SURPRISE -- The Dodgers rallied to tie the Rangers 3-3 on Friday afternoon in Surprise, with the first four innings a tale of two pitchers, with different levels of financial and rotation security on also differing degrees of fastball command against Texas.
Scott Kazmir, with the three-year, $48 million contract and the engraved nameplate in the figurative office directory of starters, used his first Cactus League start of the year as an opportunity to work on his fastball, and so did the Rangers.
Texas scored two runs on six hits in two innings against the left-hander, who escaped both of his frames with a double play ground ball.
"It's about getting the pitches in, but being a competitor you want to go out there and be successful. In the first inning, my fastball command wasn't there. I was drifting a little bit," Kazmir said. "My delivery isn't as sound as I'd like it to be or as consistent as I'd like it to be. It's something to work on."
The Rangers were 6-for-10 against Kazmir with a double and two strikeouts. One of the strikeouts was of Prince Fielder, one of several regulars in the Texas lineup, providing quite the challenge for Dodgers pitchers.
"It puts you in a bad spot when you are working on stuff in the first game. But at the same time, had I executed I feel like I would have executed I would have been just fine," Kazmir explained. "You're able to gauge yourself where you're at with those hitters, the first time out."
Mike Bolsinger, trying to win a rotation spot this spring with the vacancies left by Hyun-jin Ryu and Brett Anderson, pitched two scoreless innings to follow Kazmir, and struck out two. One of his two strikeouts was Fielder as well.
"There are about two guys who are so big. Him and [Giancarlo] Stanton when they come up, I just hope they don't hit it right back at me," Bolsinger said with a laugh.
Bolsinger made 21 starts for the Dodgers last year and put up a 3.62 ERA, but after a strong start and a trip to the minors he fizzled down the stretch with a 7.08 ERA in September while averaging just four innings per start.
"Last September really left a bad taste in my mouth. I definitely didn't want to be remembered as that guy but unfortunately that kind of is what I was remembered for and all the other good stuff was put on the back shelf," Bolsinger said. "I really want to start a new slate and show people."
Rededicating himself during the winter, Bolsinger said he focused on his fastball location, holding runners on, and on fielding his position, trying to improve. That fastball command was on point for Bolsinger on Friday.
"The breaking ball was sharp, the cutter. The fastball command was good," manager Dave Roberts said. "Just knowing Mike from the other side, he's going to go out there and compete and that's what he did today."
Bolsinger knows with Anderson now out three to five months he has a real shot at winning a rotation slot out of spring training, and said this year he feels more confident than he was a year ago.
"I feel like a veteran in a way. I just feel a lot more comfortable. It's nice knowing the people you played with, but it's nice getting respect from people, too. I think that's most important," Bolsinger said. "It makes everything a lot more comfortable in the locker room.
"If you put yourself in a good position, only good things can happen."
The Dodgers, who set a franchise record with eight ties last spring training, got their first of this spring on Wednesday. "It's better than a loss," Roberts said.
Scott Van Slyke hit a two-run home run off left-hander Cesar Ramos over the Dodgers' bullpen in left field in the fourth inning, his first of the spring and the team's second.
The Dodgers turned four double plays in the game.
Julio Urias threw a bullpen session back at Camelback Ranch on Friday, roughly 30-32 pitches, and could see action in a Cactus League game next week.
Jose De Leon was pushed back a few days after tweaking his right ankle, but was able to throw on Friday as well and will pitch in Saturday's major league game. "He's got that little ankle thing, but now he's fine," Roberts said.
The Dodgers are back at Camelback Ranch on Saturday afternoon to host the Diamondbacks, with Kenta Maeda making his Dodgers debut. Shelby Miller starts for Arizona. De Leon is also scheduled to pitch for Los Angeles.