SURPRISE, Ariz. — In the moments before his first career Cactus League appearance Tuesday, everything was going fairly well for right-hander Cody Buckel.“My warm-up pitches were pretty good, actually,” he said.But then an opposing player stepped into the batter’s box, and the 20-year-old was suddenly jolted by more adrenaline than at any other time in his young career.He couldn’t harness his emotions, nor could pitching coach Mike Maddux, shortstop Elvis Andrus or catcher A.J. Pierzynski — all of whom visited the mound.The result was five walks, six runs allowed and only one out recorded. He left the game after throwing 31 pitches, only 10 of which were strikes, and has a 108.00 ERA.A day later, Buckel had chalked up the lousy outing as a learning experience, and he hopes to apply his new knowledge when he pitches again next week.“I had a little bit of adrenaline going, and I couldn’t really calm myself down from it,” Buckel said. “It was something that’s a little unusual for me. I know that, and they know that. I’m not going to put too much into it. Now, I know what that feeling feels like.”Berkman’s debutLance Berkman will make his spring debut Thursday against Cleveland as the Rangers’ designated hitter, possibly as the leadoff man simply to get more at-bats, and with his first game will come the first true test to see how far along his swing is.Berkman has been taking batting practice regularly and putting in work in the cages, and with what he feels are good results. But practice can’t simulate game action, even if Thursday is a practice game.“Anytime you’re in spring training you need some at-bats to get a gauge on where you are with your swing,” he said. “You’re just trying to build in spring training toward peaking at the right time, but it’s really hard to do that.”Berkman said that he has had no issues with the inflammation in his right calf after running bases or fielding grounders the past few days.Center field mattersThe Rangers’ hottest hitter entering Wednesday was center fielder Leonys Martin, who had six hits in 11 at-bats.Manager Ron Washington cautioned that there is still a long way to go this spring before any decisions are made, but the left-handed hitter could seize the starting job outright rather than share center field in a platoon with Craig Gentry.“I’m hitting him against everyone, and he’s not showing any signs of giving in to left-handers,” Washington said. “If this can continue and we feel like he can handle lefties as well as righties, it’s a possibility.”Gentry, who is 4 for 10 this spring, was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup because of a tight left hamstring. He said that the leg stiffened as a result of the daily grind, which three days a week starts at 8 a.m. with running drills.“I just need a day,” Gentry said. “It’s just an accumulation of a lot going on in spring. It’s been slowly building up.”Another center fielder, Engel Beltre, remains sidelined by a strained muscle in his throwing shoulder. The Rangers have warned Major League Baseball that Beltre might not be available to play for Spain in the World Baseball Classic, but no final decision has been made.BobbleheadsTwo bobblehead giveaways are among the promotions announced Wednesday: Nolan Ryan (May 21) and Yu Darvish (June 11). The full list of promotions can be found at the Star-Telegram’s Rangers blog at star-telegram.com/rangers.Tickets on saleIndividual tickets for home games go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rangers Ballpark, texasrangers.com or at 972-726-4377.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST