Kirkman released; Choice optioned to Triple-A

Kirkman released; Choice optioned to Triple-A

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have released pitcher Michael Kirkman and optioned outfielder Michael Choice to Triple-A Round Rock. Those were the most notable of seven roster moves made on Tuesday morning.

Choice came into camp as one of the candidates to be Texas' left fielder, but he was slowed early by a tight left hamstring muscle and was 1-for-16 at the plate. He did go 2-for-4 with a home run in a "B" game on Saturday against the Padres, but the Rangers want him to get more playing time in Triple-A.

"We see Michael Choice as a big contributor to the Texas Rangers in the near future," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "We feel it's best to get him consistent at-bats and get a full head of steam going."

The left-field competition appears to be down to Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua and Ryan Ludwick. Smolinski appears to have the edge based on early performance, especially defensively, but all three could make the team. Rua's versatility and ability to play the infield could work in his favor when the final roster is set. Ludwick gives the club a veteran right-handed bat off the bench who can also handle himself in left field.

Kirkman was released even though the Rangers are short on left-handed relief. The club is still looking for southpaw relievers, but it didn't see Kirkman as being the answer.

"We drafted and developed Michael, and he has contributed at the big league level," Levine said. "We felt at this point in his career, it was best for him to get a fresh start with another organization. Looking at the competition, we didn't feel he was going to make the Major League team. He deserves a clear path to the Major Leagues, so we felt it was the right thing to do to give Michael a chance to find the right situation."

Kirkman appeared in 94 games for Texas over the past five years, with an ERA of 4.98.

"It caught me off guard," Kirkman said, "but I'm not the first player who has ever been released and I won't be the last. It's a chance for a new opportunity and a change of scenery."

The Rangers also sent left-handed reliever Martire Garcia back to Minor League camp. That leaves veteran Joe Beimel and Alex Claudio as the only two lefty relievers in camp.

The club has Juan Perez in Minor League camp, and he has 61 games of Major League experience. Perez missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his elbow, but he had a 1.93 ERA in the Dominican Winter League. The Rangers have also become intrigued with Andrew Faulkner, one of their best left-handed starting prospects in the farm system. Will Lamb is another Minor League lefty getting a look.

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.