The Rangers released pitcher Michael Kirkman and moved six others, including outfielder Michael Choice, to the minors Tuesday.
Choice, a former first-round draft choice out of UT Arlington by the Oakland Athletics, and pitchers Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff were assigned to Triple A Round Rock. Catcher Pat Cantwell and pitchers Alec Asher and Martire Garcia were assigned to minor league camp.
Kirkman has battled arm soreness early this spring but now feels fine. The Rangers drafted him in 2005. He had stints in the big leagues the past five seasons. Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said the club decided it was obvious Kirkman was not going to compete for a big league roster spot in the near future.
“We felt at this time in his career, after a lot of dialogue, maybe it was best suited for him to get a fresh start with a new organization,” Levine said. “He deserves an opportunity to have a clear path to the big leagues. So we wanted to give him every opportunity to pursue that elsewhere.”
The battle for left field this spring included Choice, but the Rangers decided he’d be better served getting regular at-bats in the minors. Others, including Jake Smolinski (.333) and Ryan Rua (.250), have fared better. Choice was batting .063 (1 for 16) in nine games. The Rangers traded Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom for Choice in December 2013. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft by Oakland.
Choice dismissed the idea that a hamstring injury put him behind schedule or led to fewer at-bats this spring.
“I told everybody I was fine,” he said. “Most of them were [as a pinch-hitter]. I don’t expect anything out of myself from that.”
Levine said the club still has high hopes for Choice.
“We see Michael Choice being a big contributor to the Texas Rangers moving forward,” Levine said. “... We traded quality major league players for him but I think we feel as if it would benefit him to go down, get momentum, get a chance to play regularly, everyday at-bats and defensive innings in the outfield.”
Choice hopes to reclaim the swing he had a year ago when he was the Rangers’ best hitter in camp.
“Go down and get back in a groove and feel like I did before,” he said. “Getting back to where I was when I left camp last year.”
Six minor league pitchers also were released Tuesday: lefties Scott Cousins, Gionny Fracchiolla and Easton Napiontek, and right-handers Jose Mavare, Jacob Raffaele and Brett Teschner.
Yu Darvish had successful Tommy John surgery Tuesday morning in Florida.
Darvish tweeted in Japanese: “It went well. To all the people who had sent me power thank you very much!” his Tweet read.
Renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews performed the procedure in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
Andrews replaced the ligament in Darvish’s right elbow with the Palmaris tendon from his right forearm. Darvish will be re-examined Wednesday. His arm will be in a sling for seven to 10 days and then he will wear a brace on his elbow.
He’s scheduled to begin rehab in the next few days and return to Surprise. Darvish plans to rehab in Arlington once the regular season begins.
An MRI exam detected a tear in Darvish’s ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm after he left his first spring training appearance after 12 pitches.
Darvish isn’t expected to return until April or May 2016.
▪ Tanner Scheppers threw Tuesday for the first time this spring. He had one strikeout in one perfect inning in a Double A intrasquad game.
▪ Martin Perez felt good after throwing off a mound at 75 percent Tuesday for the first time since Tommy John surgery last May. Perez will continue bullpen work for the next month before shifting to live batting practice. He hopes to return in July.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760