Hamels focuses on fastball location vs. Giants

Hamels focuses on fastball location vs. Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cole Hamels got back into the official groove of Spring Training on Saturday in the Rangers' 7-5 win over the Giants. Well, sort of.

The left-hander, who is expected to start Opening Day against the Mariners and serve as the Rangers' staff ace, made his first career Cactus League start and his first Spring Training start for the Rangers, despite a minor stomach ailment.

The results showed some rust and maybe a shred of discomfort -- 1 1/3 innings, one hit, one earned run, two walks, one strikeout, one home run on 32 pitches -- but the goal was accomplished: begin the progression to get the veteran ready for April, and, the Rangers hope, a typically stellar Hamels season.

• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

Hamels laughed when he heard he threw 32 pitches.

"I would have to say about 27 were fastballs, and what, about 12 of them were in the dirt?" he said.

"It's just all about just trying to make sure that I have the right type of balance, controlling your arm slot, and that's kind of where I was. At least I was able to get good feedback today from [pitching coach Doug] Brocail and even [backup catcher Bobby Wilson] and [starting catcher Robinson Chriinos], of what I can work toward for the next [bullpen session]."

Hamels came to Texas from the Philadelphia Phillies in an eight-player Trade Deadline deal last July 31, and he has three more years on his contract plus a club option for 2019. The Rangers invested $73.5 million in the 2008 World Series MVP for the remainder of his Phillies contract in hopes that he'll be part of a lethal one-two rotation punch once Yu Darvish returns from Tommy John elbow surgery, a return not expected until mid-May.

On Saturday, Hamels labored in a 26-pitch first inning, walking Kelby Tomlinson but then looking good with a strikeout of perennial National League MVP Award candidate -- and one-time winner -- Buster Posey.

He came back out for the second inning and was greeted by a first-pitch homer to center field off the bat of Giants left fielder Mac Williamson, then got a Conor Gillaspie flyout to end his work day.

"I think [it was beneficial] being able to get up, down about three times -- warming up, getting in a routine pregame, kind of getting in synch with the game, just developing that routine," Hamels said. "Obviously, when I go out there, I've got a lot to work on, and a lot of it will be just pitch after pitch, developing the muscle memory, the repetition.

"But first and foremost, my goal for spring is to always be able to locate the fastball. I wasn't able to do that as much, and that's kind of where you base all your pitches off of. … I think that's kind of where I was trying to aim for, and I had a lot of misses, but it's something that I'm going to go toward in my bullpens."

Rangers manager Jeff Banister agreed that it might not have been pretty, but it was effective for the big picture.

"Obviously Cole was a little bit under the weather," Banister said.

"But he still wanted to go and get his work in. He obviously went out there and grinded through it to get some work in, but I felt like Cole threw the ball well."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.