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Mazara has stiff neck; Lincecum progressing

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

HOUSTON -- Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara was out of the lineup on Saturday with stiffness in his neck, although the hope is he will only miss one game.

Mazara tweaked the muscle in the back of his neck in a sixth-inning at-bat on Friday against Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole. Mazara struck out in that at-bat, but he beat out an infield single in the eighth.

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HOUSTON -- Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara was out of the lineup on Saturday with stiffness in his neck, although the hope is he will only miss one game.

Mazara tweaked the muscle in the back of his neck in a sixth-inning at-bat on Friday against Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole. Mazara struck out in that at-bat, but he beat out an infield single in the eighth.

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"It got stiff overnight," manager Jeff Banister said. "He came in early to get treatment and it's getting better. It's kind of tough for him to turn and see the baseball. Obviously, he's not a starter today. If we can get him to be a player off the bench, that would a plus. But he is not a player right now."

With Mazara down, the Rangers were left with a two-man bench of catcher Robinson Chirinos -- who was getting a day off -- and outfielder Carlos Tocci. Mazara entered Saturday hitting .302, but he had just one home run, two RBIs and a .377 slugging percentage.

Lincecum progressing
Right-hander Tim Lincecum, who is on the disabled list because of a blister on his right middle finger, said he felt good in Friday's bullpen session and will have another on Sunday.

That session could determine if Lincecum is ready to go out on a rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco. He has not pitched in a game since the Rangers signed him on March 7, although pitching coach Doug Brocail said Lincecum is getting close.

"We are starting to see some velocity," Brocail said. "He is getting to his release really well and getting through the ball. He was happy with it. It was nice to see him smile."

Colon ready to return to rotation
Bartolo Colon will have a formidable opponent when he returns to the Rangers' rotation on Sunday. He will be matched up against Astros right-hander Justin Verlander in a battle of former Cy Young Award winners. Colon won the award with the Angels in 2005 and Verlander with the Tigers in 2011.

Video: TOR@TEX: Colon K's four across two scoreless frames

It will be Colon's first start since April 2, when he allowed one run in six innings against the Athletics. He was placed in the bullpen after that and his last appearance was Tuesday against the Angels when he allowed one run in three innings in relief. He replaces Doug Fister, who is on the disabled list with a strained right hip muscle.

Colon should have at least 2-3 starts to show the Rangers he belongs in their rotation permanently.

"I don't think about me," Colon said. "This is about the team. I can't think about myself. I have to be prepared to help this team as much as I can."

This will be the first time a Rangers regular-season game has featured two former Cy Young Award winners since 1981 when Ferguson Jenkins pitched against the Yankees' Ron Guidry.

Rangers beat
• Banister said he is going through his roster trying to have casual 1-on-1 conversations with each of his players. These are not momentous meetings, Banister is just trying to stay connected and in communication with each player.

"Again ... clarity," Banister said. "When you don't have enough clarity, there is not enough production in the field and in the clubhouse, production as a human being. When there is high clarity, there is high production."

• Banister on the possibility of Delino DeShields -- who has been sidelined since March 30 because of a broken bone in his left wrist -- beating the original prognosis of being out 4-6 weeks: "I wouldn't bet against it, but I would be cautiously optimistic about it."

Video: TEX@HOU: DeShields runs the bases before the game

• First baseman Ronald Guzman and infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa both made their first big league starts on Friday night. The last time two Rangers made their first MLB start in the same game was on Sept. 5, 1990, (pitcher Scott Chiamparino and catcher Bill Haselman).

• The Rangers signed infielder Nick Noonan to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock. He played in 83 games with the Giants and Padres in 2013 and 2015-16. The club was looking for infield depth after promoting Kiner-Falefa to the big leagues.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Bartolo Colon, Delino DeShields, Tim Lincecum, Nomar Mazara