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."
Martin impressing Rangers in spring
PHOENIX -- Leonys Martin has not yet won the job as the Rangers center fielder. He hasn't even made the team yet. But he is certainly doing everything the Rangers wanted to see this spring.
Martin was 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI single against the Brewers on Friday. He also threw out Jean Segura trying to stretch a single into a double in the first inning. Martin is now hitting .417 in the Cactus League.
"He is having fun and enjoying himself," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Now we can get a look at his abilities."
The Rangers really wanted to see Martin play good defense this spring. Martin has been spending a lot of time with outfield coach Gary Pettis, and Washington said it's paying off.
"He looks comfortable out there," Washington said. "He really does. He's playing a good center field, he's making good reads and throwing to the cutoff man. I haven't seen him miss one yet. He's still going to make mistakes, but what he's doing now is playing under control."
Rangers miss opportunity to look at relievers in rainout
PHOENIX -- The Rangers were able to take a look at Jeff Beliveau and Michael Kirkman on Friday, but other Rangers pitchers will have to wait, because Friday's game with the Brewers was wiped out by rain after four innings. The rain was accompanied by high winds and dropping temperatures.
"Miserable out there, absolutely miserable," outfielder Craig Gentry said. "Windy, rain, cold.... The last inning was pretty bad."
Beliveau, who started, and Kirkman both pitched two innings. Kirkman was supposed to pitch the fifth inning, but the weather didn't cooperate. At least he got on the mound. Cory Burns, Neil Ramirez, Collin Balester and Johan Yan had their one inning of scheduled work washed away. Manager Ron Washington said they will try to get them on the hill on Saturday, when the Rangers have split-squad games against the Athletics and Padres.
Matt Harrison pitches against the Padres in Peoria at 2:05 p.m. CT, while rookie Nick Tepesch will be on the mound against the Athletics in Surprise, also at 2:05 p.m. CT. This arrangement allows Harrison to miss pitching against the Athletics. But the big reason for the arrangement is that the Rangers wanted Tepesch pitching at home, where more club officials can look at him.
Washington said he will go with the team in Peoria and let bench coach Jackie Moore handle the team in Surprise.
"If it was Tucson, I'd be saying, 'See you Jackie,'" Washington said. "But it's not Tucson, so I will go on the road."
Texas wants utility infielder who can play shortstop
PHOENIX -- Friday's game with the Brewers offered a reminder of why the Rangers are still looking for a utility infielder who can play shortstop. Yangervis Solarte started there on Friday, because Elvis Andrus and Leury Garcia are in the World Baseball Classic, and manager Ron Washington wanted to give Jurickson Profar a day off.
Solarte is a candidate to make the team as a utility player but faces long odds, because he has limited experience at shortstop. He has played just 10 games there over his seven-year Minor League career. He does offer the ability to play second, third and the outfield, but the Rangers signed veteran Jeff Baker to a Minor League contract this winter.
Baker can play all those positions as well, he is having a good spring and he could give the Rangers a right-handed bat off the bench. But he has not played shortstop in the Majors, although that was his position at Clemson.
So, the Rangers are still looking for a utility infielder who can play shortstop. Profar and Garcia have that ability, unless the Rangers decide they want those two highly-regarded prospects playing regularly in the Minor Leagues until there is a full-time job available.
The Rangers may end up acquiring somebody before the end of Spring Training.
Veteran John McDonald, 38, could be available if the Diamondbacks decide to go with Willie Bloomquist as their shortstop. The Brewers have Jeff Bianchi, who is out of options, and Donnie Murphy, who is in their camp on a Minor League contract. The Brewers are more likely to move Murphy.
• Pitcher Kyle McClellan, who has been sidelined with soreness in the back of his right shoulder, is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. If that goes well, he could pitch one inning in a game on Tuesday and still has time to build up as a starter.
According to assistant general manager Thad Levine, "There can't be any more setbacks, if he wants to be a candidate for the starting rotation."
• Pitcher Wilmer Font, who has had shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Sunday. That could be his last step before pitching in a game.
• The last of the Rangers Minor Leaguers officially reported on Friday. Many have already been here working out, but now the entire organization is officially at the Rangers Spring Training headquarters, except those away at the World Baseball Classic.
• Catcher Eli Whiteside remains sidelined with a strained left calf muscle.
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.