’s current right fielder acquired from the Rangers during a

CHICAGO -- When White Sox fans put together their 2021 dream lineup, there’s inevitably an All-Star free agent or two on their wish list to occupy the spot in right field.

But those same fans shouldn’t overlook Nomar Mazara, the team’s current right fielder acquired from the Rangers during a Winter Meetings deal in San Diego. Mazara brings with him three seasons of 20 home runs and a 2019 campaign featuring 19.

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It’s certainly good production when factoring in 308 RBIs over those same four years with the Rangers. Then again, Mazara understands baseball is all about, "What have you done for me lately?" so even having just turned 25 on April 26 and still in the early stages of his career, he knows the fans want more.

“There’s a ton of room for me to grow,” Mazara said Sunday. “I’m ready to take that next step. I’m 25. I have four years in the league, but I’ve been doing the same over and over and over. They always are going to want more. That’s the bottom line.

“I’m not mad about it. Let’s say if I hit 30 homers this year or next year, the next year they are going to be, ‘You hit 30 last year? Let’s hit 35 or 40.’ That’s how it’s always going to be. I’ve been doing the same exact number for four years, so people are waiting for me to take the next step. I’m in the right place, and I’m ready for it.”

The left-handed-hitting Mazara has performed considerably better in his career against righties, slashing .271/.337/.462 against them compared to .231/.272/.361 vs. southpaws. When Mazara was first acquired, there were even ideas of him being part of a right-field platoon although the White Sox strongly believe in his everyday ability.

Adjustments were made under the guidance of hitting coach Frank Menechino, and Mazara changed the positioning of his hands in his swing and tried to stay behind the ball and up the middle. His biggest goal is stay calm with his hands instead of all the movement, and that work has continued with Menechino during Summer Camp.

In Saturday’s intrasquad game, Mazara fouled off three good pitches against left-hander Carlos Rodón before singling to center. So, even in that small sample size, the work is paying dividends.

“Don’t try to go all crazy in the batter’s box and just keep it simple, because I’m a big guy with long arms,” the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Mazara said. “If I go all the way around, I have no chance with guys throwing 98 [mph] with movement. Make it simple as possible. Yesterday was one of those days where after the first swing I knew it was going to be OK.”

“We made some adjustments with Mazara, and he's taken to them, and he looks really good,” Menechino said. “And his rhythm, his bat path is really cleaned up, and I'm really happy with what he's doing. I can see a sense of confidence in him just by the way he does his work, the way he's going about his business. I'm really pleased with what he's doing, and so is he.”

There’s an abundance of talent within Mazara’s game, as shown by a 505-foot home run he launched off White Sox starter Reynaldo López last season in Texas. With this strong White Sox lineup from top to bottom, Mazara won’t be relied upon all the time. All of these factors might line up to make Mazara a key cog in this transition to contention during this 60-game season and beyond.

“He’s in an amazing position to continue to help us, and help us win and be productive in this lineup,” White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said. “He’s figuring out his body, what he can and can’t handle, and the adjustments he has made. It’s nice to see.”

“I have it in me, I believe, and I am working my [butt] off to get to the next step,” Mazara said. “Me and Frankie are talking every day. It looks so much better than it was. We’re going to work every day to make it better. There’s always still room for us to grow, no matter how young you are or old you are. That’s the way I look at it.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.