SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -- Making his first start for his hometown Texas Rangers, Jason Jennings was more nervous than he had been in a long time -- even though it was only spring training in Arizona.
"I wanted to make a good impression for my new teammates, my new coaches, new management," Jennings said.And Jennings, who signed with Texas after an injury-plagued season and surgery in Houston, did by pitching two scoreless innings Sunday in the Rangers' 8-7 comeback victory over the Kansas City Royals."He really made easy work of his two innings," manager Ron Washington said. "Anytime you haven't been out there in a long time, it's not nervousness. It's just energy wanting to get going."Ryan Roberts hit a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning off Joel Peralta, and Ramon Vazquez had the game-winning RBI single.After walking the first batter he faced, Jennings retired the next six, including three groundouts in the second inning."I know they are not going to judge me on a two-inning outing at the beginning of March," Jennings said. "At the same time, you want to go out there and show them you are healthy, show them that you are capable of pitching at this level."Josh Rupe allowed a run and three hits while pitching the final two innings for Texas.New Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton went 3-for-3 with a double to raise his spring average to .667 (6-for-9) and Ian Kinsler also reached base three times: hit by a pitch, a bunt single and a double. All-Star shortstop Michael Young had an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.David DeJesus went 2-for-2 with a two-run single, a double and a walk for the Royals. Mike Stodolka had a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning off Kazuo Fukumori, and Mario Lisson hit a wind-blown solo homer in the eighth for a 7-5 lead.Kansas City starter Brian Bannister, one of the AL's top rookies last season when he was 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA, allowed seven hits and four runs -- three earned -- in his three innings. He hit the first batter he faced"He wasn't as sharp as I'm sure he would have liked to have been. But he threw some good pitches, got back in a rhythm," manager Trey Hillman said. "For his first outing, I give him an OK. I wouldn't say it was great, I wouldn't say it was terrible."Eddie Guardado retired the three batters he faced in the fifth inning on 14 pitches with a strikeout in his first spring appearance for Texas. The 37-year-old reliever signed the winter after pitching only the final two months of last season for Cincinnati after ligament replacement surgery in his elbow."It felt like it's been a century, but it felt good," Guardado said. "It was like redoing it all again."A former first-round pick by Colorado and the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year, Jennings was 2-9 with a career-worst 6.45 ERA in 19 games for Houston last season and missed three months because of elbow problems. The right-hander didn't pitch after Aug. 20 and had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.Jennings got a $4 million deal with the Rangers, and can earn another $4 million in performance bonuses based on innings. Still, the first two innings, which won't count toward that, were priceless for him."It was a long time coming. I hadn't been on a mound since the middle of August last year and it certainly wasn't going good at that point," he said. "Just to go out there and have a good outing, it is some confidence to build on."
Rangers 3B Hank Blalock was out of the lineup for the second straight day and isn't scheduled to go to Scottsdale on Monday. Blalock said there's nothing wrong and that the Rangers are just easing him back into action. Blalock, who played the first three games of the spring, went through extensive rehab after surgery last May to remove a rib and didn't play in the field after that.