Griffin fighting for rotation spot

Retooled offseason workout reveals fitter, stronger righty

Griffin fighting for rotation spot

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For the second straight year, Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin enters Spring Training having to win a spot in the rotation.

He may be better equipped to do so this spring. He has lost weight, smoothed out his delivery and is one year more removed from the arm injuries that sidelined him for almost all of 2014-15.

"Arm-wise I feel better than I have in ages." Griffin said Tuesday as pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training. "I'm actually excited to throw the ball again."

Rangers ready for 2017

Griffin won a job as the fifth starter last spring even though pitching coach Doug Brocail helped remake his delivery. He was 3-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his first five starts but came down with shoulder inflammation and spent six weeks on the disabled list while continuing to work on his delivery.

He was 4-4 with a 5.91 ERA in 17 starts after returning on June 23 and was not on the postseason roster.

"I was way smarter about my throwing program this offseason," Griffin said. "I built up better this year and focused on my whole body. Last year I was pulling off my pitches [to the left] and putting pressure on my shoulder. Now I'm staying on top of the ball and driving straight downhill."

The Rangers have five starters in Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. But there is an opening for at least the first month of the season because Ross is recovering from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Beyond that, nobody knows what the Rangers will need.

"It's the same as every year," Griffin said. "I usually go to Spring Training battling for a spot. I'm going to try my best and leave it all out there."

Wagner ready to compete: The Rangers are intrigued by right-hander Tyler Wagner, and he is ready to compete for a spot in the rotation. Wagner, claimed off waivers from the D-backs in November, missed the last three and a half months of the 2016 season with a strained muscle in his right side, but he enters the spring at full strength.

Wagner's play at the plate

Wagner was a fourth-round pick by the Brewers in 2012 out of the University of Utah and was rising quickly through their system. In 2015, he was 11-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 25 starts in Double-A and had three starts with the Brewers before being traded to the D-backs.

The strained muscle derailed him last year but the Rangers are eager to see him pitch this spring.

"I feel good I have this opportunity," Wagner said. "They see something in me and claimed me, now I need to do a job."

Hoying turns down Korea: The Rangers took outfielder Jared Hoying off the 40-man roster in December by non-tendering him a contract. Six days later he re-signed with the Rangers on a Minor League contract, turning down other possible opportunities, including one in Korea.

"There were some other teams calling," Hoying said. "But the way we did the deal, the Rangers said, 'We want you, this is going to happen and we want you back badly.' That worked for me. What they offered me was great. I didn't think twice, I said, 'Let's go play.'"

Hoying is in camp trying to win a spot off the bench as a reserve outfielder or frontline insurance at Triple-A.

"I love to play baseball," Hoying said. "Just do what I do and see how the cards shake out in the end."

Rangers beat:
• Perez said he is expecting to start Venezuela's second game of the World Baseball Classic against Italy on March 11. Seattle's Felix Hernandez is scheduled to start the first game on March 10 against Puerto Rico.

• Rangers pitchers and catchers held informal workouts on the fields while general manager Jon Daniels, manager Jeff Banister and their staffs met behind closed doors for the second straight day. The first official workout is Wednesday.

Connor Sadzeck said he has been told he is coming into camp as a starting pitcher. Sadzeck, who pitched at Double-A Frisco last season, is one of the hardest throwers in camp, but there are no plans yet to move him into the bullpen.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.