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Kirkman keeps his cool until after debut

Kirkman keeps his cool until after debut

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BALTIMORE -- The first pitch of his Major League career, which was supposed to be down and away, sailed up and in. So did the second. After that, Rangers lefty Michael Kirkman settled down and retired all four hitters he faced, striking out the side in his first inning Saturday against the Orioles.

A day later, he was still savoring his successful debut -- and trying to catch up with all the well-wishers.

"Twenty text messages and 30 things on Facebook," he said. "It was crazy; I didn't have time to check them all. It was cool."

Kirkman, who was going to work the eighth inning in Saturday's game, was called in as an injury replacement for left-hander Scott Feldman, who experienced soreness in his right knee while warming up for the seventh inning. Because of the situation, Kirkman didn't have enough time to let adrenaline overtake him.

"I think that really did help. ... I might have thrown eight pitches off the mound [in the bullpen] and that was just trying to get loose," Kirkman said. "[Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins] turns around and says, 'All right, bud, we've got an injury out there -- you can go warm up on the field, and you've got all the time you need.' That's when it hit; that's when the heart started pumping. I tried to collect myself when I got to the infield."

Mission accomplished. After throwing two balls to Ty Wigginton, Kirkman got the Baltimore cleanup hitter swinging. He caught Luke Scott looking at a third strike before completing his first Major League inning by fanning Adam Jones swinging. In the eighth, Kirkman got Felix Pie to pop out to short in a lefty-on-lefty battle before he was relieved by Frank Francisco.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kirkland is the first rookie to strike out the first three batters he faced in his debut since Tampa Bay's Wade Davis, who fanned the first four hitters he faced on Sept. 6, 2009, against Detroit. Davis and Kirkman are the only pitchers to strike out as many as the first three batters they faced in their debut since Texas' Neftali Feliz fanned his first four hitters Aug. 3, 2009, at Oakland.

The successful first outing impressed Rangers manager Ron Washington, who said Kirkman, a converted starting pitcher, lived up to his billing as being tough on left-handed hitters.

"I thought for the first time out, he showed great composure with his emotions. He pounded the strike zone. ... Those couple of lefties he got out [Scott and Pie] are pretty good lefties," Washington said.

Feldman reported that his knee was feeling better Sunday. He is scheduled to undergo a MRI test Monday in Arlington. With Feldman down, the Rangers will be an arm short in the bullpen Sunday for the finale of a four-game series at Camden Yards.

"We've got enough bullpen to get through today," Washington said.

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