SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Michael Kirkman threw 67 pitches over four innings in a Minor League game on Friday night. The increased workload was by design.
Kirkman has been the best pitcher in camp this spring and has locked up a job in the bullpen. But the Rangers are now beginning to wonder if Kirkman might be the answer as the No. 5 starter.
The Rangers are still leaning strongly toward rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch, but Kirkman has not allowed a run in 11 Cactus League innings. He allowed four runs on six hits against Triple-A hitters from the Royals, but he did not walk a batter and struck out five.
"That's where it gets skewed a little bit," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "The line doesn't tell the truth. Those fields are pretty hard. They squared up some balls, but his fastball was good and his breaking ball was sharp. [George] Kottaras got two hits by rolling a few ground balls on a pool table and they went through."
Kirkman also found out he was tipping his pitches when working out of the stretch. He would rock back and forth three times when he was ready to throw a fastball, but just twice on offspeed pitches.
"That was an easy fix," Kirkman said.
Kirkman has been used strictly as a reliever at the Major League level over the past three seasons, but he has been a starter in the Minors. That includes 2010 at Triple-A Oklahoma City when he was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. He has the complete repertoire to be a starting pitcher.
"I think he has four plus pitches," manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers biggest concern is bumping Kirkman from one role to the other at a time when he is pitching extremely well. The Rangers are expecting to need a fifth starter for no more than two months before Colby Lewis comes off the disabled list. The Rangers would also be taking away from the bullpen, which is still a bigger concern right now.
The Rangers have considered outside options and the Dodgers have extra starting pitching. They may try to deal either Ted Lily, Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang before the end of spring. The Rangers don't appear overly interested in Jon Garland, who opted out of his contract with the Mariners on Friday. Chris Young could be an option for somebody. Young has had a good spring for the Nationals, but is not going to make their Opening Day roster. He could opt out of his contract as early as Sunday.
The Rangers sent a scout to watch Kyle Lohse's latest simulated game in the Phoenix area, but club officials are still saying he is not an option right now.
At this point, Tepesch still has the inside track, but Kirkman is giving them something to think about.
Holland gets nod for home opener against Angels
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Matt Harrison is the Rangers' Opening Day starter, but Derek Holland will be on the mound for the home opener on April 5 against the Angels. Holland is slotted to be the fourth starter behind Harrison, Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando.
Harrison starts on Sunday, March 31 against the Astros while Darvish and Ogando will start the next two games of the series. The Rangers have two off-days during the first week of the season, including the Thursday before the home opener.
That would allow them to bring back Harrison to pitch the home opener and manager Ron Washington mentioned that as a possibility earlier this week. But the Rangers have decided to pitch Holland that day. That would leave Harrison and Darvish to pitch the next two games against the Angels and Ogando to pitch Monday, April 8 against the Rays. That leaves April 9 as the first day the Rangers would need a fifth starter.
Ogando is scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Reds in Surprise and Friday against the Padres in San Antonio. Holland is scheduled to pitch on Monday against the Padres and the following Saturday against them in San Antonio. He is 7-5 with a 5.58 ERA in 13 starts and three relief appearances against the Angels in his career.
Lewis close to throwing live BP
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers talked about right-hander Colby Lewis graduating to throwing live batting practice on Tuesday. That would have been faster than originally intended, but Dr. Keith Meister wants him to throw one more bullpen before moving up to live BP.
"Doc said, 'let's stay on schedule,'" Lewis said.
Lewis underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow on July 27. He was told at the time it would be a 10-12 month recovery process. He is approaching the eight-month mark.
Lewis has been throwing in the bullpen and threw 45 pitches in a session on Friday. He is mixing in his curve and slider during the session, but estimated he is giving 75-percent effort. Once he starts throwing live BP, he would likely need six weeks before he's ready to pitch in a Major League game.
"I feel like I'm ahead of where I want to be," Lewis said.
Solarte among Saturday's roster cuts
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers sent infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitchers Ben Rowen and Lisalverto Bonilla to Minor League camp on Saturday. The Rangers also released catcher Konrad Schmidt.
Solarte had been in competition for the utility infielder's spot and showed some ability to play shortstop. But at this point, the Rangers are likely to go with Leury Garcia and send infielder Jurickson Profar to Triple-A Round Rock so he can play every day.
Schmidt was claimed off waivers from the D-backs in the offseason as Triple-A depth. But right now, Jose Felix is likely the leading candidate to catch at Round Rock with Eli Whiteside and Juan Apodaca also possibilities. Zach Zaneski is another candidate.
Rowen and Bonilla were late additions to the big league camp roster. The Rangers wanted to get a quick look at them in Cactus League games before sending them back into the system.
• Josh Lindblom pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two in a Minor League game against the Royals on Thursday night. Right-handers Coty Woods and Johan Yan also pitched one scoreless inning each.
• First baseman Chris McGuinness, who was taken in the Rule 5 Draft last December, is not expected to make the Indians' Opening Day roster. He would have to be offered back to the Rangers, who want him back. But the Indians may try to keep him through a trade.
• Lance Berkman, who was off on Saturday, has drawn 11 walks, tied with the Angels' Mike Trout for the most in the Cactus League.
• Jeff Baker left Saturday's game in the third inning due to sinus issues.
• Jason Frasor allowed two runs in one inning of work in a Double-A Minor League game against the White Sox on Saturday. Frasor has not allowed a run in five Class A games.
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.