THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 7, 2006

While spring training is a time for core players to get their work in and ramp up to Opening Day, camp is a time to capitalize for others.

With Michael Young away for the World Baseball Classic, Joaquin Arias — who went 8 for 9 in camp last year — has hit .417 and slugged .750 in his absence.

Mark Teixeira’s WBC run has opened up at-bats for Phil Nevin, who homered in his first two spring games and is slugging 1.125 in eight at-bats.

The fact that Laynce Nix has yet to play defense and that Gary Matthews Jr. has yet to play at all has given Jason Botts an opportunity, and in 13 at-bats he’s hitting .385/.467/.615. Ruddy Yan has made the most of his shot as well, singling five times in nine trips and scoring three runs. He’s the Rangers’ top candidate to eventually become Chone Figgins, a player some around here have coveted for years.

As Hank Blalock rests a tired arm, the Rangers’ top two third base prospects, Travis Metcalf and Johnny Whittleman, have taken advantage. Neither came to Surprise with so much as a non-roster invite to camp, but both have gotten chances to play. Metcalf has singled, doubled, and walked in six plate appearances, driving in a pair of runs, and Whittleman — who turned all of 19 last month — has singled in three trips (including a “B” game appearance Monday), driving in two.

Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler doesn’t seem to be in the mood to let anyone capitalize on an opportunity to compete for the second base job. In 12 trips to the plate, he’s reached base eight times (.333/.667/.833), logging a single, a home run, three walks, and three hit-by-pitches. He’s gone down on strikes only once.

And Vincent Sinisi, who probably wouldn’t have shown up in a big league box score thus far — unless there’s a plan to return him to his college position of first base now that Botts has been made a full-time outfielder and Adrian Gonzalez is gone — took advantage of his opportunity to face big league pitching as Team Italy faced Detroit in an exhibition game on Saturday. Sinisi, playing center field and right field, homered off Tigers reliever Humberto Sanchez and added a single.

Akinori Otsuka pitched a perfect ninth in Japan’s 3-2 loss to Korea on Sunday, striking out the side.

Francisco Cordero climbed a mound Sunday, throwing 40 pitches (eight breaking balls) without incident as far as his shoulder is concerned. He’s slated to throw again today and Thursday, and could pitch in a “B” game over the weekend. The Rangers want Cordero to pitch 11 innings in “A” and “B” games before the season begins.

C.J. Wilson had no problems with his right hamstring strain when he threw off a mound on Sunday, and he’ll throw again today or tomorrow. He could get into a game before the week is up.

John Danks has been the early story among pitching prospects, firing two hitless frames against Milwaukee on Sunday, the first big league spring training appearance of the 20-year-old’s career. Danks walked two Brewers but earned postgame praise from his manager and pitching coach.

Thomas Diamond allowed five runs in his second inning of work against Arizona yesterday.

Nix, making his return from surgery on both shoulders and a recent strained groin muscle, doubled and walked in two trips as the Rangers’ DH in yesterday’s “B” game. Kameron Loe surrendered one run on one hit (a bloop single) and two walks in the first three innings of the game, retiring the final seven Royals he faced — one on strikes and six on the ground.

Nick Regilio, sidelined with inflammation in his right flexor tendon, has been assigned to minor league camp.

No, D’Angelo Jimenez is no more a pitcher than Kevin Mahar is. That was Kelvin Jimenez who got the save yesterday, just as it was Ron Mahay who pitched a few days ago. The wires get exhibition box scores wrong from time to time.

Would you trade Chan Ho Park for John Thomson and Erubiel Durazo? An Atlanta newspaper story suggests the Braves and Rangers could get together on a deal that would send Nevin (and presumably a chunk of cash) to Atlanta for Thomson. One story locally suggests the Braves want Kevin Mench instead of Nevin, however, and that’s where the talks break off.

Texas was among a number of clubs who had a scout at the Boston-Pittsburgh game on Saturday, a game that Bronson Arroyo started for the Red Sox. This time of year, however, teams routinely scout other teams. Don’t read too much into the fact that the Rangers had someone scouting their Opening Day opponents.

Baltimore outfielder Richard Hidalgo is dealing with a family situation that’s evidently serious enough that the 30-year-old is considering retirement, just a week after signing with the Orioles.

Twenty-three-year-old Canadian Emerson Frostad, my number five breakout candidate going into 2005, followed up a .216/.308/.322 debut season by hitting .269/.346/.449 for Clinton last year with a team-leading 26 doubles and 16 homers, driving in 62 runs in 114 games. It was Frostad’s second pro season and possibly his last at third base. Texas is converting him to catcher, a position he played briefly at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho before Texas drafted him in 2003’s 13th round.

If Frostad takes to the position, the fact that he hits left-handed could make him a far more valuable commodity than he is right now.

My latest feature for MLB.com is now posted at TexasRangers.com, focusing on the mechanics of the Rule 5 Draft. Next week’s article will be a rules-intensive Q&A. If you have any questions about baseball’s procedural rules, e-mail them to me at newbergreport@sbcglobal.net. They can involve certain players or transactions, or deal with the rules in general. Please also include a first name and last initial, as well as the city you’re emailing from.

Baseball Prospectus minor league expert Kevin Goldstein, recently Rule 5’d from Baseball America, will join us for a live chat session tomorrow at 2:00. Go to NewbergReport.com and click “Chat” to join the discussion with Kevin, whose AL West farm system assessments are now posted on the BP website.

The talented Dave Sanford of RoyalsCorner.com was in Surprise recently and slid over to the Rangers side of the complex to take a batch of photographs of some of the younger Rangers in big league camp. Check his work out at http://www.dickiethon.com/newberg/spingphoto2006.htm.

The best news about the Cowboys moving to the Ticket is that I’ll get more work done in August each year, because there will be no need to tune in to the station. I’m a big Cowboys fan, but there’s no beatdown like being subjected to around-the-clock football talk in August.

And if Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg aren’t part of the deal, I won’t need to tune into the Ticket on game days, either. It makes me sick to my stomach to imagine Dallas playing without Sham bringing it into my living room. The team and the station better not blow this.

Kirby Puckett, as we were shocked to learn after his playing days, wasn’t the best guy around, but man, he defined what was so good about the game in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He had perhaps the greatest, most infectious energy for the game of any player his generation had to offer (not to mention the greatest bat flip of all time).

What Puckett did on the field doesn’t erase the ugliness of his behavior off of it, but it’s so sad to think that Puckett’s health gave out at an age when, under different circumstances, we might still have been treated to his contributions to the game, if not on the field then in some other capacity. Baseball brought out the best in him, and he in it.

Puckett was a first-round pick (third overall) whose .330 run in the equivalent of two minor league seasons was all the seasoning he’d need. The only question was whether he’d develop power. After hitting a combined four home runs in his first two Twins seasons (and just 13 in 903 farm at-bats), he blasted 31 out in his third campaign, completely redefining himself into a player whose productivity, playoff heroics, and magnetism earned him a ticket to Cooperstown.

There’s no prospect in Rangers camp with as much promise as Puckett, whose maturity into a home run hitter was the difference between a Mark Loretta career and one destined for the Hall of Fame.

But at the same time, there are plenty of young Ranger hitters who might have one aspect of his game that could make the difference between a 4-A career and a core spot in a big league lineup. There are different degrees of redefining oneself, and the opportunity is there right now — even if only for a couple weeks — for a handful of Ranger prospects to begin doing just that on the biggest March stage.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

2 Comments

Last time I checked Kirby was acquitted. I don’t think it is for you to juge esp. when you obviously don’t know the facts.

True enough, regarding the alleged restaurant incident. If you take my comments as a whole, the only “judgment” I made that could be considered negative, among a dozen positives, was that there was some ugly behavior off the field. Do you believe that to be false?

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