Rangers Minor League Notes (3/2)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Texas Rangers played their second intrasquad scrimmage in as many days on Tuesday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout has notes from minor league camp and the intrasquad, and a Q&A with pitcher Michael Kirkman, who pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the game.

Tuesday was another quiet afternoon for the minor league players, who just had another relatively light workout before retiring to the clubhouse.

Minor league camp still hasn't officially started, but more players are showing up by the day. A number of players reported over the weekend, and there are approximately 35 position players in camp now.

• As usual, the day started early for the minor leaguers in big league camp [both 40-man roster guys and non-roster invitees]. The players were on the field for stretching by around 9:30.

But this week, the big league camp players are joined by a handful of minor league ‘minicamp' guys. The minicamp is mostly comprised of upper-level minors prospects, and they get to work out with the Major League team for the week.

Some of the hitters in this group include C Doug Hogan, C Jose Felix, IF Wes Bankston, IF John Whittleman, IF Leury Garcia, OF Engel Beltre, OF Joey Butler and OF David Paisano. Infielders Davis Stoneburner and Jake Kaase are not officially in the minicamp, but they have also been working out and taking batting practice with the team.

• Whittleman certainly passes the eye test these days. The third baseman says he "got after it" in offseason workouts with high school teammate and Tigers prospect Austin Wood, and it's evident. Whittleman added tons of muscle, and he looked good while roping line drives to all fields during Tuesday's minicamp batting practice session.

During 2009 Spring Training, Whittleman said in an interview that the upcoming season was huge for him. After hitting just .224 at Double-A Frisco, the 2010 season is even larger for the 23-year-old. He appears to have put in plenty of hard work over the offseason, but obviously only time will tell if it will pay off.

• During the same batting practice session, Paisano showed off some of his raw power, knocking a handful of balls over the left-center field fence, including one off the scoreboard. Paisano got plenty of valuable experience against upper-level and big league players in his 50-plus games with La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason. He also appears to have more of a pronounced leg-left prior to his swing than he did last season.

• The club played its second intrasquad scrimmage in as many days on Tuesday, this time playing a four-inning game. Team Jackie Moore [the reserves] edged out Team Bobby Jones [the starters], 4-3.

• On the prospect side, left-handers Zach Phillips and Michael Kirkman were the two most impressive pitchers of the contest.

Phillips tossed a perfect frame for Team Jackie Moore on just 10 pitches, throwing seven strikes. He began the frame by striking out lefty Chris Davis on a full count. Phillips threw all fastballs in the at-bat. He blew two belt-high fastballs by Davis early in the count before getting him looking on a well-placed outside corner, knee-high fastball. The California native finished the frame by getting Max Ramirez to ground out and Kevin Richardson to fly out.

• Kirkman hurled a 14-pitch perfect inning, throwing nine strikes. He fanned fellow lefty Mitch Moreland on a slider and threw a fastball on the inner-half to punch out Esteban German looking. Kirkman then left a fastball up to Matt Brown, but the third baseman flew out to center to end the inning. Though the outing was short, Kirkman threw a mix of pitches that included a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a cutter, a slider, and a curveball.

• Max Ramirez entered the game for Team Bobby Jones as a first baseman. Ramirez spent much of his time with La Guaira in winterball between DH and 1B, and he may began playing more first base this season.

• Minicamp players John Whittleman, David Paisano and Joey Butler entered the game late as defensive replacements, but they didn't get any at-bats.

• Another minicamp player, Engel Beltre, got the start for Team Jackie Moore. He was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a stolen base. Beltre, who played in left field, shared the outfield with Craig Gentry (CF) and Brandon Boggs (RF). That's three outfielders with outstanding range.

Daily Videos

Watch Video - HD (Feliz and Strop throw long toss)
Watch Video - HD (Engel Beltre takes batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Johnny Whittleman takes batting practice)
Watch Video (Michael Schlact and Kevin Castner play catch)
(Blake Beavan throws long toss)
(Neil Ramirez throws long toss)

Daily Prospect Q&A: Michael Kirkman

Jason Cole: Coming into last year's camp, you'd never pitched above Low-A. This year, you're in big league camp and pitching in Major League games. What has the experience been like so far?

Michael Kirkman: It has been fun working with these guys every day and learning new stuff every minute of every day. I threw today for the first time against some hitters, and it felt good.

Cole: You've also been throwing live batting practice, correct?

Kirkman: Yeah, we've thrown five or six live BP's.

Cole: Can you talk about the differences between going against hitters there and in the exhibition like you did today?

Kirkman: Well, in the early spring, I like throwing the live BP's because you really haven't seen a hitter all offseason. It gets you in the mindset on the mound that the hitter is in there, he's swinging the bat, and you need to get him out. Today it was a real live game, and live BP kind of gets us ready for that.

Cole: Being in big league camp means that you get to play alongside some experienced Major Leaguers as well as pitching coach Mike Maddux. Have you been able to pick up anything from those guys?

Kirkman: Mike is great. I'm working with him a lot so far. He has got me working on a cutter, and I'm trying to implement a two-seam as well. It's really coming along.

Cole: Have you ever thrown a cutter or a two-seamer in the past?

Kirkman: No.

Cole: Did you throw any out there in that outing today?

Kirkman: Yeah, I threw a couple two-seamers and a couple good cutters.

Cole: Just talk about throwing the cutter and the two-seam now. Whose idea was it to begin throwing those pitches, and what was your initial reaction?

Kirkman: Mike Maddux–we talked about it at minicamp and started throwing it at minicamp. It's something to work on for now. If it works, great. If it doesn't, so be it. But that's where that came in. Me and Keith Comstock have been trying to work on one for a couple years now. Since I was down in the AZL at the beginning of the '07 season. We were kind of working on it. I was having control problems still a bit with my four-seamer, so I figured get one horse behind you before you try to put another one on.

Cole: It seems like Mike Maddux is having a lot of pitchers implement the cutter, and we saw it pay dividends for a guy like Scott Feldman last year. Have you talked to him or any of those pitchers about what a difference the cutter has made?

Kirkman: The guys that throw it love it. When you learn to command it, it can be a great tool. Those days that the four-seamer flattens out a little bit, it gives you something else to go to.

Cole: You threw a curveball as well in today's outing, correct?

Kirkman: Yeah, the last hitter–I started him off with a curveball for a strike.

Cole: It seemed like even though it was a short, efficient inning, you were able to throw all your stuff. How'd you feel about the outing?

Kirkman: It was great. I was a little nervous, of course, going in. But I went out there, put the nerves behind me, and really worked on keeping the ball down in the zone–which I did for the most part. The last pitch–I kind of left it up, and he missed it. But for the most part, I did what I wanted to out there. I got ahead in the count.

Cole: You went to the prospect minicamp out in Arlington just before you reported out here for Spring Training. What happened there?

Kirkman: We threw on the game mound in Arlington. That was awesome. And we did a lot of talking, just about baseball stuff. It was kind of to get us ready for our call-up if we get it. We went over a lot of media stuff. Just a lot of baseball stuff.

Cole: You had minor offseason knee surgery. What exactly was the injury, what was the rehab process like, and how long was it before you felt at full-strength again?

Kirkman: They took out quite a bit of my medial meniscus in my knee. I pitched with a tear in it the whole year. Then I put another small tear in it during the last month of the season. Two days after the season got over, I had surgery on September 9. I think the season ended on the 7th. Then I came out here for 14 or 15 days, and I was feeling good after about seven.

Cole: So even though you were pitching through the injury last year, it didn't seem to hurt you results-wise. Was it causing much of a problem on the mound?

Kirkman: No. A couple times it did. It would pop, and I would have to pop it back in or whatever. But on the mound, once I got that adrenaline pumping, I never really felt it.

Cole: So it never really changed your game or the way you threw?

Kirkman: Well, early, it was a little worse than it was late. Because early, it was a newer tear. It was popping. I'd throw a pitch, and it would pop, then I wouldn't be able to straighten out my knee. So if I had to go back-up home plate, I had to pop my knee back in to run and back-up home plate. But later in the year, it kind of came back around and I could do a lot more things without it hurting.

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