Everything went according to the Rangers’ plans last year in their careful handling of lefthander Kasey Kiker, their 2006 first-round pick.
Kiker had to wait until May 21 to make his first start of the 2007 season with low Class A Clinton, as the Rangers limited his workload in his first full season to 96 1/3 innings over 20 starts. The plan worked out, as Kiker finished with a 2.90 ERA and 112 strikeouts (10.5 per nine innings), hitting 97 mph in late-season games.
Despite the Rangers’ careful management, the 20-year-old Kiker came down with a sore shoulder earlier this year and has yet to pitch in a game this season.
"He was a little bit slow to get going with his throwing program over the winter," Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. "So he was a couple weeks behind. He’s pitching today in extended spring (training) on five-inning schedule. If that goes good, he’ll be out here in the (high Class A) Cal League on his next turn."
The Rangers are taking a similar course of action this season with righthanders Michael Main and Blake Beavan, both first-rounders from the 2007 draft. Main, who is nursing a stress fracture in his rib cage, had a 3.21 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 12 walks in 28 innings last year between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Northwest League, while Beavan did not pitch in a minor league game after signing in August.
"We really set a number of innings that we want that player to have by the end of the season, to get that player on that number of innings and have them finish on a positive," Servais said. "To do that, we need to take it slow with them at the beginning. To me we hit a home run with Kasey Kiker last year."
"If we took Beavan or Main or (righthander Neil) Ramirez, (a 2007 supplemental first-rounder), and you send him out to a full-season club, that would be 28 starts," Servais later added. "In our opinion we’d like them to have 19 or 20 starts."