A few major spots in the Rangers’ roster remain open as camp winds down. One of the bigger questions, however, appears about set in stone.
Right-hander A.J. Griffin looks as if he’s nailed down the fourth spot in the rotation after another solid performance Thursday.
Granted, it was in a minor league game against High A Down East (N.C.), Griffin was ecstatic with how he feels physically and how well he’s controlling his pitchers, especially his changeup and cut fastball.
His breaking stuff and it playing off the fastball up is the best I’ve seen. He’s walking around like a proud peacock and he should be.
Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail
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“My changeup is the best it’s been in years. Any count I feel I am able to throw it,” he said. “Lots of swings and misses on it. Lots of ground balls on it too.”
Griffin ran out of steam physically in 2016 after busting out of the gate strong with the best April of any Rangers’ starter. He was coming off Tommy John surgery in March 2014 and had hardly thrown in two years.
“Last year, I was still battling a little bit of physical stuff. We got it done but it was at the last minute. Last year I was hoping to get to five innings before they shut me down,” he said. “I feel great now. It’s a huge testament to the guys in the training room. I have been staying on top of doing what I need to do to be prepared. It feels good. It’s exciting.”
Over 5 2/3 innings Thursday, Griffin allowed two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He worked so quickly in the fourth inning, however, that the Rangers had record two more outs.
23 Starts for A.J. Griffin in 2016, his first full season since having Tommy John surgery. He was 7-4 with a 5.07 ERA in 119 innings.
Pitching coach Doug Brocail was impressed.
“His breaking stuff and it playing off the fastball up is the best I’ve seen,” Brocail said. “He’s walking around like a proud peacock and he should be.”
With a year under his belt since surgery, Griffin said his overall strength is allowing him to repeat his pitches more consistently.
“I feel 100 percent better than last year,” he said. “I am able to get the direction and place my ball where I want. I have the confidence with the delivery synced up I can throw any pitch in any count.”