KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- You know the start of the regular season is around the corner when relief pitchers begin throwing on consecutive days. That was the case Saturday for veterans Matt Albers and Chad Qualls, both of whom tossed scoreless innings in a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals after pitching Friday against the Marlins.
"You get to this stage of the spring and you want to make sure you start to back-to-back those guys to prepare for the season," manager Bo Porter said. "That will be the case based on the stressfulness of the innings the day before, but it was good to see both of those guys go back to back. I felt Qualls was sharper today. Sometimes those sinker-ballers, they get a little fatigued, and the ball gets a little bit more action."
Qualls and Albers, both of whom were drafted and developed by the Astros and traded away within days of each other in 2007, figure to play key roles in the back of the bullpen this year. Qualls is the probable closer, though he has not been given that role just yet.
"Usually once every Spring Training I try to get one-plus, and you definitely try to go two in a row to warm up and get in a game where you're still sore from the day before; that way you can get your body used to getting heated up," Qualls said. "I was tired and achy today, and once you warm up and get going, everything falls into place. I felt pretty good."
At this point, Qualls is trying to refine the location of his sinker.
"The most important pitch for a lot of pitchers is commanding your fastball and being able to pitch ahead of that in any count," he said. "Being able to locate the fastball now is what I need to work on."
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.