Pitchers Kirkman, Feliz begin rehab assignments

Pitchers Kirkman, Feliz begin rehab assignments

Pitchers Kirkman, Feliz begin rehab assignments

OAKLAND --- Left-handed pitcher Michael Kirkman, sidelined for two months while undergoing treatment for skin cancer, and right-hander Neftali Feliz are emerging again as late-season options for the Rangers.

Kirkman began a rehab assignment for Triple-A Round Rock on Friday, allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings against Fresno. He walked two, struck out two and threw 72 pitches in a 3-1 loss.

"We were encouraged by the outing last night," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "The velocity was 90-94 and the reports read like somebody who was in the first time back in a game, so there was some rustiness. But he worked through that on the mound and was competitive."

Feliz, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Aug. 1, 2012, pitched one scoreless inning for the Arizona Rookie League Rangers on Friday against the Brewers' affiliate. He did not allow a hit, walked one and struck out two in his first game action since the surgery.

The Rangers are bringing back Feliz as a reliever. He was their closer from 2010-11 before being moved to the rotation last season. He should be ready to rejoin the Rangers' bullpen by September at the latest.

"He's going to go on a rehab as a reliever," Levine said. "So he'll be going in one-inning stints. There's an ability, if we wanted to, to fast-track that, but we're also not rushing that, considering the injury he came back from. But we do hope and expect to have him make an impact in the big leagues this year."

The Rangers are keeping their options open with Kirkman. He has started games in the Minors in the past, but made the team out of Spring Training as a reliever. Right now, the Rangers see benefits of using him as a starter at Round Rock.

"I think the initial start was to give him time on the mound, iron out some things, but I think we also viewed it as why not stretch him out as a starter," Levine said. "It gives him an opportunity to come back either as a starter, long man or a short man out of the 'pen, rather than building him up as a short man and then you really only have one alternative how you could use him."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.