SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' two prized pitching acquisitions made their Spring Training debut on Thursday. The results? Harden threw 29 pitches in two innings and Colby Lewis threw 11 in one inning. "I'll take 200 of those all year long," said Lewis, who set down the side in order in the third inning in the Rangers' 13-3 victory over the Royals on Thursday.
"Overall, for the first day I was pretty happy with the way it went," Harden said. "The big thing is throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of hitters. It's Spring Training, good or bad, you just want to get your work in and prepare for the season. Championships aren't won in Spring Training." No, but Thursday's work in the Cactus League opener was a reminder of a crucial factor in what both need to do this season to be successful. They need to keep their pitches-per-inning count at reasonable levels. Harden, signed during the offseason as a free agent, averaged 17.7 pitches per inning last year for the Cubs. That was the seventh-most for any pitcher in the Majors with at least 120 innings. That left him averaging 5.4 innings per outing over his 26 starts. Harden was only able to pitch at least six innings in 15 of 26 starts. By contrast, Roy Halladay averaged 14.2 pitches per inning for the Blue Jays, the lowest in the American League. He ended up averaging 7.5 innings per outing and went at least six innings in 30 of 32 starts. "Whether it's a long inning or a short inning, the key is getting ahead of hitters," Harden said. "I've always been good at falling behind 2-and-0 and 3-and-0 and then coming back. But that leads to high pitch counts."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.