Mitch Stetter relies on deception, location

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers left-handed pitcher Mitch Stetter returned to a big league mound on Monday for the first time since last May. Stetter landed on the disabled list when he was with Milwaukee and required hip surgery (Aug. 2).

"It was just exciting to be back out there," Stetter said. "Except I didn't want to give up a home run."

He gave up that homer to Alex Gordon, who belted a slider that didn't break enough over the right-field fence. But Stetter faced two other lefties and got both of them to ground out on fastballs that had some cut to them.

The 31-year-old throws his fastball around 83 mph and relies on deception and location to get outs.

"The key for me is early strikes against lefties," Stetter said. "The more pitches they see, they have a better chance to getting to something. So if I can get ahead in the count and make them swing at the slider or cutter, I'm in better shape."

Stetter wasn't the only left-handed bullpen candidate to pitch on Monday. Neal Cotts, who was moved over to the big league camp, gave up one run on four hits. Manager Ron Washington said the hits were "dinks" and noted that Cotts was 0-for-2 against left-handed hitters.

But Kelvin De La Cruz struggled in his final inning. With the Rangers leading by a run and two runners on, he came in to face the left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas, who was trying to bunt. De La Cruz threw four pitches out of the strike zone and walked him. He did induce a double play before giving up the winning hit to Kevin Kouzmanoff.

"It's early," Washington said. "We have to give these guys some time and see what they can do."