Ludwick in crowded OF mix with Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ryan Ludwick has played outfield for the Oakland, Texas, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati organizations in his 16-year professional career. So he took it as a compliment when at least a couple of those clubs -- he won't reveal which -- expressed interest in bringing him back for a second go-round when he hit the free-agent market over the winter.

"It's cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on," Ludwick said Sunday. "I guess that means I'm somewhat of a decent guy."

The road ultimately took Ludwick back to Texas, with which he broke into the majors as a 23-year-old prospect in 2002. He's 36 now, intent on showing he still has something left in the tank and seasoned enough in the ways of baseball to understand that whatever he achieves will be strictly on merit.

After signing a minor league deal with the Rangers in early February, Ludwick is part of a crowded outfield picture in Surprise. While the Rangers are set in right field with Shin-Soo Choo and center with Leonys Martin, they can go in any number of directions after that.

Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua and Michael Choice are in the mix for the left-field job, and the Rangers are taking a look at Delino DeShields, who came over from Houston via the Rule 5 draft in December. DeShields, a real flyer, stole 101 bases in the minor leagues in 2012. He can play center field -- a valuable attribute given the Rangers' need for a backup to Martin -- but still needs to show he can hit at the big league level.

In addition, the Rangers brought in Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz, another veteran in camp on a minor league contract.

The Rangers are hoping for the 2012 version of Ludwick, who hit 26 homers and slugged .531 for the Reds three years ago. Things went south after that, when he missed most of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury and hit .244 with nine homers in 357 at-bats last season.

Ludwick and Schierholtz both made positive first impressions with two hits each in an intrasquad game at Surprise Stadium on Sunday. But it's likely the Texas outfield picture will take a while to come into focus. It's an open competition, and that was made plain to Ludwick in his early conversations with general manager Jon Daniels and manager Jeff Banister.

"I've always been up for a challenge," Ludwick said. "When you look at my career, it's never been an easy road. There have been a lot of injuries, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of different teams.

"They were 100 percent honest with me. There will be no free passes over here, and I understand that. I wasn't expecting a free pass. I'm here to work and see what I can do. Hopefully, it's enough. If it's not, I'll have to re-evaluate the situation and go from there."