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Hamels throws 2 hitless innings in sim game

Rangers taking it slow with pitchers due to long Spring Training
Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers ace Cole Hamels took the mound in a competitive atmosphere for the first time this spring, tossing two no-hit innings in a simulated game on Wednesday. He walked two, struck out one, permitted one unearned run and said the outing was a positive first step.

"It's good to get back in the routine," said Hamels, who threw 39 pitches -- 22 for strikes. "It definitely gives you a little bit more of that game action to build on … You go from throwing indoors and off AstroTurf mounds and to really get out on a mound on the actual baseball field with an actual opponent who's trying to hit the ball off you."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers ace Cole Hamels took the mound in a competitive atmosphere for the first time this spring, tossing two no-hit innings in a simulated game on Wednesday. He walked two, struck out one, permitted one unearned run and said the outing was a positive first step.

"It's good to get back in the routine," said Hamels, who threw 39 pitches -- 22 for strikes. "It definitely gives you a little bit more of that game action to build on … You go from throwing indoors and off AstroTurf mounds and to really get out on a mound on the actual baseball field with an actual opponent who's trying to hit the ball off you."

Hamels went 15-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 200 2/3 innings last season, striking out 200. He led the club in each of those categories.

The lefty is adjusting to a longer Spring Training due to the World Baseball Classic, allowing him to proceed at a slower pace until Opening Day, which he started last season. Last year, Hamels started the fourth game of Spring Training, though he only threw a total of 9 1/3 official Cactus League innings over three outings.

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The Rangers have already played six games this spring, and Hamels' first official start won't come for at least a few more days.

"You have to always be ready for change and the unexpected," Hamels said. "We've really got a plan for what we go out and accomplish this Spring Training, and this is just the way that it falls. Both the coaching staff and myself are really happy with the way it's going to play out and what I have to do and how I need to go about it for the season."

While Hamels may not be getting much work against hitters, he has performed another valuable service: mentoring 2016 first-round Draft pick Cole Ragans (ninth-best prospect in the system), a fellow lefty who grew up trying to copy Hamels' pitching style. Hamels threw and worked out with Ragans on Tuesday.

"We have a lot of guys who are younger and aspiring to be successful big leaguers, and they're always going to look up to the guys that have had success and have been around for awhile," Hamels said. "I guess now it's my turn.

"You see that he has the desire, and that's what you want to see. He's going to have a lot of eyes on him, a little bit more, just because of the situation of being a top pick and obviously the level of play that he has. … I'm sure he'll accelerate up the ranks pretty quickly."

Worth noting

• Relievers Tony Barnette, Keone Kela and Matt Bush faced hitters for the first time this spring in the simulated game. All four had a heavy workload last season, so the Rangers are closely controlling their innings this spring.

Barnette struck out all four batters he faced on 15 pitches (12 strikes). The Rangers let him face an extra batter because his pitch count was so low in his first inning. Bush allowed two runs -- both earned -- on a walk, a strikeout and a hit batsman. He threw 18 pitches (eight strikes) to retire two hitters. Kela recorded a scoreless and hitless inning, walking one and striking out one on 18 pitches (11 strikes).

• Assistant general manager Mike Daly said reliever Sam Dyson, who is out with a mild right wrist strain, continues to improve and will likely throw in a simulated game on Thursday.

• Former National League All-Star Tyson Ross was set for 25 throws from 125-135 feet and 15 pitches from flat ground on Wednesday as he attempts to come back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just one start last season.

• Outfielder Cesar Puello had the day off Wednesday as he dealt with "general leg soreness," according to Daly. Puello, 25, is not expected to miss significant time. Puello, a non-roster invitee this spring, hit .283 with 31 RBIs in 230 at-bats last season for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate. He was a top prospect in the Mets' organization after signing in 2007, but they released him in '15.

• With his career in jeopardy after undergoing left knee surgery for the third time since his last Major League appearance in 2015, Josh Hamilton is in Houston with Dr. Walter Lowe doing post-op rehabilitation for a few days. It'll be six weeks before he can begin running as part of his rehab.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels