Rangers A.J.Griffin hopes to attack early to keep pitch count down
A.J. Griffin is set to start the Texas Rangers’ first-half finale Sunday against Minnesota, and the right-hander is well aware of the rotation’s current inability to pitch deep into games.
Entering Saturday’s late game against the Twins, no starter had gone at least five innings in seven straight starts. It’s the longest such stretch for any club since the Colorado Rockies in 2012, but Griffin said that can’t be part of his thought process.
“It’s been tough lately, but we have a good team here and we like our chances every time we take the field against another squad,” he said. “I try not to worry about all those other things you can’t really control. That stuff has already happened.”
He hopes to get ahead of more hitters and get quicker outs. High pitch counts and long innings have been an issue recently for the Rangers.
“We faced two clubs [Twins and Red Sox] with extremely disciplined hitters,” manager Jeff Banister said. “They don’t chase. They make you throw strikes, so they’re going to force you back into the strike zone, and if you try to pitch on the edges all the time you’re going to run high pitch counts.”
Plus, Banister said, all rotations have peaks and valleys, even those without the injuries the Rangers currently have (Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish).
“You get to a point where guys have made so many starts and thrown so many pitches, hitters have seen them a number of times — maybe they’re not as sharp as they were,” Banister said. “Maybe there’s a little downward tick. Then you’ll see elite pitchers, good pitchers, start to trend back upwards and start to plateau off.”
Griffin hopes being more aggressive will help minimize his pitch count. He threw 96 pitches Tuesday in four innings against the Red Sox — the most he’s thrown in three starts since returning from the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness June 25.
“Get ahead of everyone and try to minimize the three-ball counts,” said Griffin, who is 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA this season. “That’s kind of what has been killing us. We’ve been going to a lot of three-ball counts. Try to get guys in swing mode early and go from there.”
First baseman Mitch Moreland was back in the lineup Saturday night for the first time in a week.
Moreland had made just two pinch-hit appearances since July 2 due to tightness in his right calf. He said he was finally healthy enough to start Friday and entered the game in the seventh and played first base.
Banister limited Moreland’s playing time to give him more time to heal. He also was concerned that the injury might alter Moreland’s stance in the batter’s box as he compensated for the pain. It’s an assessment Moreland agreed with.
“Absolutely. And on top of it, we’ve got the All-Star break and those four days to give it even more time to get back to 100 percent,” Moreland said. “I’m close enough where I feel like I can go out there and still do my job.”
Kela at Frisco
Right-hander Keone Kela pitched a hitless inning for Double A Frisco on Saturday night. He threw 13 pitches and had one strikeout. It was his second rehab appearance in the minors. He’s scheduled to pitch another inning for Frisco on Sunday.
Yu Darvish is scheduled to throw 75 pitches in his second rehab start since going on the DL June 9 with right shoulder discomfort.
Left-hander Martin Perez will likely start Friday’s second-half opener against the Cubs in Chicago. The Saturday starter is not set yet, but left-hander Cole Hamels is slated to pitch Sunday.
Darvish, if deemed ready, or Griffin would be the top candidates to pitch Saturday.