02/11/2013 4:23 PM ET
Kirkman aims to correct command, fulfill potential
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Michael Kirkman has been in three Spring Training camps with the Rangers, but has not yet distinguished himself.
Kirkman has pitched in 16 Cactus League games over the past three years and has a collective ERA of 7.62. In 26 innings, he has allowed 38 hits and eight walks while striking out 21.
He needs to do better this spring, for his own peace of mind and because he could be a pivotal player in how the Rangers' pitching staff falls into place for Opening Day.
"I have to be better, I really do," Kirkman said. "I've had a hard time the past few years, for some reason my arm wasn't ready like it should be. But I think I'm more ready for this spring [than] in the past. I've been working on a few things with [pitching coach Mike Maddux] to combat my command and bringing it back in, and this should be a pretty good spring.
"I was ready for [Spring Training] to get here. I was ready to get started. I'm tired of getting here, having one really bad game and it's over. I want to pitch to my capability."
Maddux has also urged Kirkman to be willing to take on a bigger role in the bullpen.
"That's what I want to do, that's where I want my career to go," Kirkman said. "I want to be that guy in the seventh inning."
Kirkman has the talent to dominate. Over parts of the past three seasons, he has pitched in 57 Major League games, held opponents to a .202 batting average and struck out 75 batters in 79 innings. The problem has been 39 walks, or 4.4 per nine innings. That's the highest for any Rangers reliever with at least 50 appearances over the past combined three seasons.
That statistic drives manager Ron Washington crazy, but if Kirkman can fix his command issues, he could give the Rangers a dominating left-handed setup reliever in the bullpen. That might make it easier for the Rangers to move Robbie Ross to the rotation. Kirkman and Ross are the most experienced left-handed relievers on the Rangers 40-man roster, although Jeff Beliveau was claimed on waivers from the Cubs and veterans Neal Cotts and Nate Robertson have Minor League contracts.
Olt preparing for move to outfield
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mike Olt said he can be a "great" outfielder but needs more time out there. He will get it in Spring Training as the Rangers have asked him to prepare to play multiple positions.
"I'll be comfortable when I practice out there," Olt said. "Last year I didn't play much out there, three random games in the Minors and a couple up here. But once I get a feel for it, it will be fine."
Olt's normal position is third base, but the Rangers have Adrian Beltre there. Olt will also play first and the outfield this spring as a way to increase his value, versatility and chances to make the team.
"I guess I'm going to do everything," Olt said. "Last year, I focused on third base because I knew I was going back to the Minors. This spring, I'll focus on first and the outfield."
Olt is still with the Rangers after a winter of being in the middle of almost every possible trade discussion. The Rangers two main targets were former Rays pitcher James Shields and former D-backs outfielder Justin Upton. There's little doubt that Olt would have been included if the Rangers had pulled off a deal for either one of those two.
"I didn't really try to look at that stuff but you walk into a deli and people say, you're getting traded, here, here or here," Olt said. "It would have been a change of scenery and a good opportunity. Hopefully there will be a good spot for me here."
Darvish reports to camp a day early
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Starter Yu Darvish arrived in camp on Monday and went through an informal workout, one day before pitchers and catchers officially report. Manager Ron Washington said he chatted with Darvish briefly and said his pitcher's English is improving.
"Much better," Washington said. "You know with Darvish, he's going to try. He's going to try hard."
Washington said he expects a much easier spring for Darvish than what he experienced a year ago as a rookie just signed out of Japan.
"I expect it to be a total turnaround," Washington said. "He knows what we do and how we do it. There won't be any surprises, and we have a better idea of what he likes. It will be a much smoother transition than last spring. He understands what he needs to do to be successful."
• Pitcher Joakim Soria, who is coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery, threw off a mound for the first time since having the operation last April. Soria, signed this season as a free agent after six years with the Royals, threw 15 pitches without any problems. The Rangers are hoping for his return in late May or early June.
• Second baseman Ian Kinsler worked out on Monday and took swings in the covered batting cages along with outfielder Craig Gentry.
• Pitcher Roman Mendez said he's ready to throw off a mound, but the Rangers aren't ready for him to take that step. Mendez, who is coming back from a small fracture in his right elbow, will be limited to playing catch for the next few weeks and won't start a long-toss program until March 1.
• For the second straight spring, manager Ron Washington said the Rangers will really emphasize to their pitchers the importance of fielding their position. The Rangers showed significant improvement last season and Washington wants it to continue. In 2011, Rangers pitchers committed 16 errors and helped turn just seven double plays. This past season, they made seven errors -- tied for the second fewest in the league -- and were involved in 15 double plays.
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.