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TB@TOR: Morrow fans 10 in season debut

Two exciting right-handers are the featured event when the Blue Jays take on the Rangers in Arlington on Thursday.

For Toronto, it will be the hard-throwing Brandon Morrow, who struck out 10 batters while only giving up three hits in his 2011 debut, and for the Rangers, it will be reliever-turned-starter Alexi Ogando, who has been impressive for much of the early season.

Morrow took the loss last Saturday against Tampa Bay, but he hit double digits in strikeouts in only 5 1/3 innings in his first start of the season after missing three weeks because of a right elbow injury.

Morrow was a breakout star in the second half of 2010, going 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA from July 17 to the end of the season and posting 10.95 strikeouts per nine innings last season, which would have been a franchise mark had he recorded enough innings to qualify.

"He was outstanding," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Morrow's 2011 debut. "You continue to increase that over six, seven, eight innings, that's the guy that was very effective for the vast majority of last year. It was very good to see him walk to the mound and have that kind of stuff."

As for Ogando, he will be pitching on normal four days' rest for first time this season (and thus, for the first time in his career). He won his last outing Saturday vs. Kansas City, a 3-1 Texas victory in which he went six innings and gave up one run on five hits while striking out five. His only run allowed came on a home run by the last batter he faced.

"I used the changeup early in the game and kept hitters out of bounds," Ogando said. "I didn't have my control of my pitches in the early innings. But I kept pounding the strike zone."

Blue Jays: Bautista on a roll
Outfielder Jose Bautista has now reached base safely in 20 of his 21 games this season. Dating to last season, Bautista has reached base safely in 62 of his last 72 games. He leads the Majors in on-base percentage and walks this season.

• Lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski Is tied for the club lead in games with 11 and has held opponents to a .118 average (4-for-34) this season. Lefties have recorded just one hit thus far (1-for-18).

• Right-hander Dustin McGowan, on the road back from rotator cuff surgery, will throw in extended spring training games before beginning a rehab assignment, Farrell said. Players on rehab assignments are given only 30 days before they have to be called up to the Major Leagues. With McGowan on the 60-day disabled list, the earliest he could come up is June 1. "He's going to need every bit of that [time] to answer some of the physical and performance questions that might be natural to his situation," Farrell said.

Rangers: Catchers catching fire
Texas catchers lead the majors with 15 runs scored this season, ranking among Major League leaders in homers and batting average. The 11 extra-base hits by Texas catchers are tied for most in the majors (also Florida and Toronto). Rangers catchers have eight strikeouts, the second fewest in the Majors to only the White Sox (seven).

• Texas is 10-2 when second baseman Ian Kinsler has at least one hit and 5-7 when he does not. The club is 5-0 when he homers.

• Shortstop Elvis Andrus has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games at 12-for-42 (.286) to rise from .167 to .226, but he's batting .197 (14-71) in his last 17 games to drop from .385.

Worth noting
Morrow is 3-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 15 games (three starts) against the Rangers. His last start vs. Texas came last May 16 at Rogers Centre, where he beat the Rangers with six innings of two-run, eight-strikeout ball.

• Ogando, according to Elias Sports Bureau, is first pitcher in Rangers history (1972-2011) to go 3-0 or better with an ERA below 2.20 in his first four starts in the Majors. He has never faced Toronto. The Rangers have scored three runs or fewer in each of his three wins. Comments