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Hamels works on command of fastball

Opening Day starter focuses on honing heater in Minor League game
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Opening Day starter Cole Hamels was sent to the back field on Monday so he could get his work during a Minor League game.

Hamels pitched for Triple-A Round Rock against Louisville of the Reds organization and threw 81 pitches in an outing designed to hone his fastball command.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Opening Day starter Cole Hamels was sent to the back field on Monday so he could get his work during a Minor League game.

Hamels pitched for Triple-A Round Rock against Louisville of the Reds organization and threw 81 pitches in an outing designed to hone his fastball command.

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"I really needed to focus on throwing fastballs," Hamels said. "To be able to hit the pitch count that I needed, throwing predominantly fastballs, creating that life with the fastball, made it something I was able to get a lot out of. I had to worry about executing fastballs and nothing else."

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Hamels went 5 1/3 innings and allowed six runs, five earned, on five hits and four walks. He struck out five. He'll have one more outing in Spring Training before pitching against the Astros on Opening Day, March 29, at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

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"I've got a good feel for my pitches, now it's about creating that 'gear' you get with that fastball," Hamels said. "Sometimes it comes during the season, but really I'd like to have it a little bit sooner without trying to force it. Sometimes, when you don't have the velo, you force it and expose yourself and create bad habits. That's kind of what happened last year."

"As I get older, I know I have to be on my game and be on it a lot sooner than previous years. It's not going to come out of nowhere."

Beltre, Andrus listen to union

Third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus both can be free agents after this season. So they were quite interested to hear what executive director Tony Clark had to say when representatives of the Players Association met with the Rangers on Monday.

Video: KC@TEX: Beltre plates Choo on sacrifice fly to center

"For me, I can go home next year and be fine," Beltre said. "It's not for me but the rest of the guys who are coming up, guys have been sacrificing many years to become a free agent. The market is not what it should be. It was kind of unfair to guys who have been here six years or more and had a good year and couldn't find a job or weren't compensated the way they should."

The slow free-agent market this offseason has been the biggest topic of conversation during these annual team-by team meetings held by Clark and other union representatives. Beltre is in the final year of his contract. Andrus is signed through 2022 but can opt out of his contract either after this season or in 2019.

Barnette scratched

Reliever Tony Barnette was scratched from Monday's start against the Rockies with tightness in his lower back.

"Came in and had a stiff lower back so we went ahead and scratched him," manager Jeff Banister said. "Want to be conservative with him. I don't think it's anything too concerning, not able to go today."

Barnette has appeared in six Cactus League games with a 7.50 ERA. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Brewers on March 13, but hasn't pitched since. Banister said the Rangers should be able to get Barnette ready for the regular season.

Video: NYY@TEX: Barnette closes the door on the 11-5 win

"As long as we can clear it up pretty quickly," Banister said. "We still have the ability to get him back out there and get him going. If it continues to linger, got to reassess it."

Rangers beat

• Right-handed reliever Erik Goeddel, who was in camp on a Minor League contract, has asked for and been given his release. Goeddel had a 6.35 ERA in six appearances and was not going to make the team.

• Pitchers Zeke Spruill and Brandon Cumpton were released from Minor League camp. Both had previous big league experience, Spruill with the D-backs and Cumpton with the Pirates.

• Right-hander Clayton Blackburn has been placed on the 60-day disabled list. He is sidelined with a strained right elbow.

Up next

Right-hander Doug Fister pitches against the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Camelback Ranch. He has not allowed a run over eight innings in his two previous outings in Cactus League games. Jose Leclerc, Chris Martin and Keone Kela are also scheduled to pitch. The game can be seen on MLB.TV or MLB Network and heard on an exclusive audio webcast.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels