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Fister happy with strong Cactus League debut

Rangers working with Calhoun in left field; Minor unfazed by bad-luck inning
Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Doug Fister's first Cactus League outing was quick and painless, as the fast-working veteran zipped through three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out two, in the Rangers' 10-7 loss to the Mariners on Sunday.

"Getting in a game definitely feels good again, knocking some rust off, getting in some deep counts," Fister said. "It just came down to pounding the zone and letting our defense work."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Doug Fister's first Cactus League outing was quick and painless, as the fast-working veteran zipped through three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out two, in the Rangers' 10-7 loss to the Mariners on Sunday.

"Getting in a game definitely feels good again, knocking some rust off, getting in some deep counts," Fister said. "It just came down to pounding the zone and letting our defense work."

Fister recorded two quick outs, walked the third batter and got a groundout for a sharp first inning. He then erased a leadoff single with a double-play ball in the second. Fister struck out the first hitter in the third, allowed a single and then got a fielder's choice grounder and a liner to third base to finish his outing.

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"Good arm action, really good sink on the fastball [and] I thought the breaking ball showed up well for him," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

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Baseball's emphasis on speeding the pace of play is just fine with Fister, whose own internal pitch clock keeps things moving at a steady clip when he's on the mound. Fister, 34, has consistently been one of the fastest-working pitchers over the past few seasons, clocking in under 20 seconds between pitches.

"I want to get up there and go," Fister said. "I don't want to give the hitter any more time than he can to think about it. They're going to step out on me, they're going to take their time, but as soon as I'm ready, I'm going to go. For me, tempo is not only an attack method, but it also keeps me in rhythm. If I get too slow, I get a little awry."

Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nationals in 2014 but has gone 22-29 with a 4.58 ERA since then, including one season each with Washington, Houston and Boston. Signed as a free agent by Texas, Fister has spent the offseason and early part of Spring Training working on some mechanical changes to make his delivery more like it was early in his career.

"It's something that I'm constantly working on, trying to get that timing back down," Fister said. "I moved over on the first-base side of rubber and I really try to cross-step. I rely on sink and deception. I really have to show my hitter the back and that kind of blocks him off the ball. So when I can do that, it allows me to get a little bit of sink on the ball and to really rely on that ground ball."

Calhoun getting reps in left
The Rangers continue to work intensively with Willie Calhoun to improve the 23-year-old's fielding ability and mold him into a serviceable Major League outfielder. Calhoun is known more for his offensive power than his defensive prowess. He was a second baseman when he came to Texas last year from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade.

Calhoun, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, started in left field in Sunday's game against the Mariners and will probably start the next two games there, Banister said.

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"We've seen what he can do in the batter's box," Banister said. "We've got him on a speed program, a footwork program early, a defensive program. We'll probably see him three days in a row here in the lineup in left field just to see the progress of seeing the ball off the bat, high sky, stands, things like that and how he maneuvers. He's doing all right."

Calhoun said he is getting more comfortable with the outfield thanks to a daily regimen of "power shagging," also known as chasing down fly balls during batting practice, and working with outfield coordinator Dwayne Murphy.

"I'm feeling good about it," Calhoun said. "I'm ready to take the next step."

Minor feels good after bad-luck inning
Lefty Mike Minor battled through an uneven outing Sunday, allowing five runs (two earned) on three hits and a walk in just two-thirds of an inning, as he fell victim to a couple of defensive miscues. Minor threw 25 pitches in the game and went to the bullpen to finish his work, throwing 18 more pitches there.

"I actually felt really good, a lot better today than last time," Minor said. "I had a couple of [potential] double-play balls [and] a broken-bat hit. I felt pretty good. I was spotting my fastball and I threw some good changeups in there, got a couple swings and misses off that, which is my fourth pitch that I've been working on."

Up next
Lefty Matt Moore will make his second start of the spring as the Rangers take on the Giants in Surprise on Monday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Moore threw two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut Feb. 28, retiring six of seven batters. The game can be heard through an exclusive audio webcast on rangers.com.

Dave Sessions is a contributor for MLB.com.

Texas Rangers, Willie Calhoun, Doug Fister, Mike Minor