Gabbard progressing toward season

Gabbard progressing toward season

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers No. 4 starter is feeling much better about being ready for the start of the season. His pitching coach feels the same way.

Both were upbeat after Kason Gabbard went five innings in a Minor League intrasquad game on Wednesday, allowing two runs, one earned, in five innings while pitching for Double-A Frisco against Triple-A Oklahoma hitters.

"That's the best he's thrown," said pitching coach Mark Connor, who watched along with bullpen coach Dom Chiti from behind home plate on a day when the Rangers supposedly had the day off.

But this was Gabbard's day to pitch so he did just that, throwing 70 pitches on a hot afternoon at the Rangers' training complex.

"He's been making strides and today was the Gabby we saw last year before he got hurt," Connor said. "His mechanics were better, he was getting down the hill, the ball was sinking, his curveball was curving, everything was crisper.

"It was good for his confidence to get people out, but we wanted to see quality pitches and we did. He has struggled with his command and it's been frustrating for him, but today he had command of three pitches."

Gabbard has a 12.66 ERA this spring in Cactus League games, but any concerns over that seemed to melt away in Wednesday's bright desert sun. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out one.

The Rangers' biggest concern is Gabbard has been having trouble throwing his sinking fastball where he wants it. He was able to do so on Wednesday.

"I felt awesome," Gabbard said. "I felt great. I've felt the same way every other start but today we worked on my arm slot more -- not dropping down -- and my [sinker] felt great. The last inning I got a little tired, but I had a pretty good curve and a pretty good changeup. I was pretty happy with it."

Gabbard is scheduled to pitch on Monday against the Cubs and then the final exhibition game against Frisco in Frisco on March 29. That will be put him in line to start the fourth game of the season against the Angels in Anaheim.

"Two more starts and I'll be ready to go," Gabbard said. "It's all up to them how much they want me to throw, but when the season starts I should be ready. Right now I have the confidence I can go out there and compete."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.