Game thoughts: Lewis, Holland, Murphy

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The mound once again took center stage on Saturday for the Rangers as Colby Lewis and Derek Holland pitched back-to-back in preparation for the season.

While Holland is fighting for a starting spot, Lewis already has a slot in the rotation. But it was important for Lewis to put together a solid outing after struggling in his prevous start.

"I don't want to go out and get knocked around and give them second-guesses about me," Lewis said, referring to club officials.

Lewis was better on Saturday, bouncing back from wobbly start. Lewis gave up one run on two hits and a walk to the first four batters he faced, but then settled down. He got 13 of the next 16 batters with his only blemish a 3-2 pitch left up to Jason Repko, who hit it for a solo homer.

"I felt things were working a lot better than the last time," Lewis said. "Everything was a lot sharper than my last outing, that's for sure. I was able to command my fastball down and away, which was big for me. I feel like I'm getting the innings I need to get in. I feel I'm getting on track, definitely."

Lewis had some trouble the first time he faced the top of the Dodgers order, which on Saturday featured five lefties in a row. Lefties have had some success against Lewis during his time in the majors, but he played the last two years in Japan, so it's tough to put much stock in the previous numbers. We'll just have to see. Lewis got through them the second time out, putting together a solid outing.

"It's been fun to watch and see how he competes and he competes," manager Ron Washington said. "He's got good stuff. He moves the ball around a little bit and throws strikes."

Holland came in for his four innings of work after Lewis in an effort to keep pace for one of the final two rotation spots. Holland allowed plenty of ground balls and faced some tough luck, making his line misleading. But he'd like to have couple of pitches in the seventh inning (his second inning) back.

The 23-year-old committed a baseball no-no by walking the leadoff hitter in the seventh, Jason Repko. He then got ahead 0-2 on Chin-lung Hu before falling behind 3-2 and giving up a ground ball single. Holland benefitted from the ball hitting Repko for an automatic out. But he couldn't get out of trouble. Lucas May hit the first Holland pitch he saw for a double to drive in a run. Holland faced four more batters and got out of the inning allowing two runs. He got some ground balls, but his fielders had some difficulties or dealt with strange hops that kept the inning going. Holland ended up throwing 30 pitches in the inning.

"Other than that one inning where the hard ground helped some stuff out and the double he gave up, I thought Derek did well," Washington said. "His second inning of work, he started using his changeup a little bit more, but he was mainly fastballs, sinkers and changeups. He threw a few breaking balls. He's getting there. He came in and gave us four."

Holland said he feels like he's just about caught up after a minor knee injury near the beginning of spring training set him back a week. And he was pleased overall with his Saturday outing.

"I feel good about it," Holland said. "I got the ball down and got the ground balls and I made my pitches when I needed to. But the only bad thing I see was I fell behind a couple of times and that cost me. One pitch cost away from me and they got some runs from it."

That was the double by May (on a 2-0 changeup that Holland said he threw a little too hard) that David Murphy said he thought he could have played a little deeper on.

Other game observations:

* Big day at the plate for OF David Murphy with a first-inning homer to right field on a 1-1 pitch and a triple off the wall in right-center in the fourth. Murphy is third on the team in number of Cactus League at-bats and was hitting .216. One of manager Washington's challenges this season will be finding at-bats for Murphy. To Murphy's credit, it's something he isn't worried about. He was just glad to hit the ball on Saturday after struggling some this spring.

"It's a timing thing," Murphy said. "My timing is very finite to the point where if I'm a little late, I'm going to be struggling. The timing was good in the cage today and I was able to carry that into the game."

Murphy admitted he is "slightly uncomfortable" at center, but is getting better. Washington said he would be OK with playing Murphy in center sparingly if needed, but that Josh Hamilton is his backup center fielder to Julio Borbon.

* 3B Matt Brown worked with Washington before Saturday's game on finding his balance before making throws. He did that nicely on a ball hit to him in the second inning, getting to a tough hop and throwing to Chris Davis, who made a nice dig to get the out. Brown also had a home run to left, fighting back from an 0-2 count to get it full before hitting his second long ball of the spring. He's in competition for one of those final roster spots and is playing well of late.

* C Taylor Teagarden caught James Loney at second base on what appeared to be a busted hit and run in the fourth.

* SS Joaquin Arias made a good throw to get a runner in the sixth and nearly had another nice play two pitches later, except that he couldn't get the ball out of his glove on a tough grounder.

* 2B Esteban German did not have a good relay throw on a double hit by Lucas May. Holland was alert and was able to get to the ball, which was thrown between third and home.

* C Max Ramirez threw the ball high to second on what should have been an easy out. The runner stopped, thinking he was going to be caught, and Ramirez ran toward him, double clutched and couldn't make the play.