TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Robbie Ross was all smiles after another impressive performance Sunday.
The left-handed pitcher in contention for the team's lefty spot in the bullpen didn't allow a run on one hit in two innings of work in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Ross entered the game during the third and struck out his first two batters looking, including switch-hitter shortstop Erick Aybar.
The fourth inning featured the middle of the Angels lineup, but Ross managed to exit without any damage on the scoreboard, or to himself.
Ross got first baseman Albert Pujols out on a line drive to left field to start the inning, but he was nearly hit on the next at-bat. Outfielder Torii Hunter hit a ground ball up the middle on a 2-1 count that Ross avoided.
He stuck his glove out in front, but Ross ducked out of the way just in time. He said he's never had a ball hit back at him like that before and appeared rattled after the at-bat. He threw three straight balls to outfielder Vernon Wells before he eventually allowed his only walk this spring.
"I think I should've stepped off the mound and given myself a little more time to recover from it but I wasn't hitting my spots on the next batter," Ross said.
With two men on, catcher Mike Napoli came out to the mound to talk to Ross. He told Ross to continue battling and throw a fast ball away to designated hitter Bobby Abreu. The left-handed hitter grounded to second baseman Luis Hernadez on the first pitch to force a double play.
"It's nice having a guy back there that can come up and say, 'Hey you're all right, let's get this batter right here and focus on this guy,'" Ross said.
Ross hasn't allowed a batter to reach home in six appearances (if you take out his start against the Milwaukee Brewers that was washed out due to rain where he allowed two runs). He has struck out nine batters with just one walk in seven innings.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Ross has pitched well this spring, but he continued to emphasize the decision would be a discussion.
"We haven't made a decision on that yet but it's obvious the kid is throwing well," Washington said.
Ross has held the same mentality throughout his first big league camp on the decision.
"If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Ross said. "But at the same time, it'd be unbelievable to get this opportunity. Right now I'm just enjoying it and having a good time with it."
Kirkman blows lead: Michael Kirkman allowed four runs -- three earned -- in 1 1/3 innings pitched, including walk-off single in the ninth. Kirkman's outing started in the eighth when he replaced Yoshinori Tateyama. Following an error by outfielder Val Majewski to put the leadoff man on third, Jorge Cantu's two-run homer to left field put the Angels up 4-2. Kirkman got out of the inning on three consecutive fly balls.
The Rangers would score three runs in the top of the ninth to regain the lead, but Kirkman gave up two runs on four singles in the bottom of the inning.
Washington said Kirkman has been inconsistent this spring. He has a 7.00 ERA in nine innings pitched. It's the third time Kirkman has allowed three runs in a spring appearance. He didn't allowed a run in his last two outings.
"He's had some good days out there and then he's had not so good days," Washington said.
Gentry leaves: Outfielder Craig Gentry left the game due to dehydration. Washington said Gentry felt dizzy and came out of the game. Conor Jackson pinch-hit for Gentry in the third inning and replaced him in right field. You can read more about it here.
Cotts scoreless inning Neal Cotts pitched a scoreless sixth inning against the middle of the lineup. He allowed just a hit to Wells. Pujols and Abreu grounded out while Hunter flied out to left field. Cotts is another left-handed pitcher seeking for a spot in the bullpen.
Moreland error: Mitch Moreland committed one of the team's two errors in the second. He couldn't cleanly field outfielder Vernon Wells' ground ball to first. After the ball bounced out of his glove, Moreland couldn't get the throw to pitcher Mark Hamburger covering first in time. Wells scored on a sacrificed fly two batters later.
Pujols goes yard: It's only spring training, but Albert Pujols picked up where he left off in the World Series. He hit a solo home run off Hamburger in his first at-bat versus the Rangers. The line drive shot to left field was on an 0-2 count. Pujols finished 1-for-3.