3/3/2013 7:52 P.M. ET
Kirkman hoping solid start leads to roster spot
By William Boor / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With 28 days remaining until Texas opens the season against the in-state and divisional foe Houston, it may be a bit early to set specific individual goals. However, Michael Kirkman currently has one goal in mind, and it has been driving him this spring.
"My goal is to be on the roster March 31 in Houston," Kirkman said. "If I make the team then I might start looking ahead, but right now [my focus] is to be on this roster."
Kirkman, who has been a part of the Rangers organization since he was drafted in 2005, is coming off of a 2012 season in which he appeared in 28 games and posted a 3.82 ERA.
It remains early in Spring Training, but the left-hander is building off of last season and has appeared in two games, pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just two hits.
"I feel like I've had a solid start," Kirkman said. "I still have a lot of room to work with. There is a lot of time left in camp, but I'm headed in a good direction right now."
When discussing his bullpen Saturday, manager Ron Washington said the younger players in the bullpen need to step up in 2013. The 26-year-old Kirkman was mentioned specifically.
Kirkman, who is working on pounding the strike zone and smoothing out his mechanics this spring, embraces the challenge.
However, Kirkman knows that although he has Washington's attention, nothing about the projected bullpen is secure because there is plenty of talent and depth to go around.
"There are a lot of guys with really good arms here," Kirkman said. "[The bullpen] is going to be pretty dang good."
Nathan, E. Beltre primed for spring action
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers Joe Nathan and Engel Beltre both made their Spring Training debuts on Sunday against the Mariners.
Nathan had been healthy but did not previously pitch in a game because the Rangers simply opted to take it slow, and when the closer finally got his chance, he pitched a scoreless third inning in the game.
Beltre, who has been limited by a sore left shoulder, contributed an RBI triple after starting in right field.
Nathan posted a 2.80 ERA last year while recording 37 saves in his first season with Texas, and manager Ron Washington saw no need to get Nathan work earlier in spring camp.
"I expect Joe to be Joe," Washington said before the game. "Throw the ball over the plate, use the pitches he needs to work on, get his inning in and get out healthy."
While some players get excited to make their debuts and hit the field for the first time following a long offseason, Nathan downplayed the significance of returning.
"It's just a Spring Training game," the right-hander said before his outing. "I'll just go out there and get my work in. It's just another day to get prepared for Opening Day."
The 38-year-old Nathan may not be putting much stock in his debut, but how Beltre feels may affect his plans for the World Baseball Classic.
Originally, Beltre, who is planning to play for Spain in the Classic, expected to leave the Rangers on Sunday.
However, Beltre's shoulder has slowed his progress thus far, and the Rangers worked out an agreement with the Spanish team, allowing Beltre to report late.
Before Beltre leaves for the Classic, the Rangers want him to play in two games, one of which he will play at least five innings.
Ideally for the Spanish team, Beltre will play on Monday after Sunday's appearance because the Rangers have an off-day Tuesday.
Bullpen jobs available for new-look relief corps
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Bullpens are vital to the success of a baseball team, and with a large amount of offseason turnover, the Texas Rangers are not quite sure what to expect from their bullpen in 2013.
"There are still guys fighting for jobs," manager Ron Washington said. "We haven't decided what our pen is going to look like except for Joe Nathan."
A season ago, the Rangers bullpen, mainly Nathan, converted 83 percent of its save opportunities, 11 percent above the Major League average. The Texas relievers were also credited with 116 holds.
However, Mike Adams (3.27 ERA in 61 games), Mark Lowe (3.43 ERA in 36 games) and Koji Uehara (1.75 ERA in 37 games) were all part of that bullpen, and none will be with the team in 2013.
The Rangers will also attempt to replace Alexi Ogando, who is being moved to the starting rotation. Ogando appeared in 58 games last year, posted an ERA of 3.27 and was second on the team in holds (behind Adams).
"This year we brought up a couple of our young kids that we feel can fill some of those spots, but they have to perform," Washington said. "They have the ability. They have potential, but they have to get it done.
Washington specifically named Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers as young players who need to step up. Scheppers has been battling a strained left hamstring and scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday. Kirkman has pitched four scoreless inning this spring.
To solidify the relief corps, the Rangers also signed Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria over the offseason.
"You like to have your bullpen set, but you do what you have to do," Washington said. "Sometimes it falls in place, sometimes you are maneuvering pieces throughout the year."
Entering the season with question marks is not ideal, but Washington will have plenty of choices when constructing his opening day bullpen.
"Of course we have options," Washington said. "We have a lot of arms, but we certainly haven't started identifying 'You're going to do this' and 'You're going to do that' because [the pitchers] are competing for jobs."
• Right-handed reliever Joakim Soria is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Monday. Colby Lewis' next session is scheduled for Wednesday.
• Lance Berkman is in the starting lineup on Sunday, marking the first time he will have played back-to-back games this spring.
• Adrian Beltre is expected to play on Monday, according to assistant general manager Thad Levine -- something Washington would neither confirm nor deny.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.