Rangers' Kiker Doesn't Look Back

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The words "last year" jolt Kasey Kiker, a first-round pick who thought he was on the rise after being invited to Rangers spring training in 2010.
That stands as the lone highlight.

"Oh, last year. . . " Kiker said before a long pause. "Let's say last year was last year."

Last year was a lost year for the Rangers' 2006 first-round pick out of Russell County (Ala.) High. The lefthander went 1-4, 7.65 in just 40 innings at Double-A Frisco.

Very little went right for Kiker, who lost a month with elbow inflammation and would only lose more and more of the confidence he took into the year after a breakthrough 2009 season that included two victories and a gold medal in the IBAF World Cup.

"I was embarrassed out there a couple times," Kiker said. "Most of it was confidence, and the injury hurt the confidence even more. It was kind of like a snowball effect. I just got worse and worse and worse."

But the 23-year-old from Phenix City, Ala., is ready to use 2010 as his motivation to rise from the ashes and put himself back on a track to the big leagues. He entered minor-league camp with his confidence restored after pitching in the Puerto Rican League over the winter, going 2-1, 2.63 in eight games.

The Rangers haven't closed the door on Kiker, though he was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft in December. This year could determine his future with the Rangers.

"It's going to come down to how hard he wants to work and how much he want it," general manager Jon Daniels said. "The guys say he's throwing the ball well. That's the key."


• Of the three pitching prospects on the 40-man roster who were in big league camp for the first time, only lefthander Miguel De Los Santos was able to provide Rangers coaches with a glimpse of his stuff. After recovering from elbow tendinitis, the 22-year-old impressed in bullpen sessions and throwing live batting practice, and had progressed toward a Cactus League game. Righthander Wilmer Font (Tommy John surgery) isn't going to pitch this season, and righthander Fabio Castillo (broken foot) was still gimpy entering March.

• Manager Ron Washington's favorite prospect might be 18-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar, who arrived to minor league camp three weeks early. "That little kid can play, man," Washington said. "He isn't afraid. He loves to play baseball."