ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' mini-camp includes two top candidates for a spot as a left-handed reliever in their bullpen: Michael Kirkman and Martin Perez.
Kirkman has been both a starter and a reliever in the Rangers' farm system. But the club has told him that he is coming into camp strictly as a reliever this year. He made 20 relief appearances and seven starts at Triple-A Round Rock last year, and has made 29 relief appearances for the Rangers over the past two seasons.
"I'm comfortable in the relief role," Kirkman said. "I'd like a chance to start, but I'm comfortable in the bullpen and feel I can help the team there."
Darren Oliver and Michael Gonzalez were the Rangers' left-handed relievers in the playoffs last year. Both were free agents this winter, and Oliver has already signed with the Blue Jays. Gonzalez, coming off knee surgery, has yet to sign.
That's why Perez will also be considered for the bullpen. He is the No. 2 ranked prospect
in the Rangers' system and has been used mainly as a starter. But C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando both had success beginning their Major League careers as relievers before moving into the rotation.
The Rangers are considering a similar path for Perez this spring.
"If they let me work as a reliever, the time to start will come," Perez said. "I think they want me to get experience as a reliever and then work as a starter. That's fine with me."
Robbie Ross and Miguel de los Santos are two other rookie left-handers who will be in Major League camp and could be considered for the bullpen. But they are not as far along in their development as Perez.