SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Michael Kirkman walked into the clubhouse in Surprise this morning determined that this spring was going to be different.
Kirkman isn't a newcomer to the big league side of the Surprise Complex, but he's never been able to fully take advantage of the opportunities given him. At 26 years old, he knows he needs to take a step forward and prove he can be a quality reliever with staying power. Kirkman was 1-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 games (35 1/3 innings) for the Rangers in 2012. He was 5-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 48 innings with Triple-A Round Rock. He got better as the year progressed, but his spring struggles didn't allow him to seize an important job in the bullpen. Kirkman's goal this year is to become a late-inning performer in meaningful games. To do that, he needs a solid spring.
"I'm tired of getting here and having mediocre games almost every time out, maybe one good game and then a really bad one and it would be over," Kirkman said. "I want to get here and perform to my capability and get this camp over with and get the season started.
Kirkman said he's worked with pitching coach Mike Maddux on tightening his command (that includes shortening his arm behind him as he goes through his routine).
"I've really had a hard time in spring the past few years and I don't know if it's that the arm wasn't ready," Kirkman said. "It should be. I'm more ready this year than I have been in the past, physically. My arm should be right there. Totally, across the board, it feels more ready than it has in the past. Arm strength is better than it's been."
* Manager Ron Washington is in Surprise and came in with his pancake glove -- a flat glove used to help with fielding. He's ready to get going and will meet with his coaches some in the next few days to finalize all of the plans.
* Derek Holland was among a large group of pitchers heading out for a workout one day before they are all due to report.
* It's also cold out here. Players were bundled up as they went out to the back fields.