SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Talbot and his manager were both asked about the difference in his Spring Training approach as a locked-in member of the Indians rotation, and both dismissed the notion.
But there is one undeniable contrast between this spring and last, when the right-hander was pitching for a job: He can give up a game-opening bomb without wiping smiles of satisfaction off his and the manager's faces.
"I thought he pitched great," manager Manny Acta said following an 11-9 Cactus League loss to the Rangers on Thursday, a game that fell apart long after Talbot's two-inning start. "He threw first-pitch strikes. We've been preaching about that, and he did it."
Talbot allowed a game-opening homer to Ian Kinsler and a second first-inning run. But even though five of the 10 men he faced reached base -- and another, Nelson Cruz, drilled a sacrifice fly -- he was pleased to have "kept the ball down for the most part."
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"I like to compete. I've always been very competitive. I guess I was born that way," Talbot said of the lack of pressure on him after he went 10-13 as a rookie last season. "I kind of expected to win in double figures, and now I've set the bar higher."
Showing the effect of working far more innings (159 1/3) last season than ever before, Talbot ran into what general manager Chris Antonetti characterized as "fatigue" in the second half of the season. He made only 11 of his 28 starts after the All-Star break and averaged less than five innings in them.
"Our goal is to have him make 30 starts and pitch a little deeper in games," Antonetti said. "If he does that, he has a chance to have a pretty good year for us."