VIERA, Fla. -- Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell is focusing this year on perfecting his curveball, a pitch he believes will help him work deeper into games and get more outs. He threw a handful of curves in his four innings of work Tuesday against the Nats and is pleased with the results so far.
"I felt like it was pretty good early, and we threw it a few times to lefties, a few times to righties," Harrell said. "It was my first time throwing it in a game. I really worked on it the last couple of days, really worked on it a lot this offseason trying to get it better. [Catcher Carlos] Corporan and I were on the same page the whole time, and then the defense made some good plays."
Harrell, who allowed three hits and one run and struck out four batters in four innings, is predominantly a fastball/sinker pitcher, though he has an effective cutter and changeup. He said there were some games last year he didn't throw a curveball at all.
"It's usually my fourth-best pitch," he said. "But I want to make it one of my strengths. I threw a lot down in the bullpen, and today I wanted to throw it in situations I wouldn't get hurt. I threw it a couple of times today for a first-pitch strike."
Harrell threw one to Ryan Zimmerman after throwing a couple of good fastballs and got a strikeout looking.
"I knew my curveball wasn't very good, and I knew to be successful, too, you have to pitch longer in the game," he said. "Any time you can help your team and get deeper in the game, that's the key."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.