ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was a defiant tone to the soft-spoken Michael Kirkman on Tuesday. Last season didn't go the way he planned. And it still bothers him.
"It made me work harder this offseason, it will make me work harder the next three weeks and get ready for camp," Kirkman said. "And I’m ready."
That last phrase was said with emphasis.
Kirkman appeared ready for a big 2013. He had a terrific spring training, making news when he finally did give up a run or two. He looked confident, poised and prepared. Then it all fell apart.
The 27-year-old entered the season in the bullpen and lasted less than two months. He was 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA in 22 innings (25 appearances) with 25 strikeouts and 15 walks. He had a 2.318 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). Among relievers with at least eight innings pitched, no one was worse.
Kirkman was told recently that he would be stretched out to start and sees it as an opportunity to show that the guy who pitched so well in spring training last year can get it done in the regular season, too.
Kirkman said his troubles were all mental. He looked at film of his delivery from spring training and the regular season and couldn't see any real differences.
"It was that mental capacity of being able to overcome giving up a double or (not) leaving that runner out there," Kirkman said. "I wasn’t ever able to overcome that. So mental preparation is going to be the biggest key."
Kirkman said he has made one tweak with his delivery, standing more straight up to avoid the tendency to lean to the right. He's also putting more emphasis on the curve ball to give himself a pitch he can show a batter to differentiate from the slider. He can also see more movement already from his fastball, which he said flattened out and even though he had more velocity on it, it wasn't as effective.
Kirkman said he feels closer to his 2010 form. That year he pitched well in the minors and continued it with 14 relief appearances in the big leagues and a 1.65 ERA as the Rangers went to the World Series.