Gil LeBreton

‘Domination’ not a concern for Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister

Pitcher Cole Hamels has a 10.38 ERA, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister is more concerned with the ace’s health and workload than numbers.
Pitcher Cole Hamels has a 10.38 ERA, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister is more concerned with the ace’s health and workload than numbers.

Not every Cactus League exhibition game ends up 13-12.

Not every spring training fly ball lofted into the Arizona sky ends up sailing into the right-field senior citizens tent.

It only seems that way.

Truth be told, sometimes good pitching does prevail in the desert’s high altitude and dry heat.

As on Sunday, for example, when Oakland’s Kendall Graveman went seven innings and allowed only four hits and one run to a Kansas City lineup that included Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez.

The Texas Rangers are still waiting for a dominating pitching performance like that. But manager Jeff Banister seems content to make the best of what he’s seen so far.

No set of numbers are more sketchy than Cactus League earned run averages. Nonetheless, Cole Hamels’ ERA on Easter Sunday morning was 10.38. Colby Lewis’ was 10.24.

Was Banister concerned?

“No,” he answered without hesitation. “In spring training you’re looking at the health and upping the pitchers’ workload to get them where they need to be.

“And you can have ‘dominating’ performances within the outing.”

A scoreless inning here, a few back-to-back strikeouts there — that’s the anecdotal evidence that makes the Rangers’ case so far.

Banister saw a few moments of that “domination” Wednesday when Derek Holland pitched five scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs. Holland allowed only four hits, walked one and struck out seven.

On Thursday, A.J. Griffin enjoyed a similar outing against his former team, the Athletics, pitching five innings and allowing four hits and one run.

Lewis shrunk his ERA Sunday afternoon by going 6 2/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowing four runs, two of them on solo homers. All in all, it was a typical Colby Lewis performance.

“Dominating performances are nice to see,” Banister observed. “But does it concern me? No.”

No one is concerned about Hamels, of course, whose pedigree is secure. Encore outings by Holland and Perez, likewise, would quell the where’s-the-pitching talk.

One respected baseball observer who watched the Rangers over the weekend, however, wondered aloud about the club’s mound depth, especially until Yu Darvish can return.

It’s a valid observation. From afar, Perez is still a 24-year-old kid trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. Holland’s career has been marked by inconsistency, and he’s only started 15 games over the past two seasons.

If both Perez and Holland pitch the way that they have in the past, the Rangers will be solid American League contenders.

If they falter, the parade is likely off.

The club thought it had some pitching depth, with young arms such as Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez blending with free agent veterans Jeremy Guthrie, Griffin and Cesar Ramos.

But only Griffin appears to have seized the spring training opportunity and staked a claim for the No. 5 starter spot. And Griffin also is trying to come back from elbow surgery, making him somewhat of a work still in progress.

Banister is embracing a more positive viewpoint.

“Martin Perez has an opportunity to be better than he was last year,” he said. “And he was pretty good last year.

“Derek missed the better part of two years, but all indications say he will have the consistency of starts that will allow him to be better, too.

“Plus, our offense this year and our defense have the opportunity to allow them to be better.”

Banister isn’t seeing zeroes this spring. Few managers in hitter-friendly Arizona ever do.

He’s not concerned. The national baseball media doesn’t seem so sure.

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