Roof open, Lyles dazzles with better curve

July 18th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- ' curveball showed up on Friday night, and that made the difference in six strong innings during the Rangers' intrasquad game at Globe Life Field.

Pitching for the Fort Worth Wonders in a 5-1 loss to the Dallas Black Giants, Lyles allowed two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out six. He threw 93 pitches. Lyles had allowed eight earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over his two previous outings in Summer Camp.

“The previous two outings here weren’t great, but I knew I still had time to get my curveball and offspeed a little better,” Lyles said. “Today, my curveball was the best it has been. That’s a plus for me. That’s my bread and butter. I’m not the same pitcher without my curveball. Much better stuff in the right direction.”

The Rangers have three off-days in the first 11 days of the season. Manager Chris Woodward previously brought up the possibility of skipping Lyles through the first turn in the rotation.

That’s still a possibility, but Friday’s outing may have presented a case for letting Lyles make his first start in the Rangers' fifth game. Woodward said the Rangers will sit down with Lyles and discuss it before making a final decision.

“That was good to see,” Woodward said about Lyles’ performance. “He felt better about it. I talked to him prior to the game, he said he was going to let it rip from Pitch One. He felt like he was able to do that today. The hitters said he had a lot more bite on his curveball and his fastball had a lot more behind it.”

The one caveat about the outing is that the Rangers played with the roof open for the first time, and the 6:10 p.m. CT start made it difficult for hitters to see early. The game was scoreless through four innings before Lyles gave up two runs in the fifth.

“It will be a little bit of adjustment for our hitters,” Woodward said. “It almost seemed like the ball carried a little better. The biggest thing was the backdrop, the batter's eye was a little bit gray, a little bit light. The umpire [Lance Barrett] complained about it a little bit that he couldn’t see.”

Woodward wanted the roof open for the first time on Friday just to see how the park will play. But most Rangers home night games will start at 8:05 p.m. CT to accommodate West Coast opponents, and it will likely be a while before the weather is cool enough to have the roof open.

Calhoun, Chirinos updates
Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun is showing improvement with his strained right hip flexor, but Woodward is guarding against rushing him for Opening Day.

“I am still going to try ... to get Opening Day out of his head,” Woodward said. “I don’t think with his injury that’s a smart thing for him to think about. I want to make sure he is fully healthy when he returns. The soft-tissue muscular injuries tend to linger. If you try to come back too early, you risk straining it again.”

Calhoun has been sidelined since his hip flexor tightened up during Monday’s intrasquad game. During that same game, catcher Robinson Chirinos exited after rolling his right ankle. He seems to have a better chance of being ready for Opening Day than Calhoun.

“Robbie is in a good place,” Woodward said. “He hit yesterday. He is walking around normal. His strength is good. If they tape it up, if he had to play Game 7 of the World Series, he would probably play today. I think he’s going to be OK. I don’t know if Opening Day is the target date. I’m kind of optimistic that might happen.”

Rangers beat
• Woodward on rookie outfielder Leody Taveras making the team off the bench for his speed and defense: “There is a lot of value in that. Just the way he fits with speed and defense. He understands what the role would be."

• Nick Solak, starting in left field, went 2-for-4 in Friday’s intrasquad game and is now 14-for-39 (.359) in 13 camp games. He also had a diving catch in the second inning on Taveras’ line drive.

• Left-hander Kolby Allard, pitching in relief, allowed one run in three innings and struck out six. Both he and Joe Palumbo are candidates to be in the Rangers' bullpen to start the season, while Joely Rodríguez and Brett Martin are on the injured list.

• Allard allowed the only run given up by Dallas pitchers. Jeff Mathis had a fifth-inning home run off him. Right-handers Cody Allen (who started the game), Jimmy Herget, Ian Gibaut and Derek Law each pitched a scoreless inning.