MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel has been spending too much time in the Minor League camp.
"[Anthony] Rizzo just came up and said, 'Are you afraid to pitch in big league games?'" Hammel said, laughing.
That's because Hammel has made just one Cactus League start, but has pitched in a "B" game and went six innings Thursday against Cubs Minor Leaguers to stay on schedule. The right-hander is used to prepping on the back fields.
"My first year with the [Orioles], because Florida Spring Training is all [American League] East, I didn't pitch in a big league game until we'd been through two or three rounds of cuts," Hammel said. "As long as I can get my work in and make sure I'm building the arm strength, I'm OK."
On Thursday, he gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four over six innings, throwing 75 pitches.
"I'm way ahead of schedule, going from three to six [innings]," Hammel said. "Everything felt good, I felt strong. I didn't feel fatigued at all and I got my work in."
The Minor League players were aggressive.
"For three innings, they were swinging at everything," Hammel said. "I made the adjustment, so it gave me the opportunity to start throwing breaking balls early in counts and I was able to throw a lot of stuff."
Hammel's next outing, by the way, will be Tuesday, and the only downside about that is he'll have to make the long drive to Surprise, Ariz., to face the Rangers in a night game.