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Kirkman cementing spot in bullpen


PHOENIX -- Not even the miserable rainy weather that swept through the Valley of the Sun could stop Rangers pitcher Michael Kirkman from enjoying another excellent outing on the mound and cementing his place in the Opening Day bullpen.

In a camp where left-handed relief pitching has been a highlight, Kirkman continues to make a strong statement that he will be the Rangers' primary left-handed reliever if Robbie Ross ends up in the rotation.

Kirkman pitched two scoreless innings on Friday before rain put a halt to the Rangers' game with the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. The game was called after the fourth inning with the Rangers leading, 2-0.

"He has been executing pitches," manager Ron Washington said. "That's what he has to do. When he's executing pitches, you can see how good he can be. At the end of last year, I saw him zoning in on being more consistent, and this Spring Training he has really been consistent. That's what we're looking for. He's always had the stuff. Now he's consistently keeping the ball in the strike zone."

Kirkman, who allowed just one hit, has now pitched six scoreless innings this spring. He has allowed three hits, struck out six and, most significantly, has not walked a batter. His goal coming into Spring Training was to, "throw strikes, have a real role in the bullpen and help the team win."

He is achieving the first two. Kirkman is out of options, so he has to make the team or be exposed to outright waivers. But that is becoming a moot point.

"Spring isn't over yet," Kirkman said. "We've still got three weeks left. We've got a long ways to go and a lot of progress to make."

Kirkman's second inning of work partly revealed why he is having a good spring. He threw a first-pitch ball to three straight hitters, but each time came back and threw a strike with his second pitch. Rather than let the at-bat get away from him, Kirkman ended up retiring three straight hitters on fly balls.

"The second inning I got behind three straight guys and was able to come back," Kirkman said. "That's what I've been trying to do. When I'm struggling, I'm falling behind guys and walking guys."

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.

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