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Thursday, March 29, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Matt Harrison looks sharp

By Richard Durrett



SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Matt Harrison certainly looks ready for the 2012 season.

The 26-year-old, who was named the No. 3 starter on Thursday, looked the part of an upper-rotation hurler in the Rangers' 6-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Surprise Stadium.

Harrison had all of his pitches working, firing fastballs at 94-95 mph, mixing in an effective curve and changeup and getting ground balls off his slider/cutter.

"I was being aggressive, and that's what worked for me last year, so I'm trying to do that," Harrison said. "I'll come right at you."

Harrison gave up one unearned run on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings. He threw 91 pitches, 64 of them strikes. Harrison's fastball command was solid to both sides of the plate and his off-speed stuff was getting swings and misses Thursday. He now has 14 strikeouts in 16 Cactus League innings. Only Scott Feldman has more (20), and he's done it in 20 innings. Harrison is averaging .875 strikeouts per inning this spring. He averaged .681 last season and has never been a big strikeout pitcher. We'll see if that changes this season.

"I'd rather him get early ground ball outs and stay in there longer," catcher Mike Napoli said.

Harrison agreed. The bottom line: He worked quickly and efficiently and got outs. All 18 of his outs were ground balls, popups to infielders (some of those in the shallow part of the outfield) or strikeouts. He gave up one extra-base, a two-out double to Aubrey Huff in the sixth inning.

"Strikeouts are good, but the main fact of the matter is I'm trying to get outs as quickly as possible," Harrison said. "If strikeouts happen, they happen. I'm not trying to get a strikeout, I'm trying to pitch to contact. I think the more I've been trying to do that the more I've been throwing pitches to get ahead, and the strikeouts have increased."

Utility battle: Both Alberto Gonzalez (2B) and Luis Hernandez (SS) played Thursday, but neither had a particularly memorable night at the plate (a combined 0-for-5). Hernandez had a throwing error with one out in the third, helping the Giants score their first run. But two batters later, Hernandez dove toward the second-base bag and gloved a grounder, starting an inning-ending double play. He ended up with another error in the seventh when he wasn't able to glove a throw and tag a runner out at third.

Long ball: Napoli hit a home run to left-center field. It was his third homer of spring and his third in as many days. Napoli appears to be finding his stroke late in spring. He's expected to catch again Friday, giving him a chance to test his ankle in back-to-back games again.

Last game: Brad Hawpe, from Fort Worth, played his final game for the Rangers. The club released him after the game (they had until 11 a.m. central time Friday to sign or release him). It wasn't because of his bat. Hawpe had actually been swinging pretty well. But he still can't make throws from the outfield, which hurts his value for the club at this time. And he's a left-handed hitter. The team remains in the market for a right-handed hitter who can play the outfield. Hawpe was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Thursday against the Giants.

Hit-and-run attempt: With David Murphy at first base after a walk in the third, the Rangers put on a hit-and-run with Gonzalez at the plate. The Giants pitched out and Gonzalez still made a swing at the pitch, but missed. Murphy was thrown out at second base.

Drought ender: First baseman Mitch Moreland hit a long home run to right field. It was Moreland's first homer since he went deep in the first Cactus League game of the spring for Texas. Moreland was batting .265 coming into the game.

Tateyama gives up lead: After Harrison left after six innings with the Rangers up 2-1, Yoshinori Tateyama couldn't hold the lead. He allowed three runs in the seventh (two of them earned) on four hits. It's the second straight outing that Tateyama has been hit hard. The final three spots in the bullpen are between a left-hander (Robbie Ross, Neal Cotts, Michael Kirkman) and two of these three: Koji Uehara, Tateyama and Mark Lowe. Read more here.

"I thought he was better than his line," Washington said. "We didn't make some plays behind him."

Uehara gives up HR: The reliever came into the game having allowed three home runs this spring (with a 12.27 ERA) and surrendered one to former Ranger Joaquin Arias. Arias isn't exactly a power hitter. But after that, Uehara got the next three batters he faced (two ground balls and a strikeout) and broke two bats in the process.

Uehara allowed five homers in 18 regular season innings for the Rangers last season and then surrendered three more in the postseason. He gave up six homers in 47 innings with the Orioles before the trade. He now has four homers allowed in 8 1/3 Cactus League innings in 2012.

"He got one up to Joaquin and he didn't miss it," Washington said. "He settled down and got the next three out."