THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 9, 2006

Today Texas plays host to:

1. Scott Elarton and the Royals in the afternoon.

2. Akinori Otsuka’s Team Japan in the evening.

3. Roger Clemens in the morning.

Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

Yes, Adam Eaton will face Kansas City. R.A. Dickey will take on the Japanese squad. C.J. Wilson and Francisco Cordero will pitch in a simulated game.

But no matter how slim you believe the chances are that Clemens will pitch this year, and that if he does it will be with Texas, you have to admit that he’s the story today. Michael Young and Mark Teixeira are reportedly going to accompany their Team USA teammate, who plans to visit with other Ranger players and meet with club officials during a couple-hour stay in Surprise.

Clemens already met with Tom Hicks, Jon Daniels, Buck Showalter, and Mark Connor a month ago, at his Houston, according to several reports. So what’s the agenda now?

Only Clemens knows, you get the sense.

(N.B.: Of the four he’s reportedly considering, Texas is the only one that trains in Arizona, where Team USA is currently playing.)

Kevin Millwood threw 47 pitches in a simulated game yesterday, all fastballs and changeups, and 36 were strikes.

Edison Volquez, by all accounts, was sensational in his three shutout innings against Oakland yesterday. Facing a lineup heavy with lefthanders and the wind blowing out to right, he gave up one hit (an infield single), walked one, and fanned two, breaking several bats.

Antonio Alfonseca, who struggled yesterday in relief of Volquez (giving up three runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning — while the only other base hit the A’s managed all day was the infield single off Volquez), can elect immediate free agency if he’s not added to the 40-man roster by March 29.

Lefthander Kevin Walker was the most impressive of the five relievers to support Volquez, punching out four (three swinging) in two perfect frames. The 29-year-old Grand Prairie product has allowed one spring hit in four scoreless innings, fanning six and walking none.

With Teixeira and Erubiel Durazo away at the World Baseball Classic and Phil Nevin getting the call at DH for the day, Jason Botts got a surprise start at first base yesterday, doubling off Joe Blanton in three trips. He’s hitting .353/.450/.588 in 17 at-bats.

Hank Blalock returned to third base yesterday after leaving the glove in the clubhouse for a few days.

Three baserunners have tried to steal with Gerald Laird behind the plate. None have succeeded.

Outfielder Ruddy Yan evidently pulled a muscle under his arm while leaning on a dugout rail yesterday. Seriously.

Vincent Sinisi, batting fifth (behind Mike Piazza), homered off Australia righthander Rich Thompson (an Angels farmhand) in Italy’s 10-0 win in WBC action on Tuesday. Marc LaMacchia gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth yesterday against Venezuela, who had more big league All-Stars in its lineup than not. Ten of LaMacchia’s 13 pitches went for strikes.

Congratulations to Eric Nadel, who was recognized yesterday by the Associated Press as the best radio play-by-play man in Texas.

Richard Hidalgo’s stint with Baltimore lasted nine days. The Orioles released him from his non-roster deal yesterday. His next stop may be Japan.

Amazing: The White Sox have already reassigned non-roster invite Ben Grieve to minor league camp.

Seattle and St. Louis reassigned righthanders Chris Jaile and Andy Cavazos, respectively, to their minor league camps.

The second installment of Michael Schlact’s excellent spring training diary is posted on Eleanor Czajka’s “Minor Details” page on the Newberg Report website.

Solid chat session with Baseball Prospectus minor league expert Kevin Goldstein yesterday afternoon. We’ll have a transcript up soon.

It’s semi-official: We’ll launch a revamped Newberg Report website soon, possibly by Opening Day.

Regardless, the goal is to have the new site up and running before Roger Clemens pitches in a big league game this year. No matter who he’s pitching for.

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

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