ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' mini-camp includes two top candidates for a spot as a left-handed reliever in their bullpen: Michael Kirkman and Martin Perez.Kirkman has been both a starter and a reliever in the Rangers' farm system. But the club has told him that he is coming into camp strictly as a reliever this year. He made 20 relief appearances and seven starts at Triple-A Round Rock last year, and has made 29 relief appearances for the Rangers over the past two seasons. "I'm comfortable in the relief role," Kirkman said. "I'd like a chance to start, but I'm comfortable in the bullpen and feel I can help the team there." Darren Oliver and Michael Gonzalez were the Rangers' left-handed relievers in the playoffs last year. Both were free agents this winter, and Oliver has already signed with the Blue Jays. Gonzalez, coming off knee surgery, has yet to sign. That's why Perez will also be considered for the bullpen. He is the No. 2 ranked prospect in the Rangers' system and has been used mainly as a starter. But C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando both had success beginning their Major League careers as relievers before moving into the rotation. The Rangers are considering a similar path for Perez this spring. "If they let me work as a reliever, the time to start will come," Perez said. "I think they want me to get experience as a reliever and then work as a starter. That's fine with me." Robbie Ross and Miguel de los Santos are two other rookie left-handers who will be in Major League camp and could be considered for the bullpen. But they are not as far along in their development as Perez.
West, Mendonca adjust to new positions
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are holding a mini-camp for pitchers and catchers this week, and Matt West and Tommy Mendonca are among those in attendance. Nobody foresaw that a year ago when both were infielders.West, taken in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was originally a third baseman and was struggling at the plate. He was approached at the end of Spring Training last year by farm director Scott Servais. "He said, 'You're going to throw a bullpen tomorrow,'" West said. "I said, 'OK.'" A "bullpen" means a throwing session for a pitcher. West had not pitched since high school, but he did not need much urging. "I threw a bullpen and Scott said, 'Congratulations, you're now a pitcher,'" West said. "I said, 'Let's do it.'" The Rangers like his arm strength. West can hit 99 mph on a radar gun and is learning to throw a changeup and a breaking ball. He ended up pitching 27 innings last year and allowed nine runs on 24 hits with just one walk and 35 strikeouts. He has yet to pitch above Class A, but the Rangers believe he could rise quickly as a relief candidate in their system. "I love it," West said. "It fits my personality better." Mendonca, who was drafted out of Fresno State in the second round as a third baseman in 2009, was also surprised by the Rangers early this winter. He was driving to a friend's house in the middle of the Nevada desert when he got a call from Rangers field coordinator Mike Micucci asking him if he wanted to be a catcher. Mendonca agreed to the switch even though he hadn't caught since Little League. He has been working at the position for the past month in Arizona with Minor League instructor Hector Ortiz and this appears to be his future within an organization very strong at third base. "Hector has been great," Mendonca said. "It's fun. I like it. It's something different. It's a lot harder than third base and there is a lot of stuff I didn't know. I've learned a lot so far." Mendonca was at Double-A Frisco last season and hit .278 with 25 home runs and 87 RBIs in 125 games. Where he plays this season will likely depend on how much progress he makes as a catcher, but he will be in Major League camp for Spring Training. "I'll just keep grinding it out and prove I can make the transition," Mendonca said.
Greg Maddux begins new role with Rangers
ARLINGTON -- Greg Maddux officially joined the Rangers on Tuesday. The first day of the club's mini-camp marked his first day in his new assignment as special assistant to the general manager.Maddux is the brother of Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and was hired this offseason. He will be with the Rangers in Spring Training, he will do some scouting and he will make some visits to meet with Minor League pitchers during the season. "This is Day 1 for me," Maddux said. "This organization knows what they are doing. I'm going to come in and help anyway possible. The coaches here are really good and you don't want to have too much coaching. If I can help somebody, great." Maddux was among many who watched Neftali Feliz throw on Tuesday. Feliz has been the Rangers closer the past two seasons but is being moved into the rotation this spring. "He's a great pitcher," Maddux said. "He's got great stuff. He'll be fine. I don't know if I can help him out. He's pretty good. If you can locate your fastball and change speeds, you just do what you've been doing out of the bullpen. You just do it more."
Nadel elected to Dallas Parks board
ARLINGTON -- Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel has been elected to the Dallas Parks Foundation board. The foundation was organized to help raise money and awareness for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.Nadel, who has been a broadcaster for the Rangers for 34 years, has been involved in a number of park-related projects in past years. He was one of the founders of the first leash-free dog park in the city of Dallas, located at White Rock Lake. "The most crying need that is in my area of interest is fixing some of the baseball fields that are in very bad condition," Nadel said. "Hopefully I can raise both money and awareness and get something going."
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.