OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Texas Rangers send left-hander Derek Holland to the mound Sunday afternoon for the finale of their three-game series against Oakland, they should like their chances. One look at his numbers on the road tells you that.
Holland is 6-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 road starts this season. Over his past eight road starts, he's 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
"I don't really think about it," Holland said Saturday about his success on the road. "The main thing is you've got to perform whether it's at home or on the road. You never think one way's better. I just got to go out there and match the pitcher. ... I got to go pitch for pitch with [A's starter A.J. Griffin] and do everything I can to give the team a chance to win so we can gain as much ground as we can on Oakland."
Holland's career numbers against the A's are equally impressive. Holland is 4-1 against the A's in nine career starts and has won four straight decisions since losing his first start against Oakland on Aug. 4, 2009.
"It's a good lineup," Holland said of the A's. "They're obviously doing good things. They're in first place for a reason. You don't get to be in first place for sucking or whatever. They definitely got some guys that get overlooked, it seems like. [Josh] Donaldson's had a great year, and [Yoenis] Cespedes, he's been putting on a show. He definitely showed it in the Home Run Derby, too. You never take anybody light. And it seems like every time we play each other it's always an intense game all the way through. Both teams are good."
The Rangers pulled to within 2½ games of the A's with an 8-3 victory Friday night.
"They're all big games from here on out," Holland said. "We are chasing Oakland at the moment. We're trying to gain as much ground as we can so every time we go out it's always going to be a big game, especially now that we're close to the end of the season. Obviously, every game counts, but these are definitely some big games now."
Comeback road: Left-hander Michael Kirkman threw five innings Friday night for Triple-A Round Rock against Fresno in his first rehab assignment. He has been on the disabled list since June 9 after a recurrence of cutaneous lymphoma, a form of skin cancer, in the area of his right triceps. Kirkman allowed two runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out two. Kirkman went 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA in 25 relief appearances for the Rangers, but assistant general manager Thad Levine said Kirkman is preparing for a wide range of possible roles.
"I think the initial start was to give him time on the mound, iron out some things, but I think we always viewed it as why not stretch him out as a starter?" Levine said. "It gives him an opportunity to come back either as a starter, long man or a short man out of the pen, rather than building him up as a short man and then you really only have one alternative how you could use him if you bring him back to the big leagues. So we wanted to keep as many options open for him to be able to impact in the big leagues.
"We were encouraged by the outing last night. The velocity was 90-94 [miles per hour], and the reports read like somebody who was the first time back in a game, so there was some rustiness, but he worked through that on the mound and was competitive."
Injury updates: Right-hander Neftali Feliz, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2012, pitched one inning Friday for the Rangers' rookie level team in the Arizona League. Levine said he hit as high as 92 or 93 mph on the radar gun and will likely move to one of the club's other minor league affiliates soon.
"He's going to go on a rehab [assignment] as a reliever," Levine said. "So he'll be going in one-inning stints. So I think there's an ability, if we wanted to, to fast-track that, but we're also not rushing that, considering the injury he came back from. But we do hope and expect to have him make an impact in the big leagues this year."
Right-hander Matt Harrison, who underwent two surgeries on his back and has been on the disabled list since April 11, threw 1⅓ innings Wednesday for Double-A Frisco and will have another rehab outing Sunday.
Levine said reports on Harrison "were good" after Wednesday's outing. He allowed no runs on two hits while striking out two and walking one.
"It's his first outing back from -- he had two back surgeries in the course of a 10-day period. I think what happened is he kind of ran out of steam," Levine said. "Physically, it was a little bit taxing on him. He's still working to get back into pitching shape, but, performance wise, he was fine. His stuff was fine."
No change on Manny: Left fielder Manny Ramirez was hitting .280 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 22 games entering play Saturday for Triple-A Round Rock. At this point, the Rangers have no plans to promote him, Levine said.
"When we signed him, I think we were of the mindset if he came up and helped the team, that would be terrific, but we didn't want to put ourselves in a position where we were dependent upon it or really put the pressure on him that he was coming in as a potential savior," Levine said. "So we've always kept it on the backburner and we've continued to progress as if we weren't going to have his services and then if he forced his way into the big leagues that would be a pleasant surprise. I think that's still our approach with him.
"If he forces his way in, that's terrific, but it's not something as if we're counting down the days or reliant in any capacity to him coming up and helping us. If he does that, that would be great."