Tag:Michael Kirkman
Posted on: March 27, 2011 2:25 pm
 

Rangers looking to start Ogando

By Matt Snyder

With Tommy Hunter's ill-timed groin injury, the Rangers still have one open spot in the starting pitching rotation, and it appears Alexi Ogando is close to filling it. Ogando was moved to the bullpen -- in a setup role for stud closer Neftali Feliz -- last week, but the Hunter injury has forced the Rangers to rethink things. Ogando is going to stretch back out as a starter, which shouldn't be difficult considering he was starting just over a week ago, and will start Tuesday in an exhibition game. If things go well, he'll be slotted fourth, with Derek Holland being the No. 5. (Dallas Morning News )

Dave Bush, who was thought to be in the mix, has made the team and will join the bullpen as a long reliever. He's certainly still an option to start, should Ogando falter. Brett Tomko is another option, as he fights for one of the final roster spots. Michael Kirkman is still a consideration, but the Ogando move doesn't bode well for his immediate chances.

Ogando, 27, was stellar last season out of the pen. He compiled a 1.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings. He has a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 spring innings.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 4:45 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 4:58 pm
 

Hunter could be out 6 weeks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Tommy HunterThe day after being naming Tommy Hunter to the Rangers' starting rotation and answering the great Neftali Feliz closer/starter argument, Texas says Hunter could miss as much as six weeks with a right groin strain.

Hunter will return to Texas for blood-platelet injection, Jeff Wilson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Hunter left Thursday's game against Cincinnati in the third inning with the groin injury.

Even with Hunter out, the Rangers won't change their plans for Feliz to anchor the bullpen. Instead, Michael Kirkman and Dave Bush are the candidates to replace Hunter.

Kirkman, 24, has made one start this spring and appeared in four games, going 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He's struck out nine and walked three, while allowing 13 runs (seven earned) on 15 hits.

Bush, like Kirkman, has started one game and appeared in four this spring. Bush has struck out six and walked four in 13 innings. He's given up 13 hits and eight runs (seven earned). The 31-year-old Bush was 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA for the Brewers last season in 31 starts.

Bush singed a minor-league contract and has an out in his contract if he's not on the team's 40-man roster by Sunday. That could be enough to give him the edge over Kirkman for the final spot in the Rangers' rotation.

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Posted on: March 24, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 5:32 pm
 

Hunter strains groin, possible rotation shake up

By Matt Snyder

Just a few hours after the Rangers officially named their starting rotation -- and announced Neftali Feliz will remain the team's closer -- Tommy Hunter strained his right groin. (Evan Grant via Twitter )

Considering how a groin factors into a pitcher's delivery, a trip to the disabled list is a near-certainty.

That means that the Rangers are right back where they were at the beginning of the day -- without a full rotation.

The most likely candidate to take the vacated spot is Michael Kirkman. The 24-year-old prospect was the PCL (Triple-A) pitcher of the year in 2010, as he went 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 innings. After getting the call to join the big club in late August, Kirkman became a weapon out of the bullpen for the eventual AL champs, finishing with a 1.65 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 16 1/3 innings. He struck out 16, but the 10 walks were a bit troubling. He has struggled a bit this spring, but the coaching staff has still raved about him in interviews.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Rangers' rotation shuffle shaking out

By Matt Snyder

According to pitching coach Mike Maddux, the Rangers have settled on the pitchers to fill the third and fourth spots in their starting rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.

Though it was not official, Maddux told a radio show that Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison were close to being given the nod and that "the other spot is going to come down to the last couple weeks." (ESPN Dallas )

That last spot has a whole six guys still in the mix. Obviously, if management wants Neftali Feliz in the rotation, that's his spot. If not, the Rangers are deciding between Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Dave Bush, Brett Tomko and Alexi Ogando.

The smart money there is on Holland, though Kirkman is an up-and-coming prospect and Bush has the wily veteran factor. It just depends on which direction the Rangers want to go. That spot is probably a temp gig anyway, with Brandon Webb making progress and a sure bet to join the fray at some point during the first half of the season.

Hunter, 24, has an 8.31 ERA this spring, but has struck out 10 guys and only walked one. He was 13-4 last season with a 3.73 ERA in 128 innings.

Harrison, 25, has only allowed five hits and one earned run in nine spring innings (1.00 ERA). He had a 4.71 ERA in 37 appearances last season -- only six of which were starts. He was 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA as a starter.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Pepper: Sign spring's end is near



By Matt Snyder


How can you best tell when spring is winding down and the real Major League Baseball season is nearing? Well, a few things. The snow finally stops falling. I guess, though this year who really knows. It's liable to snow at some places into May at this rate. Another good sign is watching the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS (shameless plug alert). How about baseball teams starting to name -- or get close to naming -- a fifth starting pitcher? That's a pretty good one, and it's happening in a lot of different places right now.

We've already passed along that Mark Rogers has been demoted, which leaves Wily Peralta the Brewers' likely five . We've also noted Michael Pineda being in Seattle's driver's seat as well. But there are plenty more.

Esmil Rogers looks like he's opening up a lead over John Maine and Greg Reynolds for the Rockies, after working five innings Tuesday and only facing the minimum 15 batters. (Denver Post )

Brandon McCarthy has gotten in the good graces of manager Bob Geren for being "impressive" and "consistent" in looking to win the A's fifth starting job behind a pretty underrated top four of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. (San Francisco Chronicle )

Ever since Adam Wainwright went down with injury and the Cardinals said they were going to look internally, Kyle McClellan has been the front-runner to take the remaining spot. And every outing since then, he's gotten rave reviews and been tabbed as the front-runner. Thus, it would be pretty shocking if he didn't get the job. Still, the word from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is that McClellan is merely "closer" to getting the nod.

Speaking of shocking, it would be just as shocking if Randy Wells doesn't win one of the Cubs' two remaining rotation slots. He's throwing well this spring and has the past experience. It also appears that former first-round pick Andrew Cashner is putting some distance between himself and the rest of the field as well. We'll get back to Cashner in a second. (MLB.com )

Of course, there is one team a bit behind the curve here. The Texas Rangers, your defending American League champs, still have a whopping seven guys in the mix for two spots. If a decision is made to start Neftali Feliz, one that seems increasingly likely with each passing day, that narrows the field to six guys for one spot. Those six: Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando, Dave Bush and Eric Hurley. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram )

THE PROFESSOR: Of the two nicknames you see listed for Greg Maddux on baseball-reference.com, I always preferred "the Professor," even though it's nowhere near mainstream. He was so much more cerebral than his opposition, seemingly getting guys out just with his mind. Thus, it's only fitting he's passing along some knowledge to Cashner in Cubs camp as a special assistant. His latest nugget? "Walks are overrated." It's not surprising, coming from a guy who probably never walked someone by accident in his prime. Those who remember watching him in the mid-90s are nodding in agreement. You could feel when Maddux was walking someone on purpose; otherwise it didn't happen. Oh, and if Maddux's wisdom isn't enough, Kerry Wood has also taken Cashner under his wing. (Chicago Tribune )

RUSSELL THE MUSCLE: Hey, someone has to fill the void left by Mark Reynolds -- both in terms of power and strikeouts. Despite his lackluster defense -- which is reportedly a concern for manager Kirk Gibson -- Russell Branyan is turning heads by killing the ball this spring, to the tune of a 1.274 OPS. And don't scoff. While Branyan has a bad batting average and strikeout issues, his career OPS-plus is 115 and he averages 31 home runs over the course of 162 games. He need only hold off Juan Miranda and once-big prospect Brandon Allen. (MLB.com )

NO WORRIES: Clayton Kershaw was torched Tuesday by the Rangers, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn't worried about his likely ace. Nor should he be, considering it's only the spring and Kershaw entered the game with a 0.00 ERA through 11 1/3 innings. (Los Angeles Times )

SWITCHBACK: Prior to the ALDS last year, the rules for the dreaded catwalk at Tropicana Field were altered, but now those rules are reverting back to where they were in the regular season of 2010. Check out the complete list on St. Petersburg Times .

GETTING GRADY BACK: Sunday could be the day. Grady Sizemore hasn't seen game action in about 10 months, but reportedly he has a real shot to play Sunday. Obviously huge news for the Tribe. (Cleveland.com )

KEEPING DICE-K: There's been a lot of talk about the Red Sox trading Daisuke Matsuzaka of late. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe makes a good case to fans that Dice-K is actually a pretty average major-league pitcher and that, as the fifth starter, that's really all the team needs. Put the absurd salary aside and just enjoy the good Red Sox team, he pleads. I tend to agree. (Boston Globe )

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Feliz to close; rotation fallout in Texas

By Evan Brunell

FelizOn Wednesday, the Rangers will throw Neftali Feliz into a spring training game expecting three innings out of the hurler. However, Feliz won't be putting in his work at the start of the game as is common for those who aspire to make the starting rotation. Instead, Feliz will be covering the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Why is that?

"I don't think I have to tell you why we're doing that," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com.

And so comes to a close -- well, almost -- on the experiment to make Feliz (pictured) a starter. While nothing is official, all signs are pointing to the AL Rookie of the Year continuing in the role that saw him nail down 40 saves in Texas' run to the AL pennant last season. While Feliz was open to returning to the rotation, he made clear to team president Nolan Ryan and the media that he was simply more comfortable remaining as closer simply due to his familiarity with the role. While Feliz came up through the minors as a starter, his success at the major league level has been out of the bullpen and he has certainly delivered. But Feliz will continue to pitch multiple innings in spring training to work on his slider and changeup in an attempt to diversify beyond simply a wicked fastball.

"We're going to keep him stretched out so he can use all his pitches," Washington said.

Meanwhile, the absence of Feliz means there are now seven candidates for three spots in the rotation, and that's not even counting the injured Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb. Feldman had surgery in the offseason to repair a microfracture in his right knee but is not expected to be ready to pitch at the major league level until well into May, if not longer. Webb, meanwhile, has a rotation spot waiting for him but the Rangers feel the former Cy Young Award winner won't be ready for Opening Day.

"He's progressing," Washington said. "That's a good step forward. We went from long toss to bullpen to throwing live BP. Depending on how that goes, we'll set a plan from there."

Even if Webb isn't ready when time to line up along the foul lines and be introduced to the crowds, he shouldn't be that far behind, which only puts added pressure on the other candidates to step up their game.

Of the remaining candidates, top prospect Tanner Scheppers (ranked No 77. on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects) profiles as a reliever long-term and is currently battling back stiffness, while Feliz's compatriot in the bullpen, Alexi Ogando, is gamely trying to win a rotation spot but is likely to return to his setup role. Dave Bush, the former Brewer, is in camp hoping for a rotation spot along with prospect Michael Kirkman, a lefty who had 14 relief appearances for Texas last season and could reprise that role in 2011.

Related

Tommy Hunter appears to be the one candidate with the best shot at a gig as he posted a 3.73 ERA (4.70 xFIP) in 128 innings over 22 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. Hunter also posted similar statistics in his 19-start stint with the Rangers in 2009. 

The other favorites are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Holland is a former top prospect who has not yet locked down a permanent spot in the rotation but could be the club's best pitcher by year's end. The 24-year-old had a 4.08 ERA (4.40 xFIP) in 10 starts and four relief appearances for the Rangers and also appeared on the postseason roster along with Hunter. The lefty will start Wednesday in Feliz's place.

Harrison, meanwhile, has impressed early in camp. However, his peripherals don't come close to what Holland can put up and the club used him almost exclusively in relief last season with six starts and 31 bullpen appearances.

One has to imagine that Hunter and Holland will occupy the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, respectively, with Bush and Harrison battling for the final spot that will eventually be turned over to Webb. There is also thought to be a long-relief spot available which could go to the loser of the rotation sweepstakes.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Messin' with Texas' starting rotation

Posted by Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers won the American League pennant last season, yet on March 1, they have just two official members of their starting pitching staff. C.J. Wilson -- who one year ago was trying to convince his bosses he could start -- is the opening day starter. Colby Lewis -- who one year ago was returning to stateside from Japan -- is the number two.

Funny thing is, the Rangers could actually end up having a pretty solid rotation. There is a void at the top, sure. Wilson and Lewis seem more like middle-of-the-rotation guys at this point, which is why the team was ready to pay quite a bit to retain the services of Cliff Lee.

Obviously the team would be better off at present with Lee, but there's potential left on this staff.

Let's make an at least mildly realistic argument everything is going to come together, just to see how things could shake out -- meaning we aren't going to say Brandon Webb immediately returns to Cy Young form, but we will assume a lot of "ifs" pan out positively.

Wilson had a rough September, but you could argue he was just tiring. It was his first season in the bigs as a starting pitcher. He exceeded 200 innings after never having thrown more than 73 2/3 in a major league season. The last time he topped 100 innings in a professional season was 2005 (48 in the majors, 58 1/3 in the minors). Before September, he was 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA. Control was an issue all season and his 4.1 BB/9 was exactly the same as his career mark. However, getting his command in order is his top priority this spring. There's no pressure to make the rotation and, already being the opening day starter, he need not worry about anything else.

Lewis was a bit inconsistent, but finished real strong. He closed 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts. He carried that over into the playoffs by going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. This included dominating the Yankees twice. If he carries this over into 2011, he'll be a very capable second starter.

In the two, the Rangers have a pair of 200-inning guys with postseason experience, though neither is old.

Next, you have Webb. He hasn't thrown a major league pitch in almost two calendar years, but he was the best pitcher in the national league from 2006-2008, winning a Cy Young and finishing second the other two years. He has been building up arm strength without a setback so far this spring. He finally got on the mound and threw some pitches recently. It does appear he'll be an in-season addition to the rotation (via FOX Sports), rather than an opening day member, but that's OK. The Rangers are being realistic with him. By the end of the year, who's to say he can't be back to a quality major-league starter, even if he'll never be an ace again.

Now, a sleeper: Michael Kirkman. The 24-year-old left-hander sparkled in his stint for the Rangers last season, to the tune of a 1.65 ERA in 14 major-league appearances out of the bullpen. He accrued some postseason experience, too, though he was slightly touched up in one of his three outings. As a starter in triple-A last season, Kirkman was 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA -- which, in the Pacific Coast League, is quite the feat. He struck out 130 hitters in 131 innings and won the PCL pitcher of the year award. Pitching coach Mike Maddux sang Kirkman's praises on XM Radio Monday morning and Rangers brass seem to be favoring him for a spot at this point (Star-Telegram ).

Then the Rangers have Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter.

Harrison's fallen off in recent years without consistent starts, but he was once a solid prospect and is still only 25. With this group it's doubtful there will be room for him, but you never know.

Holland, 24, is a former top-35 prospect. He battled injury issues last season, but is healthy now. He was lights-out in triple-A last season, going 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He looked good in the ALCS against the Yankees (0 ER in 5 2/3 innings). Further development this season could see Holland as a breakout starter.

Hunter has an ERA-plus of 115 over the past two seasons, which include 41 starts. He went 13-4 last season. He's only 24.

One of these guys could end up being the fifth-best starter for the Rangers come August, with the other two left out in the cold -- and we haven't even mentioned Neftali Feliz. Few pitchers in the league have a better arm than the 22-year-old fireballer. He was an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year last season as a closer, but the Rangers see him as a starter in the future. Is the future, here, April of 2011? It's possible. He's in the fight to make the rotation as of Tuesday.

What if the Rangers plug him in as a five? And then Wilson, Lewis, Webb, Kirkman and Feliz all pitch to their ceiling in 2011? Even if Feliz remains at closer -- which seems likely here -- either Holland or Hunter can easily be seen as a fine fifth rotation member.

So is the rotation of the Rangers really an issue? Did they really need to try and match the Phillies or Yankees for Cliff Lee?

Time will tell, but it's certainly not a lost cause in Texas. Not by any stretch. The uncertainty with the rotation could actually end up being an embarrassment of riches.

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Posted on: October 26, 2010 7:14 pm
 

Rangers haven't set roster

The Rangers won't announce their 25-man roster for the World Series until tomorrow's deadline. The team did the same thing before the first two postseason series.

There won't be much of a surprise, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports 24 of the spots are set (including backup first baseman Jorge Cantu). The only question is the last bullpen spot. The Rangers will likely drop a left-hander -- either Clay Rapada or Michael Kirkman -- and add a right-hander, either Dustin Nippert or Mark Lowe.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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