SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Texas Rangers pitcher Ariel Jurado did not have many Panamanian ballplayers to watch when he was growing up.
So he became a fan of Cliff Lee.
“He’s a lefty but I liked him,” Jurado said Tuesday through an interpreter. “His pitches were incredible, the way he dominated on the mound.”
The 23-year-old Jurado studied Lee’s games on television. But he has a long way to go to approach the accomplished career of Lee, who pitched 13 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Right now, Jurado is fighting for a spot in Texas’ rotation. He made his major league debut with the Rangers last year, going 5-5 with a 5.93 ERA in 12 games, eight starts.
Jurado is hoping to build on his final outing last season, when he tossed six innings of two-hit ball in a 2-0 victory at Seattle on Sept. 27.
“That outing, I was throwing a good slider and it helped me get through the last few innings,” Jurado said. “It was a good sign for me. If something is working good, you try to work on it.”
Jurado said he worked on everything while he was back home in Panama over the winter.
“I have to be consistent with my mechanics,” he said. “If I do, I will have outings like this.”
In a rain-shortened spring outing against Arizona on Tuesday, Jurado escaped jams in the first three innings by inducing double plays each frame. The right-hander couldn’t get out of trouble in the fourth. With one out, Eduardo Escobar walked, David Peralta singled and both scored on Steven Souza Jr.’s triple to center.
“I had my sinker working in the first couple innings and that’s what helped me get the double plays,” Jurado said.
Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are set for the Rangers’ rotation. Texas manager Chris Woodward is still sorting out the rest. Shelby Miller, Edinson Volquez and Drew Smyly are all coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Jurado knows he needs to work on his changeup and curveball to compliment his other pitches.
“I throw a lot of fastballs,” he said. “My best pitch is the sinker. If it’s working, I feel it’s good, so I throw it to get outs.”