Maddux expects better focus, execution from pitchers

Maddux expects better focus, execution from pitchers

OAKLAND -- Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux had a stern message for his pitchers on the second day of the season.

"We need to tighten up our focus on the mound and execute pitches," Maddux said, one day after the Rangers lost, 8-0, to the Athletics. "Opening Day is over. We need to focus on what we're doing and make good pitches. Last night, we gave up one hit on a good pitch. All the other hits came on mistakes."

Maddux's message was a recurring theme for the Rangers' staff in Spring Training. The Rangers finished the spring with a 6.14 team ERA in Arizona, the highest of any Major League team.

Then on Monday night, the Rangers allowed eight runs on 11 hits and four walks against the Athletics in the first game of the season.

"That is always going to be the message," manager Jeff Banister said. "That is never not going to be the message. Every year you hear it from every manager and every pitching coach. The one thing they talk about is the capability of the pitching staff to get ahead, continue to pound the strike zone and put hitters away. That continues to be the message, and it gets reinforced.

"It becomes problematic when you're pitching behind. You put yourself in big trouble when you pitch behind."

Worth noting

• Pitcher Tanner Scheppers, who is on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday back in Texas without any issues. He is expected to pitch for Double-A Frisco Thursday on medical rehab assignment and could get 3-5 outings before he is ready to return to the Rangers' bullpen.

• Pitcher Nick Tepesch, who was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock at the end of Spring Training, will start the season on the DL with nerve irritation in his right elbow. Tepesch had a similar injury in 2013. He will be shut down for three weeks before he begins a throwing program.

• With Tepesch out, the Round Rock rotation is expected to be Chi Chi Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, Anthony Ranaudo, Wandy Rodriguez and Ross Wolf. The Frisco rotation is expected to include Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson and Andrew Faulkner. Victor Payano, who had an impressive spring, and Jose Leclerc, will share the fifth spot.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.