The Texas Rangers have long been waiting for Michael Kirkman to live up to his potential as a pitcher in their system. They've unsuccessfully tried him as a starter and now as a reliever, and much to their chagrin, things just aren't working out for the lefty.
After a pretty great spring in Cactus League play, it seemed Kirkman might have finally turned the proverbial corner in his career and become an effective option out of the bullpen, maybe even in high-leverage roles. But once the lights of the regular season came on, it became clear that wasn't the case.
That point was driven home on Thursday night in Boston when Kirkman threw six pitches — four of which were intentional balls — and gave up three runs to lose in walk-off fashion to the Red Sox after a three-run bomb on the first pitch he threw to Boston slugger David Ortiz.
"He's still here, isn't he?" Rangers manager Ron Washington said after the game. "I'm confident he can come in and get the job done."
Washington had Kirkman and closer Joe Nathan warming up. Nathan had an easy six-pitch save on Wednesday night and seemed to be the right choice in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Once Washington went to Kirkman, you immediately got the feeling things wouldn't end well.
Double. Four intentional balls. Inside fastball to perhaps the best inside fastball hitter on the planet.
Those were Kirkman's six pitches, and they should be his final six pitches thrown as a Ranger. His ERA is now up to 8.18. It's easy to see why Kirkman is still around. He's out of options, meaning he'd have to be designated for assignment and pass through waivers for the Rangers to retain him. The Rangers probably think that wouldn't happen, and they're probably right. You're talking about a 6-4 lefty who can hit the mid 90s. Some team would likely take a chance on him, but it seems about time the Rangers stop being that team.