Left-hander Cole Hamels was back pitching in a minor league game Tuesday, and once again the young hitters gave him something to work on his next time out.
A group of Kansas City Royals minor leaguers scored four first-inning runs against Hamels, who failed to record an out before the inning was halted after a walk to the fifth batter. The inning started with an error, a stolen base, a broken-bat single, a walk and a three-run homer.
The competitor in Hamels didn’t like the results, but he knows it’s spring training and he was still able to accomplish what he was seeking to do. He threw all of his pitches, a change from past springs in an effort to have more urgency at the start of the season.
“Being able to throw all of my pitches to each part of the zone, I think that’s something that was really key, especially off-speed pitches,” Hamels said. “Like always, I still need to fine-tune location.”
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Hamels’ takeaway from the first inning is that he needs to be more focused early in his next start. He also had trouble spotting his fastball on the inner half to right-handed hitters, something that he said will be ironed out by Opening Day.
“I know it’s something I’ll be able to do eventually,” Hamels said. “I think that’s what will be the focus of my bullpen. It’s getting comfortable with guys in the box, getting an understanding of where to pick your location and throw. You don’t necessarily want to hit guys, but if you’re throwing balls over the middle because you’re not quite getting in, you’re going to have to find that middle ground. I think that’s where I’m at.”
Throwing all his pitches this early in camp is something he hopes will help him be better once the season starts. He has a 3.95 April ERA in his career, the highest of any month.
“This year it’s more coming in and trying to grind a little more during spring training when I’m actually pitching in the games,” Hamels said. “I think that comes with throwing the pitches early. In previous springs, I’ve slowly broken out each pitch every week. This spring I’m pitching out the pitches right at the beginning.”
Desmond getting defensive
The Rangers continue to be impressed with how quickly Ian Desmond is adapting to left field after spending his entire career as a shortstop, and Desmond is pleased with his progress.
Desmond had his best test Monday at Goodyear Ballpark, where he tracked down two fly balls, was upset with his jump on a ground double down the line, and dived but just missed a blooper that fell for a two-out RBI single.
“I’m going to make sure I try to catch everything in that situation there,” Desmond said. “All the mental stuff was there, which was good. When I don’t know what pitch is coming, that makes it a little more difficult for me. Out in left is kind of a guessing game, and you really have to get to know your pitchers and what sequences they like to use.”
Manager Jeff Banister said that Desmond’s arm will impress and already thinks it is elite.
“I don’t know if there’s a better left-field arm in the game,” Banister said, while also mentioning Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes.
Odor better, scratched
Rougned Odor took batting practice Tuesday with the rest of the team for the first time since being slowed by a strained right oblique March 8, but the Rangers have taken the second baseman off their travel roster for games this weekend at San Antonio.
“This is day seven or eight, so in seven days he’s probably missed three days of game work,” Banister said. “He’s still swinging the bat. There’s still plenty of time to get him up and going and ready to go by Opening Day as long as he hits all the checkmarks in health.”
▪ The Rangers have their only off day of the spring Wednesday. It’s possible that a pitcher could find himself in a minor league game, Banister said, and some players will come in for treatment. However, there are no scheduled team activities.
▪ Jeremy Guthrie allowed only two hits in 4 2/3 innings with six strikeouts in a minor league game as he continues his bid for the fifth spot in the rotation. Relievers Shawn Tolleson, Tom Wilhelmsen and Keone Kela also pitched in the High A game.