SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Expectations are low for a pitcher's first spring training start. That game is generally understood as the time when they work on their command and seek to improve or add pitches to their repertoire.
Even with that understanding, Matt Harrison wasn't pleased with his 2013 spring debut for the Texas Rangers after giving up four earned runs and six hits in one inning against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
"It certainly wasn't how I wanted my first outing to go," Harrison said. "I was having a lot of trouble making that inside pitch when I was ahead in the count. I wasn't putting pitches where I wanted to today."
Harrison said he was working on his slider, which is his fourth pitch. As a groundball pitcher, a slider would be a valuable additional weapon for the left-hander. However, after going 18-11 last season with a 3.29 ERA and ranking among the American League leaders in numerous pitching categories, getting hit hard while working on a fourth pitch isn't going to sound the alarms.
"I threw a few more sliders than I normally would and it's a pitch I want to work on, but in those situations I probably should have just stuck with what I have done best," Harrison said. "I wasn't making the pitch, but I kept forcing the issue with the slider.
"It's the first game. It's early in camp and we have a lot of games left. It's something I want to work on now and if it doesn't work, I have time to bank it and go back to what has been successful for me and go with that for the rest of the season."
If you did want to find one point of concern, it was the number of pitches Harrison left up in the zone. Of his 40 pitches, 25 were strikes, but Harrison found himself often pitching from behind, which meant he had to focus more on getting the ball over the plate. Unfortunately, he was finding too much plate at times and getting the ball up, which the patient Royals jumped all over.
"I thought the ball was getting out of his hand well, he was just getting lit up," said Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington. "When he got it up, they didn't miss it. He wasn't able to get his sinker into play and they didn't chase anything down, so when he left it up, they didn't miss."