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Harrison happy to be back, vows to be better

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was excited to get back on a Major League mound Wednesday night after an almost 14-month absence.

He just wasn't quite as thrilled with the outcome and a 7-4 loss to the D-backs, especially giving up five runs in the second inning.

"I was definitely excited from the get-go," Harrison said. "It just kind of stunk that I didn't keep my team in the game early. I put them in a hole, and we just couldn't get the big hit to get out of it. I'll try to get better next time and go from there."

When it was over, Harrison allowed six runs in four-plus innings in his first start since last May 13, with a long recovery from spinal fusion surgery in between starts. He allowed six hits, three walks and struck out one while throwing 78 pitches.

"The entire story of the night was Matt Harrison being able to overcome the adversity, 14 months and not knowing if he would be able to ever pitch again," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I'm sure Matt went through some long lonely hours in the bullpen, on the back fields, the training room, at home. I'm proud of the trek he has been through to get back on the mound and pitch in our ballpark."

Harrison said there were some nerves warming up in the first inning, but he was able to calm down after a leadoff single by Nick Ahmed and retire the next three hitters.

"The second inning is what killed me. Just didn't make the pitches where I needed to," Harrison said. "I left some offspeed pitches up in the zone, and they made me pay. But I felt a lot better after that. But I just threw a lot of pitches and got behind in a lot of counts. So that kind of ruined my night."

Harrison started the second inning by getting Welington Castillo on a fly to center, then walked David Peralta and retired Aaron Hill on a fly to right. But Jake Lamb, Cliff Pennington and Ahmed followed with three straight singles to bring home two, and A.J. Pollock followed with a three-run home run.

"I definitely wasn't at my best," Harrison said. "I made some mistakes, and I've got to be better at getting ahead of hitters and being more aggressive."

Harrison doesn't have the same fastball as he once had. He averaged 92 miles per hour in his 18-win season in 2012 but he was in the mid-80's on Wednesday night, with a high of 88. He was throwing harder than that during his Minor League rehab assignment.

"The movement was there, down in the zone,' Harrison said. "Hopefully the velocity will get better as we go along."

Harrison pitched a scoreless third and fourth inning before leaving after a Pollock single to lead off the fifth.

"It was definitely fun to be back out there competing with these guys," Harrison said. "I didn't know if it was gonna happen, but today I was out there and happy to be back out there. I've just got to be better -- a lot better than I was tonight."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.
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