MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Joe Saunders #47 of the Texas Rangers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2014 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
We're not going to call Joe Saunders a No. 2 starter in the Texas Rangers' rotation, but since his return from the disabled list, he has easily been the Rangers' second-best starter behind ace Yu Darvish, thanks to the long list of injuries that has included Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, coupled with Colby Lewis' ineffectiveness.
In his four starts since returning from the DL after he took a comeback line drive off the ankle in his first start of the year, Saunders has been pretty darn solid. He's 0-1 with a 2.42 ERA and has gotten through the sixth inning twice in those four outings while pitching into the sixth in a third.
These days in the Rangers' rotation, that qualifies as high quality stuff.
Now, he'll go face the team he came up in the bigs with and for whom he was an all-star pitcher in 2008, when he faces the Angels on Friday night. In his previous start, he gave up two runs in six innings as the Rangers beat another of his former teams, the Seattle Mariners, for whom he played last season.
Saunders told the Star-Telegram he doesn't know many guys on the team anymore, as there are only four current Angels he played with in Anaheim, but he knows the key to getting the Angels' hitters out.
“The challenge is strike 1,” Saunders told the Star-Telegram. “That’s the goal. Throw strike 1, get ahead of them, put them on the defense. Controlling the count is going to be big for me and getting early outs.”