He also cut down the number of walks. He walked 3.9 batters per nine innings as opposed to the 5.4 batters per nine innings as a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies.But he also gave up 83 hits in 73 2/3 innings and his 14.42 baserunners per nine innings was the 14th highest in the American League. That was the result of being up in the strike zone too much. Basically, during his great stretch run, Tejeda overpowered hitters. He came back from the Minor Leagues in August with a fastball that was clocked in the 93-97 mph range. By doing that, Tejeda was able to get away with pitchers that were up in the zone. But when his fastball is 90-92 mph, then he becomes far more hittable. If he makes 32 starts for the Rangers this year, there are going to be nights when his fastball does not have maximum life. It happens to all pitchers. "When he doesn't, those are nights where he needs to compete and give us six innings instead of three or four," Connor said. "That's what becoming a pitcher is all about." That's why it's imperative that Tejeda work on his location, keeping the ball down and working the corners. The Rangers also want him to improve his breaking ball. Connor called it a "work in progress" and Tejeda struck out 4.89 batters per nine innings, which was the 24th lowest in the league. A full Spring Training will help. Tejeda spent much of last spring sitting in the Dominican Republic bullpen during the World Baseball Classic and getting little chance to work on his game. It took him about three months during the regular season -- both in the Majors and Minors -- to work his way back into the pitcher the Rangers expected when they gave up David Dellucci for him at the end of Spring Training. "Last year was very hard for me," Tejeda said. "Coming back the way I did at the end was a big confidence boost for me after I had problems early. That proved who I am and that pushed me to work even harder. Now, with Spring Training, it will be better from the beginning and I can start off well." The home opener against the Boston Red Sox would be a good place to begin.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less