Millwood declares self ready for opener
After strong spring debut, right-hander has one last tuneup
TUCSON, Ariz. -- After his first and only appearance in the Cactus League, Rangers Opening Day starter Kevin Millwood declared himself ready for the regular season."I feel healthy and I feel strong," Millwood said after pitching five scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks on Thursday. "I'm ready to go. I don't know what else to say." Manager Ron Washington concurred and that's all the Rangers can ask for at this point from a pitcher who renewed his offseason workouts with increased vigor, came to camp seemingly on a mission and then found himself dealing with another physical issue. "He looked like it today," Washington said after an 8-7 victory over the Diamondbacks. "He was certainly out there today and got it done." The results of those five innings suggest Millwood has reason to feel like he's ready even though he spent much of Spring Training tending to a strained hamstring muscle. Millwood had been limited to simulated and Minor League games because of the hamstring, but when he finally faced Major League hitters he delivered five scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park. Millwood struck out five, walked one and allowed three hits, including a one-out double to Augie Ojeda and a single to Chris Young in the first. But left fielder Marlon Byrd spared Millwood's ERA by throwing out Ojeda at the plate. Millwood then retired 12 straight hitters before issuing a two-out walk to Robby Hammock in the fifth. Alex Romero followed with a single, but pinch-hitter Conor Jackson popped out to end the inning. Millwood, still feeling strong after 67 pitches, finished the day by throwing an extra eight pitches in the bullpen to get his pitch total up to 75 for the afternoon. "The first inning was a little sluggish, but after that I threw the ball good," Millwood said. "I mixed up my pitches and threw them all for strikes. My location wasn't good, but it was decent. I felt like I went through every test. I pitched out of the windup and I pitched out of a stretch. I backed up the bases and I had to break toward first base a couple of times even though I didn't have a play. "Everything I felt I needed to accomplish, I did today. I got through five innings and felt I could have gone back out there. I didn't lose anything from the first through the fifth. My legs feel healthy and my arm feels healthy. Millwood has one start left and it falls on Tuesday when the Rangers play the Mariners in Surprise, Ariz. That's the same team Millwood faces on March 31 in the season opener so he'll pitch in a Minor League game instead. The goal is to get up to 90 pitches and then be ready for 100 or more in the season opener.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.