Chi Chi, Griffin state strong cases for rotation

Rangers starters both pitch well in split-squad routs

Chi Chi, Griffin state strong cases for rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- The Rangers swept a split-squad doubleheader on Thursday but the two fifth-starter candidates on display battled to a draw.

A.J. Griffin, pitching against his former team, held the Athletics to one run in five innings in the Rangers' 12-1 victory at Hohokam Stadium. Griffin's performance came hours after Chi Chi Gonzalez pitched five scoreless innings in a 12-5 win over the Reds back in Surprise.

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Griffin was 21-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 47 starts for the A's from 2012-13 before missing the past two seasons because of Tommy John surgery and subsequent shoulder issues.

Thursday night was the strongest evidence yet Griffin's physical problems are no longer an issue. He allowed four hits, including a solo home run to Khris Davis, struck out four and walked one. He induced two double-play grounders and also survived a hard grounder off his left leg by Josh Reddick in the first inning.

"I feel a lot stronger and ready to pitch every fifth day," Griffin said. "I'm excited how I feel. We've been building up my pitch count in Spring Training and I got up to five innings. That's exciting to go out and qualify for a win."

The second double play came in the fifth inning. Griffin had retired seven straight hitters going into the fifth before allowing a leadoff single to Davis and a walk to Jed Lowrie. Griffin then got Chris Coghlan to hit a sharp grounder at first baseman Ryan Rua, who made a nice stop and fired to second to start the double play. Shortstop Hanser Alberto's relay to first just beat Coghlan and Griffin finished the inning by getting Yonder Alonso on a groundout.

"I thought Griffin threw the ball well," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Spotted his fastball well, in and out. One pitch, a breaking ball, he left it up for a home run. But for the most part, he maneuvered his pitches, competed and gets out. He showed some toughness staying in the game after getting hit in the leg."

Banister was just as effusive in his praise for Gonzalez, who allowed one hit, walked three and struck out two.

"I think by far that was the best outing by Chi Chi this spring," Banister said. "More strikes, quality strikes, executed pitches, kept the ball on the ground for the most part. The three walks were a little problematic. We've got to clean that up. I felt the action on all his pitches was better today."

Left-hander Cesar Ramos took over for Griffin and pitched three scoreless innings.

Worth noting:

• Reliever Keone Kela pitched one scoreless inning in a Minor League game Thursday afternoon, allowing one hit and striking out two. He threw 13 pitches.

• The Rangers have not announced their starting rotation to begin the season. But rignt now they have it lined up with Cole Hamels pitching the opener, followed by Martin Perez, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland. Then would come the fifth starter.

• Hamels and Nick Martinez are scheduled to pitch Friday night against the Padres. It will be Hamels' second Cactus League start. His other three have been in Minor League games. Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman are scheduled to pitch in Minor League games.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for 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.