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Grounders boost Lyles' confidence on mound

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jordan Lyles' results were mixed at best, but he saw enough good in his performance Sunday against the Dodgers.

Lyles, competing with left-hander Franklin Morales for the final spot in the Rockies' rotation, gave up three runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Dodgers. The performance rose Lyles' ERA from 1.13 to 2.92.

"I can say I feel pretty good with where I'm at physically and what I've done on the mound all spring," Lyles said.

The good was Lyles forced seven groundouts. A Carl Crawford leadoff double in the fourth, which was hit along the ground into the right-field corner, led to a two-run fourth that also included Juan Uribe's two-out double. Lyles walked A.J. Ellis behind Uribe but ended the frame by forcing a Dee Gordon grounder.

Lyles, who pitched the past three seasons with the Astros, is trying to end a negative pattern of having good work overshadowed by one big inning. But when his chance came to escape trouble, his day was done.

Lyles walked Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu to open the fifth, and admitted he might have let up. After a Yasiel Puig popout, Crawford singled. It was then that manager Walt Weiss removed Lyles because he had reached his pitch limit.

"We'll stretch it out to maybe 80-85 pitches next time out," said Lyles, acquired with outfielder Brandon Barnes for center fielder Dexter Fowler in November. "But I feel great. When guys are on base, I've been getting guys to hit the top of the ball this spring. Keeping the ball down has been pretty easy for me so far. If you keep getting ground balls, you'll get out of those jams."

Lyles is confident he can escape trouble. In the fourth, one of the runs scored on Adrian Gonzalez's single that rolled through the middle of the infield.

Weiss spoke favorably of the performance.

"Really, leadoff walk and the ball he got up and got hit [by Uribe] were the only two blemishes," Weiss said. "Other than that, he threw the ball really well. He pitched well with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He's worked on some things, created some angle, is staying over the rubber a little longer and is getting some positive results from it."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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