The Newberg Report: March 4

February 8 Newberg Report, on JD’s To-Do List: "Get Nevin lots of at-bats while Tex is playing in the WBC — maybe he’ll get someone interested . . . check with Bowden."

February 13 Newberg Report, on camp questions: "Can Phil Nevin take advantage of Mark Teixeira’s WBC sabbatical to earn a role, or maybe create an opportunity for Texas to pay someone to take him?"

February 22 Newberg Report, on the Erubiel Durazo pickup: "The deal Durazo signed allows him to leave if Texas hasn’t put him on the big league roster by March 29 . . . but barring injury, it’s hard to imagine there being room for him — unless Nevin capitalizes on Mark Teixeira’s WBC sabbatical and plays himself into a trade, or plays so poorly that the Rangers decide to release him and eat his massive contract.

March 2 comment from Rudy Jaramillo, hours before the Rangers’ Cactus League opener against Kansas City: "Just write it down. Nevin is back. Quote me. The bat speed is there. The gut he had when we got him last season is gone. He’s in top physical shape. I see big things from Nevin. He can hit cleanup if Hank doesn’t, but both can be in the middle of the order for us."

March 2 Rangers-Royals game, second inning: Nevin’s first at-bat of the spring . . . Home run to straightaway center field (clearing the 400-foot fence) on an 0-2 breaking ball from lefthander Mark Redman.

March 3 Rangers-Royals game, first inning: in his first at-bat of the game, Nevin hits an opposite-field bomb, crushing a two-out, 3-1 fastball off righthander Denny Bautista to right center with a man on base.

In Thursday’s game, Nevin would come up two more times, reaching on an error by Mark Grudzielanek and drawing a walk. On Friday, the club’s first game without Teixeira and Michael Young, Nevin singled in his second trip before being lifted.

Oh, yeah: Nevin singled and walked in Wednesday’s intrasquad game.

He’s reached base in all seven trips to the plate this spring.

These games are close to meaningless, of course, but that sort of production sure beats four strikeouts, two rollover grounders to shortstop, and a lazy fly to right field.

Ian Kinsler had three plate appearances in the two Royals games, getting drilled twice and, in between, taking Kansas City lefthander J.P. Howell deep to left. He’s been challenged once defensively, making a solid play charging an Andres Blanco bunt and nipping him at first.

As Mike Hindman noted in his excellent daily recaps, Jason Botts saw 19 pitches in two trips yesterday, drawing a nine-pitch walk off Bautista (who would last only one inning after needing 30 pitches to complete it) and lining out to second to cap off a 10-pitch at-bat against Howell. Botts’s proven ability to work counts is as important to his big league potential as his light-tower power from both sides of the plate. In his 30 plate appearances with the Rangers in the last month of the 2005 season, Botts averaged seeing 4.80 pitches per plate appearance. The major league leader among qualifiers was Philadelphia outfielder Bobby Abreu — who averaged 4.39.

To get Mike’s farm-intensive reports and mine, make sure you’re on the free mailing list — instructions are at the end of this report.

Mike is also doing a weekly feature on the Rangers farm system this year for MLB.com, and his debut piece (March 1) is up now at http://newberg.mlblogs.com/. Head over and check it out.

Kevin Millwood will spend most of his time in camp pitching in simulated and "B" games, both to accommodate his standard ease into game action and to avoid giving the Rangers’ division foes a firsthand look at him before April. In a simulated game on Friday, Millwood pitched the equivalent of two innings, throwing only 19 strikes out of his 35 deliveries and logging three punchouts while issuing two walks.

Curt Schilling, in an interview he did with Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, said the following when asked whether there are players who have found a way to continue using illegal performance-enhancing substances: "No. I’ve played with guys and worked out with guys, that if you saw them on TV once a week, your first thought would be, ‘Whoa.’ But guys are so genetically different now than they were 20 years ago, that it’s unfair. I’ll give you a great example — (Red Sox outfielder) Gabe Kapler. He is a physical specimen. Genetically, he is the anti-Curt Schilling. There are other guys. (Rangers outfielder) Laynce Nix. He is a monster. I watched him every day this winter at API (the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz.) bustin’ his (butt). He is what he is because he put the time and effort into it."

It turns out the source of the elbow discomfort that Nick Regilio has been experiencing is inflammation in his right flexor tendon, though not where the tendon was torn and operated on last summer. Regilio could be throwing again in a couple weeks, but he won’t be ready for the start of the season.

Texas assigned non-roster catcher Taylor Teagarden to minor league camp, reducing the number of players in big league camp to 62. Teagarden wasn’t on the field anyway, as he rehabs following off-season Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Following in the footsteps of fellow hurlers Spike Lundberg, John Hudgins, C.J. Wilson, and Jason Andrew, righthander Michael Schlact has agreed to keep a Spring Training Diary, an exclusive for Newberg Report readers. Schlact has reported to camp, which opened for minor league pitchers and catchers yesterday (the first full-squad workout is Thursday). The 20-year-old’s first entry should be up the next few days on Eleanor Czajka’s "Minor Details" page.

Outfielder Vincent Sinisi and righthander Marc LaMacchia made the Italian squad and will play in this month’s World Baseball Classic before returning to minor league camp.

The Rangers announced sales of over 120,000 tickets yesterday, a figure that includes phone orders, Internet sales, group tickets, and tickets sold at the box office at Ameriquest Field. It’s the club’s second-highest first day of individual ticket sales in the last 10 years.

Evan Grant will do a live chat session with the Newberg Report in about two weeks.

Baseball America features righthanders Wes Littleton and Jesse Chavez and outfielder K.C. Herren among 42 players who were considered for but did not make the publication’s Top 30 Prospects lists for each organization.

San Diego hired Bob Cluck to be a minor league pitching consultant. Cluck was the Rangers’ roving minor league pitching instructor when he and current Padres exec Grady Fuson implemented the tandem-starter program at the sub-AA levels in the Texas system.

My next article on MLB.com, which will be published on Monday, will focus on Fabio Castro and the mechanics of the Rule 5 Draft.

MLB.com is publishing my articles in Spanish at http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/tex/news/spanish/index.jsp.

Eric Nadel and Victor Rojas, who brought us yesterday’s Texas-Kansas City game on KRLD 1080-AM, will broadcast again today and tomorrow, next Saturday and Sunday, the following Saturday and Sunday, and then on the 24th (night), 26th, and 27th (night). They’ll do the two games against the Marlins to finish the pre-season as well, and when the season gets underway, many of the old pregame staples will return, including Nadel’s "A Page from Baseball’s Past" and a lengthier manager’s show.

Nevin stands to appear in virtually all those games, particularly those before the WBC tournament ends. How his spring story ends remains to be seen — there are several possible outcomes — but it sure has started off well.

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