Jurado proves worthy of another look after loss

May 19th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Ariel Jurado seems pretty clear in his mind about starting every fifth day for the Rangers.

“I’m ready,” Jurardo said. “If they give me the opportunity, I’ll be ready.”

The Rangers appear determined to give Jurado that chance after what they saw in an 8-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Jurado ended up taking the loss, but left Texas manager Chris Woodward with a desire to see more of the same the next time out.

Jurado was making his first start for the Rangers after eight relief appearances and was being limited to approximately 75 pitches. He needed just 55 while holding the Cardinals to just one unearned run through his first four innings.

The Cardinals ended up breaking the game open with three off him in a five-run fifth -- two earned runs -- but two of those scored after reliever Jeanmar Gomez took over and couldn’t shut down the rally. That didn’t change Woodward’s impression of what he saw from his starter.

“I think he did a really good job, especially not being built out to throw 80-90 pitches,” Woodward said. “He was up to [76] today. Next time out he will obviously get deeper in his pitch count but even at the end he was throwing the ball pretty good. He was in command the whole day. I thought he did a really good job for us."

Jurado was effective following the plan laid out with pitching coaches Julio Rangel and Oscar Marin in the offseason. He is no longer totally reliant on his power sinker but also has a high fastball to go with it and better command of his offspeed stuff.

Jurado used his sinker 56.4 percent of the time last season and the high fastball just 13.8 percent of the time. The sinker is still his best pitch, but the usage is down to 46.5 percent while the high fastball is up to 28.1, according to Statcast.

Last year opponents sat on the sinker and hit .326 off it. That has dropped to .235 this season.

“That’s pretty much it, and the intent behind his pitches,” Woodward said. “He’s not relying on his sinker like he used to and adding the four-seamer at the top of the zone has not only helped his sinker get better, but he now has the swing-and-miss capability that he didn’t have in the past. The ability to throw the offspeed in any count allows him to get into the count with strikes, and then he can use the sinker and the high fastball effectively.”

Jurado did not have much swing-and-miss ability at the big league level last season during his eight starts and four relief appearances with the Rangers. He had 3.62 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. So far this season he is averaging 6.06 strikeouts per nine innings and the strikeout-to-walk ratio is 5.50.

“I felt very comfortable on the mound today,” Jurado said. “I was executing all my pitches so I felt good.”

Jurado was moved into the rotation to replace Shelby Miller, who was moved into the bullpen after going 1-3 with a 9.51 ERA in eight starts. Miller’s move to the bullpen may be temporary but there is no doubt Jurado is going to be given an extended look in the rotation if he continues this progress.

Santana leaves gameUtility player Danny Santana, who started at shortstop on Saturday, left the game in the ninth inning after being hit by a pitch from Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez. Santana was hit in the right ankle by a 95.9 mile per hour fastball.

Santana was helped off the field by Woodward and trainer Matt Lucero. X-rays were negative but Santana said afterward that “it hurts a lot.”

The Rangers will see how he feels on Sunday but he could miss at least a couple of games.