Hamels 'more comfortable' as strength builds

Rangers starter efficient in Minor League game

Hamels 'more comfortable' as strength builds

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Indians were denied a sneak peek at Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels on Wednesday in advance of seeing him in the first week of the regular season.

Hamels is expected to be the Rangers' starter against the Indians in either the first or second game of the Major League season, so on Wednesday he avoided them in the Cactus League. Instead, he was pitching for the Down East Wood Ducks and having little trouble with the Lake Elsinore Storm on Field Six.

Spring Training info

That's where they were playing the Minor League game between two Class A teams, and manager Jeff Banister said Hamels wanted to work in a controlled game more than looking to avoid facing the Indians. In Minor League games, innings can be controlled and brought to an end if a pitcher throws too many pitches.

There was no need for that as Hamels was efficient in his three innings, dispatching the Storm in 41 pitches. He allowed one run on three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three.

"I think being able to get out there and get up to game speed was good," Hamels said. "My bullpen before the game was really good. I put in a lot of work leading up to this game and I was focused on staying with it. I had good mechanics and the ball was coming out more in front with all three pitches. I felt a lot better today.

"Everything I have been doing with my workouts, my body has been building up. I am a lot more comfortable going out there and working my game plan. Having my body strong behind me allows me to pitch numerous innings and build up my pitch count."

The Rangers have not announced who will be their Opening Day starter. All that's known right now is if Hamels continues to pitch every fifth day, he will make three more starts in Spring Training and be in line to pitch the second game on April 4.

Yu Darvish is the other option for Opening Day. His next start is Saturday against the Reds. He has three starts left in Spring Training and that would put him in perfect position to be the Opening Day starter.

Banister isn't ready to decide that, not when there are still 17 days left before Opening Day. Most important is Hamels getting everything in sync for the regular season.

"I know I need to throw four to five pitches effectively on both sides of the plate," Hamels said. "If I can do that and gain the right repeating with my mechanics, that will allow me to get into a groove. My mechanics were a lot smoother today and the ball came out of my hand with more action. If you don't throw 97, you've got to have late explosiveness on your fastball. The velocity will get better but you've got to be able to locate."

The Rangers also used four Major League relievers in a Class A Minor League game. Wesley Wright, Keone Kela and Matt Bush pitched a scoreless inning for Class A Hickory against Fort Wayne, while R.J. Alvarez allowed a run in his inning.

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.