Hunter: Consistency is key to success

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Tommy Hunter is following a one-word mantra entering the 2011 season: consistency.

"That’s my word," Hunter said after his first spring start in Wednesday's 10-6 Rangers win over the Los Angeles Angels. "Consistency is key, and being consistently effective in the strike zone is what I’m going to try to do this year."

Hunter is not a power pitcher so he must be a tactician, and that means biting and nibbling around the plate to make batters hit the ball where he wants them to hit it. He did a fine job of that against a makeshift Angels lineup. He threw two innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.

"I’ll be honest, I was just glad to have a fastball that was down in the zone and away from the guys," Hunter said. "I got in on [Alberto] Callaspo, he hit a foul ball down the line, and then [Jeff] Mathis a jam shot. So, being able to get on the hands, that’s already pretty cool."

The rugged, 280-pound right-hander is in competition with three lefties -- Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman and Matt Harrison -- plus last season's Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz, who saved 40 games last season as the closer. Hunter would seemingly have a leg up since he was 13-4 as a starter last season and seems to be maturing in terms of understanding the nuances of his art.

He said he's bought into pitching coach Mike Maddux's preachings of delivering a good first pitch and putting the hitter on the defensive. Maddux delivered stats from last season that first-pitch balls put in play are far more likely to be outs than, say, on 2-0 pitches. Hunter said he also learned from watching Cliff Lee dominate the strike the zone.

Of the seven batters Hunter faced, three of his first pitches were called strikes and one was put in a play for a ground out.

"I was effective in the strike zone, whether it was down or it was up," Hunter said. "It’s not just being down in the zone. It’s mixing it up, going down and away, up and in, up and in this way, down and away, staying away from that middle area."

If Hunter does that consistently, he'll find himself in the rotation right behind Wilson and Lewis.

Other highlights for Wednesday's game:

*The Rangers pounded four home runs in the game: David Murphy off Dan Haren, Ian Kinsler, Chad Tracy and Doug Deeds, his second of the spring.

*Former Angel Mike Napoli got the start at catcher and continued to hit the ball well. He had a single and walk to take his average up to .500. He scored twice, coming home on Murphy's three-run home run in the second inning.

*Kinsler cranked his second home run of the spring. He hit Trevor Bells' first offering of the fourth inning, a 90-mph fastball, onto the left-field lawn. It also scored Jose Ruiz, who started at first base and doubled to the opposite field.

*Reliever Alexi Ogando, who could be in line to close if Feliz joins the rotations, did not have a particuarly strong outing. He surrendered two runs on four hits over two innings.

*Sidewinding reliever Darren O'Day also gave up a run on two hits in one inning of work.