Mike Maddux likes what he sees from Texas Rangers pitchers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mike Adams has become one of the top setup men in the game with his standout cutter. Batters know that pitch is coming the majority of the time, but still struggle to hit it.

Adams is trying to add another pitch to his arsenal, though, to keep them more off-balanced at the plate. He has been working on a changeup, and he has seen progress with it so far in spring training.

"It's been a good swing-and-miss pitch for me, or they've been rolling over it," Adams said. "I've always thrown the cutter and fastball, and those are two hard pitches. With the changeup, it's a slow-down pitch, and it'll make them think about what they have to do. They can't be as jumpy."

Pitching coach Mike Maddux has liked the development of Adams' changeup, one of the many storylines surrounding the pitching staff this spring. Maddux weighed in on several topics Thursday, including the emergence of Robbie Ross, the left-handed reliever opening in the bullpen, Neftali Feliz's approach and, of course, Yu Darvish.

Ross, a left-handed pitching prospect, has thrown four scoreless innings of relief this spring with no walks and six strikeouts. He will make his first Cactus League start Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Maddux said Ross isn't being rewarded with a start, since the team has always viewed him as a starter.

"Robbie went out there and threw a good inning, then threw another good inning and another good inning," Maddux said. "We were like, 'That's pretty good.' But we've got to remember now that we do want to stretch him out."

Ross, meanwhile, is soaking it all in, and trying to enjoy his first big league camp. He is willing to do whatever the team would like and said he has gained a comfort level coming in relief.

Ross is a candidate to become the lefty in the bullpen, but he is likely headed back to the minors to start. He has started 68 of 69 professional games, and the Rangers have other candidates for the left-handed specialist job.

The in-house candidate for the lefty bullpen spot is Michael Kirkman, who had stints with the team the past two seasons. The Rangers are also looking at veterans Joe Beimel, Neal Cotts and Mitch Stetter. But Kirkman might have the most upside.

"He's a guy we've all seen real good, and we've seen some inconsistency," Maddux said. "But if Michael gets consistent, he's as good as anybody."

As for Feliz, Maddux liked that he stuck with his changeup Wednesday, even though he gave up a double with it early in the game.

"He understands the idea that it's a good pitch for him," Maddux said. "Just because one guy hits it doesn't mean it doesn't come into play again."

Finally, Maddux said the Arizona climate isn't the most pitcher-friendly, and it's another adjustment that Darvish -- and the rest of the pitching staff -- is having to make. The dry heat and thin air make it difficult for pitchers, and the Cactus League offensive numbers might be inflated because of it.

"The balls go forever, the infields are swift and hard," Maddux said. "Guys hit the ball right in front of the plate and it bounces over the third or first basemen's head. Those are outs, and here they're doubles."

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram