Hamels getting work in on back fields

Ace lefty defers Cactus League innings to rotation battle

Hamels getting work in on back fields

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cole Hamels, the Rangers' expected Opening Day starter, has pitched in one Cactus League game and faced just seven batters.

But Hamels said he is getting what he needs accomplished in his Minor League outings.

"I have been able to go down there and catch extra hitters if I need it or [cut it short] if I can't get out of an inning," Hamels said. "I still get my work in and take it seriously. Those other guys are trying to get a hit and make a team. The competition is there."

Hamels pitched for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday against Omaha on one of the back fields. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits with nine strikeouts. He allowed two home runs and did not walk a batter.

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The Rangers have not announced their rotation for the season, but Hamels is positioned to pitch on Opening Day against the Mariners. He has two starts remaining before that, with the goal of getting up to 6-7 innings and 90 pitches.

Ciriaco extends streak
Rangers infielder Pedro Ciriaco went 1-for-2 in a 5-1 loss to the Angels on Sunday, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Ciriaco is batting .500 (18-for-36), the highest average among qualified Major Leaguers this spring.

Ciriaco is a seven-year veteran who has played with the Pirates, Red Sox, Padres, Royals and Braves. He is trying to make the team as a utility infielder who can play the outfield if needed.

"I've got experience with Pedro," manager Jeff Banister said. "He has played well. He is very versatile and can do a lot of different things. We talk about having guys with different skill sets and helping the team win. He can certainly do that."

Hanser Alberto is still the leading candidate to be the Rangers' utility infielder. But they are also considering Alberto to play every day with Jurickson Profar at Triple-A Round Rock.

"I go back and forth on it a little bit," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We are going to talk more on that and other things."

Worth noting
• Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson faced six batters in the sixth inning and retired just two hitters. He also allowed a single and walked three in his 25 pitches.

"He was a little quick down the mound and out of sync," Banister said. "It was a little challenging for him to get in a rhythm with all his pitches."

• Left-hander Andrew Faulkner pitched two more scoreless innings and has not allowed a run in six Cactus League appearances. This was the second straight outing that Faulkner has pitched two innings.

"You've got to love the way Faulkner is pitching," Banister said. "He has got a great demeanor on the mound and four pitches in the strike zone."

• The Rangers committed five errors on Sunday, the most for them in a Cactus League game this spring.

"It was one of those Spring Training games where we weren't in great rhythm on defense," Banister said. "We've seen other teams go through that too. We're not making excuses, we'll show up tomorrow on the back fields and continue to work on things to tighten up the defense."

• Outfielder Nomar Mazara left the game with a bruised big toe on his right foot. X-rays were negative and he will be re-evaluated on Monday.

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