Matt Harrison has made 100 starts in his big league career, but he says No. 101 is going to feel like his debut all over again.
Harrison returns to a major league mound for the first time in nearly 14 months Wednesday night for the Texas Rangers against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rangers are hoping Harrison will be able to recapture his form of 2011-12 when he went 32-20 with a 3.34 ERA, but just returning is a victory in itself for the right-hander, who hasn't pitched since May 13, 2014. After being limited to six starts from 2013-14, Harrison underwent spinal fusion in June 2014, his third back surgery in a span of two seasons.
No major league pitcher is believed to have come back from such an operation.
"I think success for me was getting back on the mound. ... My biggest hurdle was getting back on the mound again," he said. "At this point, it's a matter of getting my mind right again to go out there and pitch in a big league game, and try to control my emotions as best as possible."
Harrison has gone 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA in six minor league starts this year for Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. He gave up three runs over six innings at Iowa last Wednesday.
"I feel good physically and mechanically. Just ironing out everything is the hardest part, and learn how to pitch with less (velocity)," said Harrison, who averaged 92.1 mph on his fastball in 2012, his last full season. "But I'm confident in myself and command the strike zone, be aggressive and get people out."
He is 0-1 in two starts against Arizona, giving up seven runs over 3 2-3 innings in the loss and throwing 7 1-3 scoreless in the other outing. Harrison is 6-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 career interleague starts.
The Rangers (41-43) hope he can help them end a four-game skid. They've lost 4 1/2 games on AL West-leading Houston while losing 12 of 16 after a 4-2 loss in Tuesday's opener of this two-game series.
Arizona (41-42) looks to reach the .500 mark for the first time since it was 8-8 after April 24. The Diamondbacks have failed to get to break-even mark 12 times since then.
Jake Lamb was 3 for 4, improving to 13 for 31 (.419) over his last nine games. Paul Goldschmidt was 2 for 3 and is hitting .456 with 17 RBIs in his last 18 on the road.
Jeremy Hellickson (6-5, 5.06 ERA) is trying to build off his longest outing of the season, limiting Colorado to one run and three hits over seven innings in an 8-1 victory Thursday. The right-hander didn't issue a walk and has only had two bases on balls in his last four starts spanning 24 1-3 innings. He had averaged 3.12 walks per nine innings in his previous 12 outings.
"It was definitely one of my best games stat line-wise, but I've been feeling good for a while now," he told MLB's official website.
Hellickson, 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA in his last three road games, is 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA in five career starts against Texas.
Josh Hamilton is 3 for 9 with two homers off Hellickson. He went 0 for 4 Tuesday after missing two games with a strained leg.