SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis and Scott Feldman will be on the mound for the Rangers when they open the Cactus League on Sunday against the Royals at 1:05 p.m. CT.They will be followed by left-hander Michael Kirkman, and that might be the most important inning to watch at Surprise Stadium. Kirkman is one of the leading candidates to be the left-handed setup reliever in the Rangers' bullpen, and Sunday will be the first indication of how he will respond to a disappointing 2011 season. "I just have to get outs," Kirkman said. "I can't go out there and try to impress anybody. That's when you mess up and put pressure on yourself. I want to do what I can do to get guys out as quick as possible."
Kirkman impressed in 2010. He was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, he had a 1.65 ERA in 14 relief appearances for the Rangers and he was on the postseason roster. He did not impress in 2011. He had a 5.05 ERA at Round Rock, a 6.59 ERA on the Rangers and was not on the playoff roster.The Rangers like Kirkman's arm and stuff. If he's on, he can get both left- and right-handed hitters out and not be just a one-batter situational guy. But he has to win the job by showing what he showed two years ago. "I have to command the baseball," Kirkman said. "That's it. Pound the strike zone, make the hitters make a decision and let the guys behind me catch it." His main competition for the left-handed setup role are Joe Beimel and Mitch Stetter, a couple of veterans who are in camp on non-roster invites. Beimel has been held back by stiffness in the left elbow but pitched live batting practice on Saturday. Stetter will pitch on Monday against the Royals. Kirkman gets the first shot, and he knows this is an important spring for him. "Absolutely, but I try not thinking about it when I'm on the mound," Kirkman said. "But it is. I'm working my tail off and trying not to leave this clubhouse until the whole team does."
Gentry to start Cactus opener in center field
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Craig Gentry will start in center field for the Rangers in the first Cactus League game on Sunday against the Royals."That's because he finished there last season for us," manager Ron Washington said. "From that point on, you might see different guys out there every day." Center field is the one open spot in the Rangers' lineup. The two main competitors are Gentry and Julio Borbon, although Leonys Martin will get significant playing time. The unknown factor is Josh Hamilton, who Washington said is the Rangers' best defensive center fielder. "He has every asset to be a superstar center fielder," Washington said. But Washington still wants to use Hamilton more in left field so that he can reduce the wear and tear on his body. So Gentry, who is a right-handed hitter, and Borbon, who swings left-handed, will battle for the job. They might even end up in a platoon. "I don't know, that will be decided as we get deep into Spring Training," Washington said. "We'll see who is doing what and see if that's viable. Right now, we're going to give all those guys a chance to seize it."
Beltre expected to return to cleanup spot
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Adrian Beltre is moving back to the cleanup spot. Manager Ron Washington said Beltre will bat cleanup in the first Cactus League game on Sunday against the Royals. That's where Washington is planning on using him during the regular season."He's a threat, and he can hit any pitch," Washington said. "That's the key." Beltre was the Rangers' cleanup hitter for most of the first half of last season until he went down with a strained left hamstring on July 25. Michael Young moved into the cleanup spot at that point and stayed there the rest of the season. During the playoffs, Beltre batted fifth in all 17 games. But Washington wants to move him back to the cleanup spot. He is planning for Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Beltre to be the first four hitters in his lineup. He has not yet committed to how it will come together after those four. "We haven't played a game yet," Washington said. "Don't take to heart what I put out there for a lineup. I'm going to do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I want to do it."
Napoli, Moreland ready for Cactus action
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Mike Napoli is expected to be behind the plate on Sunday, when the Rangers face the Royals in the Cactus League opener at Surprise Stadium.Napoli is still recovering from the high left ankle sprain that he suffered in Game 6 of the World Series. But he caught three innings in an intrasquad game on Thursday, and the Rangers feel he's ready to catch in a Cactus League game. "I don't see why not," manager Ron Washington said. Mitch Moreland, who had surgery on his right wrist at the end of November, is also expected to play on Sunday. Moreland's recovery time was estimated at 8-12 weeks, and he has been able to maintain that schedule. He was expected to be ready when the Cactus League started, and that proved to be the case. "There have been no issues," Moreland said. Reliever Mike Adams, who had surgery on Jan. 3 to repair a hernia, is also ready for the Cactus League. He needed just 10 pitches to get through his one scoreless inning in Friday's intrasquad game. "He's shown he has recovered by the way he's throwing the ball," Washington said.
West out six weeks with sprained elbow
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-handed pitcher Matt West will be sidelined for six weeks with a mild sprain in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow.West felt discomfort in a throwing session on Wednesday and had an MRI on Friday night. The plan is for him not to throw for the next six weeks while being on a strengthening program. West, the Rangers' second-round pick in 2007 as a shortstop, was converted to pitcher last spring. He was 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 24 games, while striking out 35 in 27 innings in Class A last season.
Sunday's game is starting at 1 p.m. CT/noon MST, one hour earlier than usual. That is to accommodate the final day of the Coca-Cola Classic, a college baseball tournament being held at Surprise Stadium. The teams playing are Oregon State, Arizona State, Winthrop, St. Louis University, Northern Illinois and St. Mary's. Sunday's game will he broadcast on KESN 103.3 and Gameday Audio. Monday and Tuesday's games can be heard via live, exclusive webcasts on texasrangers.com. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando will pitch against the Royals on Monday. Matt Harrison starts Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Mark Hamburger is also scheduled to pitch. Yu Darvish's first start of the spring is Wednesday against the Padres. He is scheduled to pitch two innings, and those two innings can be heard on KESN 103.3. The rest of the game can be heard on texasrangers.com. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba was back in camp on Saturday after missing two days because of a virus. He went through a low-intensity workout on Saturday and is not expected to play on Sunday. Brad Hawpe, who has been sidelined for three days with soreness in his right hamstring, resumed taking batting practice on Saturday. Said Hawpe, "Part of Spring Training, it's better than being a bad one. I've had a bad one before. I've played long enough to where I've had it all."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.