As innings pile up, Rangers keep watchful eye

As innings pile up, Rangers keep watchful eye

As innings pile up, Rangers keep watchful eye
ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland head into unknown territory as far as innings pitched, and there are concerns how they're handling the workload in their first full seasons as starters.

The Rangers have four veteran pitchers on their staff who have been in that position, and all four were all able to make the transition without buckling under from the increased workload. Most notable was C.J. Wilson, who went from 73 innings as a reliever in 2009 to 204 last season as a 15-game winner.

"I've been around and that helped me, I know how long the season is," Wilson said. "Mechanically, you really have to be at the top of your game. If your mechanics are intact and you're hitting your spots, it doesn't matter if your velocity is low.

"It's not going to help if you reach back and try to throw harder if you throw it down the middle. [It's] better to go with your offspeed stuff and hit your spots. You've got to be a pitcher; you can't out-throw people right now. It only takes one swing of the bat to ruin your night, so you can't take your focus off for one pitch."

Darren Oliver made the same journey as Wilson did, throwing 49 innings as a reliever in 1995 and 173 over 30 starts as a 14-game winner for a division championship team in '96.

"August is always tough. You just have to find a way," Oliver said. "You're going to go out there not feeling the way you did in April and May, so you have to do different things. Maybe pitch backwards, find different ways to get people out, or alter the things you do between starts and not throw as much on the side. The only way to do it though is to go through it. I can talk to people until I'm blue in the face, but the only way to go through it is by trial and error. The good ones figure it out."

Scott Feldman was a middle reliever from 2005-07 and then went to the rotation in '08. He pitched 151 innings that season and then 189 in '09 while winning 17 games.

"Just about everybody I've seen here has a good work ethic," Feldman said. "You just do your best to stay fresh, get your rest and get your work in between starts. I think everybody is still doing that. In '08, my velocity dropped off at the end of the year, and in '09, I felt fine the whole time through."

Colby Lewis had been a starter in Japan, so his transition last year wasn't as dramatic. But he went from 176 innings in Japan to 201 with the Rangers in the regular season, and he continued to stay strong in the playoffs. He was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four playoff starts.

"Last year, I felt great," Lewis said. "I feel like when it gets crunch time, your adrenaline takes over. You feel run down a little bit and then your adrenaline kicks in. It's all or nothing. When it comes down to close games, your adrenaline takes over and you're not concerned about how you feel."