ARLINGTON -- Finding a niche as a long reliever is never easy, but rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer continued evolving into that role with his best outing yet in Thursday's 7-1 loss to the Rays.
Maurer, 23, threw 2 2/3 innings and allowed two hits and one run in relief of starter Joe Saunders.
It was Maurer's fourth appearance over 20 days since he was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and told his new job would be out of the bullpen. He's 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings in that role after going 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA in 10 starts at the beginning of the year.
After knowing you're going to start every fifth day, the uncertainty of long relief can be taxing on a young pitcher. But Maurer is finding positives, along with more positive results, as he's gone along.
"It's weird, but I'm getting used to it," he said. "It's one of those things where you don't really know until the phone rings. But it's easy to stay fresh. So staying fresh and staying sharp stay hand in hand. When everything feels good, it should be easy to stay on target."
His biggest lesson so far in his three weeks of on-the-job training?
"I've been able to slow the game down quite a bit," Maurer said. "That's probably the biggest key, just to go out there, take a deep breath and here we go instead of 'Get the ball and throw, get the ball and throw.'
"Coming out of the bullpen, you're trying to get everything ready so quick, then when you get in the game, you've got to slow it down a little bit. Just shift that gear back down."
Maurer stranded the one runner he inherited from Saunders in the fifth inning on Thursday and retired the first five batters he faced before hitting leadoff man Wil Myers in the seventh, eventually allowing him to score after a pair of singles.
But overall, it was a solid outing for the youngster, who didn't allow a run in 3 1/3 innings in his prior outing, but walked the tightrope by issuing five walks with three hits against the Blue Jays.
Maurer's control was much better Thursday as he struck out four with no walks.
"It felt good to come out and get a quick inning under my belt," he said. "It's about command and attacking and using all my pitches for strikes, and then not trying to make that nasty 0-2 pitch when I'm ahead in the count."