THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 12, 2006
Four arrivals in Rangers minor league camp today.
Infielder Aarom Baldiris, who was optioned late yesterday afternoon to Frisco.
Outfielder Ruddy Yan and catcher Mike Nickeas, who were reassigned to the minor league side after spending a few weeks in big league camp on non-roster invites.
As is my habit, I may spend hardly any more time in the big league park in Surprise this week than Baldiris or Yan or Nickeas. I’ll be on the minor league fields most of the time, bouncing from one chain-link fence to another, watching bullpens and defensive drills and B.P.
It’s still all about the big club for me, but I’ll see plenty of Kevin Mench and Vicente Padilla and Gerald Laird in Arlington. Now’s the time to see the players who won’t show up on television in 2006, and probably won’t even find much print this year outside of Mike Hindman’s reports and mine. Admittedly, some of those guys are still in big league camp, and the time I do spend at Billy Parker Field will probably be hand-picked to see some of the players fighting for a roster spot or at least a place in the plans.
The last two years Mike and I came back from Surprise writing about, among others, an anonymous infielder named Ian Kinsler who, in the space of a few days of observation, proved to be a "revelation"; the stunning reemergence of off-the-radar southpaw C.J. Wilson (will he prove to be Orel Hershiser’s greatest bullet point in Texas?); and the eyebrow-raising show put on in drills by undrafted free agent Kevin Mahar.
I head into my spring training trips without much of an agenda. Peripheral vision and a flexible schedule are critical. Never know what, or who, will make an impression.
That said, 20 things I’d like to see in camp:
1. John Danks — though I recognize that I’d better make plans to see the big club play if I want to see the 20-year-old this week.
2. Juan Dominguez pitching after relinquishing the driver’s seat, and Josh Rupe pitching as a frontrunner.
3. The bullpen dynamic with Dom Chiti in uniform.
4. Minor league catcher drills.
5. Johnny Lujan.
6. Vincent Sinisi, coming off a healthy off-season and some impressive moments in the World Baseball Classic.
7. Fabio Castro and Jesse Carlson.
8. Scott Servais doing his thing. The rave reviews are unanimous.
9. Joaquin Arias doing his thing. I’m not so sure this won’t be my last chance to see him in a Ranger uniform, so I’ll take every chance I can get to watch those filthy defensive skills. The fluid quickness, the unbelievable exchange, the cannon arm, and how easy he makes it all look.
10. How different Eric Hurley and Michael Schlact look from a year ago, the first spring training for the righthanders.
11. Johnny Whittleman — whose first spring training didn’t officially start until after he’d already gotten a couple game appearances with the big club.
12. John Mayberry Jr. participating fully, I hope.
13. Three teenagers who could form the core of a phenomenal Clinton rotation: Zach Phillips, Michael Kirkman, and Omar Poveda. Matt Nevarez, too, but I’d say it’s unlikely he breaks with the LumberKings.
14. R.J. Anderson in center field, and from the left side.
15. Eighteen-year-old Venezuelan third baseman-outfielder Jose Rodriguez.
16. At least three or four more decent restaurants, and at least one more lane on Bell Road. (Not counting on the latter.)
17. The 17-year-old trio of Fabio Castillo, Johan Yan, and Cristian Santana.
18. I think I already mentioned Johnny Lujan. Don’t care. I’m mentioning him again.
19. Micah Furtado, back in uniform.
20. No more rain. I can live with having to pack a sweatshirt, but after Surprise got its first rain in 143 days yesterday, forcing only the second rainout since Texas opened its spring training complex in 2003, I’m pulling for the start of another dry spell, if it’s all the same to you.
The third installment of Schlact’s spring training diary and the transcript of our chat session with Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein are now posted on Eleanor Czajka’s Minor Details page at www.NewbergReport.com.
Tom Hicks has announced that the Rangers will honor the 2005 NCAA Football Champion Texas Longhorns on Opening Day. Mack Brown will throw out the first pitch. Darrell Royal will coach him. And Roger Clemens is invited, too.
Jordan Danks, hitting .317 for the UT baseball team as a freshman, dislocated a finger diving back into first base on Tuesday. He’s day to day.
Washington assigned non-roster invites Ruben Mateo and Mike Bacsik to minor league camp. Tampa Bay sent Bart Miadich back to minor league camp, too.
Former Ranger Doug Brocail had emergency heart surgery yesterday after doctors discovered "a 99 percent blockage" of one of his coronary arteries. Brocail came out of the procedure relatively well, though doctors refused to speculate whether the 38-year-old righthander will ever pitch again. Scary.
Rudy Jaramillo’s prostate cancer surgery is scheduled for March 28 at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Vernon Wells tells Kat O’Brien of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he and his best friend, Michael Young, will be teammates one day: "It’s just a matter of time when that will happen."
Wells’s current deal with Toronto expires after the 2007 season. So does the guaranteed portion of Young’s Texas deal, but the Rangers are sure to pick up the 2008 option if they haven’t extended Young for life beforehand.
No, righthander Erik Thompson did not show up at a couple big league Ranger games as a "just in case" this week. Despite what you might have read, it was actually Travis Thompson, a 28-year-old righthander who has pitched in the Cincinnati, Toronto, Cleveland, and Philadelphia systems.
The next report will come to you from soggy, chilly, exquisite Surprise, Arizona.