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March 25, 2012

Left-handed relievers at forefront of Rangers' 6-5 loss to Angels

TEMPE, Ariz. – Robbie Ross is keeping himself in the mix to become the left-handed reliever in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, while Michael Kirkman continues to have an inconsistent spring.

Both pitchers had vastly different days vs. the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, a game that the Rangers lost 6-5 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Ross threw two scoreless innings, allowing one hit with one walk and two strikeouts. In the fourth inning, Ross retired Albert Pujols on a fly out and later induced an inning-ending double play by Bobby Abreu.

Kirkman, meanwhile, couldn’t hold two leads in the eighth or ninth. He gave up a two-run home run to Jorge Cantu in the eighth that tied the game at 4-4. Then, after the Rangers had regained a 5-4 lead, Kirkman gave up RBI singles to Angels’ prospects Kole Calhoun and Randal Grichuk.

“Today he just wasn’t very good,” manager Ron Washington said. “He left too many balls up. … He’s been on-and-off [in spring training]. He’s had some good days out there, and then he has not-so-good days.”

Ross has been consistent throughout the spring, and will throw on consecutive days with the rest of the relievers this week. He has not allowed a run in six official Cactus League appearances, although he did give up four runs (three earned) in a start on March 18 that was rained out.

Ross is projected as a starter, and has started 68 of 69 professional games with his lone relief outing coming on a scheduled bullpen day early last season. There will be a discussion of what’s best for the Rangers and Ross, but Washington didn’t make his feelings public Sunday.

“We just haven’t made a decision on that yet,” Washington said. “It’s obvious the kid is doing well.”

The 22-year-old Ross is enjoying it, making the most of his first big league camp with a smile on his face every day.

“Just enjoy it, smiling is all I do,” Ross said. “It was awesome to face well-known hitters, and get out there and do it.”

Neal Cotts has also put himself in the conversation, and he threw a scoreless inning Sunday.

“He’s still here,” Washington said.

-- Drew Davison

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