SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kevin Millwood wants to be more consistent on the mound for the Texas Rangers this season. The healthy and leaner right-hander is off to a good start.
Millwood, who lost about 15 pounds during offseason workouts after being on the disabled list four times the past two years, pitched three scoreless innings Wednesday in the Rangers' 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals."I've made progress from my first start to today. If I can keep doing that all the way through spring, I'll feel pretty good about it," said Millwood, the Rangers' opening-day starter the last three seasons. "I got a little more comfortable with my mechanics."Millwood has thrown five scoreless innings in two spring training starts, already one more than last year when he dealt with a hamstring issue and pitched mostly in the controlled environment of intrasquad and "B" games. He struck out two and walked one."He's healthy right now," manager Ron Washington said. "What he's doing out there, it doesn't surprise me. He knows how to pitch and he knows how to get outs."Justin Smoak, the Rangers' first-round draft pick in 2008, hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Danny Cortes to snap a 2-all tie.Alex Gordon homered in his second consecutive game for Kansas City, a solo shot in the seventh off Doug Mathis that tied it.Brian Bannister, coming off two perfect innings in his first spring start for the Royals, allowed two runs and three hits over two innings. The right-hander walked one and struck out two, getting All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton on a called third strike on his last pitch."I threw a good 3-2 changeup, and threw some good breaking balls to him," Bannister said. "That's the true test this early in the spring, to face hitters like that and really challenge yourself with your pitches."Hamilton was back in the lineup three days after feeling tightness in his left Achilles' tendon. He left after the first inning Sunday and didn't travel Monday with the Rangers, who then had a day off Tuesday. He was 0-for-2, but still is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with two homers in five games.Ian Kinsler had a leadoff double in the first and scored when Michael Young followed with a single up the middle. The Rangers made it 2-0 in the second when Chris Davis drew a two-out walk and scored on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who leads the team with five RBIs this spring.Bannister struck out Elvis Andrus to end the second, then had a 1-2-3 third against the All-Star trio of Kinsler, Young and Hamilton."I'm just continuing to make progress," Bannister said.Bannister slumped to 9-16 with a 5.76 ERA last season when he gave up 29 home runs. That followed his 12-9 debut and 3.87 ERA for the Royals in 2007 after being traded from the New York Mets.Brayan Pena led off the Royals fifth with a single, advanced to third on a pair of groundouts and scored on Coco Crisp's infield single. Crisp, the Royals' new leadoff hitter after arriving in an offseason trade from Boston, was 2-for-3 and is hitting .400 (6-for-15) with four walks.
Young, the AL Gold Glove SS last season and a five-time All-Star, made his toughest play so far in his transition to third base for Texas. Young went to his left, slid on the ground, then scrambled to his feet and made a strong throw to first to get the final out of the fifth. ... Country music singer Charley Pride, a former Negro Leagues player who is a regular at Rangers spring training, performed a 45-minute concert for players in the clubhouse Wednesday morning. ... Kansas City has a day off Thursday.