April 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — April 30, 2006

It almost stands to reason. Akinori Otsuka came into Saturday having pitched 11 times for Texas, 15 if you count spring training, and he had yet to walk a batter.

And in his first appearance as the Rangers’ closer, Otsuka walked the first hitter he faced, pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, on four pitches. That’s the Ronnie Belliard who had three walks in 84 at-bats this year.

The news got better from there, as Otsuka punched Casey Blake out, and after allowing a Grady Sizemore single, got Todd Hollandsworth to line into a 4-3 double play to end the game. It wasn’t a pretty save, but even though not all saves are alike, a win is a win, and this was a good one. When Erica saw how many runs Texas had and how many runs Cleveland had as the players were shaking hands, she was just as happy as she would have been after a 1-0 win or a 12-1 rout. It’s that simple for her, and there’s something to be said for seeing it that way.

In what was his sixth start, Kevin Millwood equaled season bests in innings (seven), strikeouts (seven), and walks (zero), and he threw what would have been his fourth straight quality start had he lasted another inning on Monday, when he turned in five shutout frames. Back in the park that served as his home during his ERA title-winning 2005 season, Millwood looked completely in control. It would be pretty cool if the Jacobs Field effort triggered a dominating run for Millwood.

(By the way, Max calls Millwood “Michael.” Just as our dogs Pocus and Norma are “Poppis” and “Numey,” airplanes are “eepeets,” and the piano is a “pio,” every Ranger beese ball player is “Michael.”)

Kevin Mench’s streak of games with a home run was snapped after seven straight. He ends up one game short of the big league record shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey Jr.

Thank goodness neither John Hart nor Jon Daniels traded Mench for Jeremy Affeldt or Miguel Batista.

Mark DeRosa is slated to be activated before tonight’s game, and he’ll assume starting duties at second base until Ian Kinsler is healthy. Kinsler is swinging a bat one-handed but is still feeling some discomfort in his left thumb.

After Vicente Padilla finishes the Indians series tonight and Kameron Loe opens a two-game set in Tampa Bay tomorrow, Texas will reportedly call righthander Robinson Tejeda up from Oklahoma to make Tuesday’s start. His best effort of the season came on Thursday, when he blanked Albuquerque on three singles, a double, and two walks in seven innings, fanning seven. In five RedHawk starts, Tejeda has gone 0-2, 5.33, permitting 28 Pacific Coast League hits (.272 opponents’ average) and 13 walks while fanning 22 in 27 innings of work.

Compare Tejeda’s 2005 run with the Phillies, when he went 4-3, 3.57 (including 3-3, 2.87 in 13 starts), holding big leaguers to a .218 average. Will be interesting to see which version Tejeda looks more like for the Rangers.

There are several candidates for removal from the active roster to make room for DeRosa and then Tejeda, but according to local reports, lefthander Fabio Castro is safe. Removing Castro from the big league staff would almost assuredly mean he’d no longer be part of the Ranger organization.

The Phillies have played 23 games. David Dellucci has 20 at-bats, making just two starts and getting one plate appearance in every other game in which he appeared. He has two singles, a double, one RBI, and two walks, and seven strikeouts to go along with a .150/.227/.200 line. What a strange, strange trade.

Not so much a prediction as a thought: How about a DH platoon of Dellucci and Jason Botts in Texas in 2007?

Botts is back in left field for Oklahoma, after playing almost exclusively at first base over the season’s first three weeks. With RedHawks outfielder Ruddy Yan landing on the disabled list, the Rangers promoted Vincent Sinisi to AAA and kept him at first base, where he’s played this season for the first time since college. Botts, as a result, has gone back to the outfield. He’s hitting .313/.363/.500 in 80 at-bats.

Sinisi hit .309/.373/.368 in 68 RoughRider at-bats before the promotion. First baseman Jim Fasano, who was hitting .305/.359/.458 in 69 at-bats for Bakersfield, was promoted to Frisco to assume Sinisi’s spot on the roster.

I’m trying to find out if Fasano is related to Anthony Fasano, the Notre Dame tight end that Dallas drafted yesterday. Both were born in New Jersey but I can’t find anything (or anyone) suggesting that they’re related.

First baseman Phillip Hawke was sent to Bakersfield from extended, and in his first Blaze game he went 3 for 5 and drove in a couple runs. Hawke, the Rangers’ 29th-round pick last June, hit .310/.430/.576 between the Arizona League and Spokane last summer before a hand injury cut his season short.

Outfielder Roberto Valiente, the Rangers’ 44th-round pick in 2005, was also transferred from extended to Bakersfield.

Outfielder Laynce Nix has four hits in 12 at-bats (.333/.385/.333) since arriving in Oklahoma City. He was replaced in the top of third last night, but I’m not sure why. Nix grounded out to lead off the bottom of the first, and it doesn’t look like he was involved defensively in the top of the second.

Frisco reliever Wes Littleton has yet to surrender an earned run in eight appearances. In 11 frames, he’s scattered six hits and three walks while striking out seven.

Righthander Frankie Francisco pitched a hitless inning in extended on Friday, throwing 17 pitches. He could be a week or two away from a rehab assignment.

Tomorrow is the first day on which Roger Clemens can sign a big league contract with Houston.

Washington designated outfielder Tyrell Godwin for assignment. Godwin was the Rangers’ second of three first-round picks in 2000 (between Scott Heard and Chad Hawkins), and had agreed to terms on a $1.2 million signing bonus with Texas before a preexisting knee injury caused him to fail a team physical and see his deal voided.

Minnesota released righthander Ryan Glynn. Toronto released righthander James Baldwin. The Mets released righthander Luz Portobanco.

The Sussex SkyHawks of the independent Can-Am League signed infielder Marcos Agramonte.

Not that you’ll ever need to, but you can now type in www.jameynewberg.com or www.jameynewberg.net and get to the Newberg Report website.

We’re days away, if not hours, from relaunching the new Newberg Report site. Stay tuned.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 27, 2006

Yesterday I wrote this, regarding Francisco Cordero’s woes:

“We need to keep giving him the ball to protect ninth-inning leads, and hope that just around the corner are a couple extra ticks on the radar gun, a little lower plane on the fastball and the slider, and a better look in his eye.”

Someone on the message board respectfully questioned what I wrote, suggesting it was time to move Cordero out of his role as closer. I responded:

“Not yet. Not ruling it out, but not yet.”

Seven hours later, my patience, already circling the drain, gurgled away.

Cordero shouldn’t be this team’s closer. At least not for a while.

Buck Showalter had a tough call to make yesterday, one he undoubtedly made before game time: Do I close with Cordero today, getting him right back on the horse? Or do I give him the day off, which I can pull off without creating a media firestorm by pointing out that he’d thrown 32 adversity-ridden pitches the day before — in fact, half a day before?

He used Cordero. And the result was disastrous. Again. And this time, the offense didn’t bail him out.

The last time I felt this way was with Cowboy cornerback Kevin Smith, post-torn Achilles.

It’s time to unseat Cordero, who is being spanked to the tune of .326/.400/.558, and give Akinori Otsuka (.250/.250/.325, no walks, 11 strikeouts in 10 innings) the ball in the ninth. Texas is just a game out of first, and things are now at a point where you owe it to the other 24 — even if they’re not asking for it — to change the ninth-inning dynamic. You can only let Dan Johnson beat you so many times.

Wonder what it would take right now to get Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton, who was rumored to be involved in separate trade discussions for Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench this winter. Broxton didn’t make the Los Angeles bullpen out of spring training and wasn’t even the choice when the club dipped down for a call-up once Eric Gagne was hurt, but in 9.2 innings for AAA Las Vegas, the 21-year-old has scattered six hits and three walks without permitting a run of any kind, and he’s punched out 15.

If I’d told you a week ago that Mench, who came into the week homerless, would have more bombs in the first two series of this homestand than the club would have wins, you probably wouldn’t want to know the rest. His six-game home run streak is a franchise record.

Otsuka’s month notwithstanding, you can criticize the six-player trade with the Padres, the headline players from which are now both dealing with finger injuries. You can debate the merits of the David Dellucci trade, which hasn’t paid dividends yet for either team. You can question the merits of trading Juan Dominguez, even though you’d have no footing in light of the sensational contribution John Koronka has made.

But seriously: How can you do anything but marvel at the Vicente Padilla trade?

What was Pat Gillick thinking, basically giving Padilla away in his contract year? Were the Phillies so deep in starting pitchers that they couldn’t find room for the 28-year-old?

And for that matter, aren’t there at least two dozen other GMs who should have outbid the Rangers, who were able to get Padilla for Gillick’s choice of Ricardo Rodriguez (whom he opted for and then released) or 17-year-old Dominican infielder Julio Gonzalez?

Koronka became the first Ranger pitcher to go eight innings when he dazzled the Devil Rays on Sunday, holding them to three runs on five hits and a walk while punching out eight. The 25-year-old improved to 3-1, 3.75 as a Ranger with the effort, which came on the same day that Dominguez, who has been demoted to middle relief by AAA Sacramento, gave up four Las Vegas runs on three hits and four walks in 1.1 innings, without recording a strikeout.

Left-handed hitters are 1 for 23 off Koronka, hitting a collective .043/.043/.185.

With his relatively lengthy transaction ledger, it might not seem so, but Koronka is actually two months younger than Dominguez.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler could embark on a rehab assignment in a week or so, but it will probably be mid-May before he’s back in Arlington.

The Rangers got righthander R.A. Dickey through waivers and outrighted him to Oklahoma. The 31-year-old had the right (having been outrighted before) to take free agency but instead has chosen to remain with the organization.

The Dickey move accompanied the purchase of non-roster lefthander Ron Mahay, who had fanned 11 Pacific Coast Leaguers without a walk in 6.1 Oklahoma innings (0-1, 1.42, two saves), and the option of John Rheinecker to the RedHawks after his serviceable spot start for Texas.

Once again, Dickey failed to exhaust a second option. Texas sent him down on April 7th, but since he was designated for assignment on the 23rd, no option was used since he didn’t spend the requisite 20 days on optional assignment to the farm.

Infielder Mark DeRosa will apparently test his sprained left ankle over the next three days with Oklahoma. He’s eligible to return from the disabled list on Sunday.

Lefthander Brian Shouse’s rehab assignment didn’t start well. He gave up three runs on three hits (including a home run) in an inning of work on Tuesday.

Lefthander Matt Riley, returning from July 2005 Tommy John surgery, was reportedly touching 93 in a two-inning simulated game a few days ago.

RedHawks designated hitter Erubiel Durazo is on a tear. In the last week, he’s gone 9 for 16 (.563) with two home runs and five RBI, despite missing a couple games due to a hamstring injury. He has an out in his contract if Texas doesn’t bring him up by May 15.

On Saturday, less than a week after he was acquired from Colorado, Oklahoma infielder Derek Wathan broke his left thumb sliding into second base. He joined righthanders Jon Leicester, Jayson Durocher, and Lou Pote, lefthanders Brian Anderson, Matt Riley, and A.J. Murray, and infielders Marshall McDougall and Tim Olson on the RedHawks disabled list, which will reportedly soon have outfielder Ruddy Yan on it as well.

According to the Daily Oklahoman, the Rangers transferred righthander Jose Silva and newly acquired infielder Adam Morrissey from extended spring training to the RedHawks roster. The 24-year-old Morrissey, who is from Australia, played three years in the Cubs system before being traded to Oakland straight up for Mark Bellhorn following the 2001 season. He’s a lifetime .275/.362/.406 hitter.

Frisco infielder Adam Fox broke his left thumb diving for a ball. The number of finger injuries this franchise has suffered in the last month is bizarre.

The early results are good for righthander Ryan Bukvich, who is pitching out of the Bakersfield bullpen in his first game action since May 2005 Tommy John surgery. In three two-inning stints out of the Blaze bullpen, the 27-year-old has permitted two runs (one earned: 1.50 ERA) on four hits (.167 opponents’ average) and two walks while striking out seven.

Clinton reliever Nate Fogle is unscored on in 8.2 innings, allowing just four hits (.133 opponents’ average) and one walk while setting 11 Midwest Leaguers down on strikes.

The Rangers announced that former outfielder Rusty Greer has signed a personal services agreement with the organization. Though his goal is to coach, he’ll work for now with executive director to the president Jim Sundberg and help develop and coordinate camps, clinics, other alumni events, and the Rangers’ community programs.

Independent league signings: lefthander Derrick Van Dusen (Coastal Bend Aviators, American Association) and catcher Vic Valencia (Newark Bears, Atlantic League). Independent league retirement: catcher Jeff Goldbach (Evansville Otters, Frontier League).

And then there’s righthander Luke Hochevar, chosen 40th overall by the Dodgers last summer but not signed. He will pitch for the Fort Worth Cats leading up to the 2006 draft, for which he’ll be eligible as long as he doesn’t sign with Los Angeles by a week beforehand.

Most published evaluations of the 2006 draft conclude that it’s a weak class, which makes the decision to sign Kevin Millwood look even better. The Rangers forfeited their second-round pick when they signed Millwood, a Type B free agent, and with the $650,000 or so saved by not having the 56th pick, maybe the club will be in a better position to sign draft-and-follows like Brad Barragar, Dexter Carter, and a handful of other candidates.

Mark Sunday night, July 2, on your calendars for this year’s Newberg Report Night at Ameriquest Field. Texas hosts the Astros. More details soon.

No pitcher in baseball history had ever blown five saves in April before Francisco Cordero. Part of the reason for that is probably that pitchers who fail that consistently in the season’s first month generally don’t last the month in that role. I think that’s where Texas is right now, and I think Akinori Otsuka should end April as the club’s ninth-inning man.

It’s time to see the Jumbotron flashing “Yosshaa!” — which evidently means “Good job,” or “Way to go” in Japanese — just as the center field display fires up “Hello Win Column.” The Rangers and Cordero can’t keep going like this, right now, with the sense that “Good job” or “Way to go” is at best a longshot.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 26, 2006

I had a bunch of things to write about today. I’d begun to organize my thoughts last night, right about the time that Antonio Alfonseca was brought in to protect a lead. I’d figured out how to kick this morning’s report off by time Akinori Otsuka had thrown his nine pitches, eight for strikes, in a quiet eighth.

But as a result of the ninth inning, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that most of what was going to go in today’s report could only be construed as beside the point. So those thoughts I’d collected have been neatly boxed up, and we’ll get to those another morning.

Two pitchers in the American League have more wins than Francisco Cordero.

Never a good thing to have your closer among the league leaders in victories.

Cordero leads baseball with four blown saves. It’s obviously a testament to his teammates that he also has three wins on his ledger.

When A’s first baseman Dan Johnson, who came into his ninth-inning at-bat with five hits in 50 at-bats this season, stepped up to the plate, it set up a confrontation between baseball’s most unproductive hitter in 2006 and the game’s most beleaguered reliever. Someone had to prevail.

Cordero had already allowed a leadoff single followed by a four-pitch walk, so, as a fan, I was pretty much resigned to what was going to happen. Two straight groundouts cut the Rangers’ 5-3 lead to 5-4, and there stood Johnson, who should have had as much chance against Cordero as you or I would.

An out away from securing a win, with the tying run on second, Cordero started Johnson off with a called strike.

Then ball one.

Ball two.

Ball three.

Johnson then swung through a pitch, and Cordero was one pitch away from the save.

And one pitch away from the blown save.

Johnson ripped a fastball to left center, and the game was tied.

Cordero seems to have lost his edge, if not his confidence. But his teammates have lost neither, and somehow, despite the way the season started and despite the way Cordero has pitched, Texas is tied for first in the AL West.

After the win, the manager said to the press what you and I have been thinking, with regard to his closer. “He was one pitch away again. He just could not get it done for us. The situation is a concern to our bullpen because we are going to need to get it straightened out if we are going to get to where we want to go this season. If it is not something we can figure out, then we will have to come up with a solution.”

The reason Buck Showalter’s comments are meaningful is that he made them publicly. Showalter doesn’t say things arbitrarily, or accidentally.

A contending team has no problems until it has closer problems, and it’s been 10 years since Texas has had serious issues in the ninth inning. I still think Cordero will get straightened out, but what do I know?

It’s ugly. Demoralizing. Hard to understand. What will Showalter do, in the short term, and what will Jon Daniels do, in the long term?

Cordero has a club option for 2007. Will Texas exercise it, choosing to pay him $5 million next year (or more, depending on how many games he finishes in 2006), or let him walk?

Here’s who I think will be the Rangers’ closer in 2007:

Candidate number four: Josh Rupe. Imagine that stuff if he was conditioned to bring it in 15-pitch doses. He’s got the head for it, too.

Candidate number three: Frankie Francisco. His rehab is coming along. We should get to see him before the All-Star Break. We’ll learn plenty about him in the second half.

Candidate number two: Akinori Otsuka. What an addition he’s been.

Candidate number one: Francisco Cordero.

Will Cordero break out of this stunning funk he’s in? Sure hope so. Walkoff wins are only possible at home, and even then, you certainly can’t count on the offense to step up in the ninth inning as often as it has lately. It’s far more practical to expect your closer to step it up.

I still expect that from Cordero, even if it’s a leap of faith at the moment. We need to keep giving him the ball to protect ninth-inning leads, and hope that just around the corner are a couple extra ticks on the radar gun, a little lower plane on the fastball and the slider, and a better look in his eye.

Then maybe comments like last night’s from the manager, and the uneasy feeling I’m now getting when Cordero marches in from the bullpen, will be distant memories. As will seeing Cordero’s name among the league leaders in wins.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 24, 2006

Hey Roger.

We had a pretty good day on Sunday. Erica played the best soccer game of her life, and Max had a great afternoon swimming.

We have a ballgame on the set pretty much all the time now (I’m able to get away with this now that half of Max’s vocabulary is sports-related). Erica gets fired up whenever she sees Michael or Mark or Hank or Kameron. Max gets pumped whenever he sees a bat or a cap. They both dig the home run fireworks.

Lots of fireworks lately. Lots of Daddy jumping out of his seat, which entertains the kids and generally embarrasses their mother. The Rangers had an ugly first week, but they’ve been on fire since, winning eight of ten. The offense has average seven runs in that stretch.

Got four starters going pretty well, all things considered, and one spot in the rotation that nobody has really seized.

So, what’s up with you?

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 22, 2006

AL WEST W L
Texas 8 9
LA Angels 8 9
Oakland 8 9
Seattle 7 11

No sleep. No batting practice. No jet stream. No sweat.

Eighteen hits, six for extra bases. Thirteen runs, all in the first four innings.

Kevin Mench erasing an ugly start to his season with what’s now a six-game hitting streak (.400, seven RBI).

Two hits, a run scored, and a few impressive defensive moments for Drew Meyer in his Ranger debut.

Outfielder Laynce Nix was optioned to Oklahoma, outfielder Adam Hyzdu was purchased, and righthander Josh Rupe was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to make room for Hyzdu on the 40-man roster. With the way Gary Matthews Jr. has been playing, this was the right move to make. Nix needs at-bats in order to get locked back in.

Lefthander John Rheinecker will be summoned from Oklahoma to make tonight’s start, and his major league debut. He should have the benefit of a full bullpen, as only C.J. Wilson should need the day off after last night’s game.

And what a night it was from the pen on Friday. Six innings of one-run ball — and by any definition, it was accomplished by the bottom four relievers on the staff. Three hits, three walks, eight strikeouts. And a good-looking purpose pitch.

For everything else I want to say about last night’s game, simply turn to page 290 of your 2006 Bound Edition.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 21, 2006

Two pitching lines:

IP H R ER BB K P-STRK
Vicente Padilla 7.0 3 1 1 3 7 98-59

IP H R ER BB K P-STRK
Ricardo Rodriguez 4.0 3 1 1 1 2 60-35

Padilla’s line was last night’s, his fourth start of the season, the third to qualify as a “quality start,” and probably his best effort yet.

Rodriguez’s line was Wednesday afternoon’s, and it was his first appearance of the season, for anyone. He started AAA Richmond’s game against Buffalo, having signed with the Braves on Sunday.

After what happened on Wednesday, Texas needed what it got out of Padilla, even if the second tier of the bullpen squandered the lead he entrusted to it.

And after what happened on Wednesday, Texas really needed what it got out of Francisco Cordero. Twelve pitches, eight strikes. Greater reliance on his fastball. Three up, three down. And nothing approaching a browbeaten look in his eyes.

I loved what Gary Matthews Jr. did to Joel Pineiro (single and homer), George Sherrill (double), Eddie Guardado (huge walk), and, without a doubt, Mariners second baseman Jose Lopez. Love the swagger.

Padilla was big, Matthews was big, Phil Nevin and Michael Young and Kevin Mench were big. But make no mistake: Nothing was as crucial as how Cordero performed, in the short term and from a big picture standpoint. He’s been close to a given for so long that we take for granted that the ninth inning has been a non-issue, but the way his 2006 season had begun, the ninth inning had essentially become the Rangers’ biggest issue.

The most troubling aspect of Cordero’s Wednesday night meltdown was a disturbing over-reliance on his slider, the pitch that Oscar Acosta refined in 2002 when he spent two and a half months as the Rangers’ pitching coach and helped turn Cordero into a big league closer. Acosta was killed in a car accident on a highway outside of Santo Domingo – Cordero’s Dominican Republic hometown – on Wednesday. He was there to work with some of the players whom he would have managed with the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League club this summer. There are some 18-year-olds who were probably going to show up in Florida with better sliders in June than they have now.

But the main reason Cordero’s slider is so good because a hitter can’t sit on it when the righthander is pumping high-90s fastballs at the knees. But Cordero allowed hitters to sit on the slider on Wednesday, and the results were disastrous. Much, much better last night.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s closer (Eddie Guardado) walked in the decisive run last night. Oakland’s closer (Huston Street) is hurt, and his temporary replacement (Justin Duchscherer) walked in the decisive run yesterday. And LAAA’s closer (Francisco Rodriguez), who has had his own health questions, has surrendered runs in four of his seven appearances. Closer inconsistency is one of the main reasons that nobody is running away with the AL West, and that Texas, despite a bad first week, sits one game out of the division lead.

Texas may work Josh Rupe in relief as he rehabilitates his shoulder, not only to get his arm back in shape but possibly also with an eye toward having him reinforce the Rangers bullpen, rather than the rotation.

To make room for Drew Meyer on the 40-man roster, Texas moved righthander Adam Eaton from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Texas sent future considerations to Colorado for journeyman infielder-outfielder Derek Wathan, who was needed to reinforce the RedHawks’ depleted roster.

Clinton outfielder John Mayberry Jr. recorded his first two hits of the season last night, contributing a fourth-inning double and an eighth-inning home run in a 5-4 loss to Lansing.

The Rangers placed righthander Jose Silva and catcher Jose Sanchez Jr. on the restricted list.

Mike McCall will step down from his post as president of the Frisco RoughRiders at the end of the season. Scott Sonju (son of former Dallas Mavericks general manager Norm Sonju) will assume the title of president and GM, while Brent Stehlik will be COO.

John Koronka looks exactly like Jim Harbaugh. If you’re on my mailing list, you got the email version of this report and could see what I’m talking about.

The independent Sioux Falls Canaries (American Association) signed righthander Mark Roberts. The independent Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League) signed righthander Pat Mahomes and catcher Brad King.

Baseball America projects University of Houston righthander Brad Lincoln to be one of the first four picks in the June draft, suggesting he’s under consideration from the teams owning each of those selections (Kansas City, Colorado, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh). The Rangers selected Lincoln out of Brazoswood High School in the 28th round of the 2003 draft but couldn’t lure him from his commitment to pitch for the Cougars.

The Rangers are back in town. In fact, they’re probably just getting off a plane about now. Time to do some damage to the Devil Rays and A’s, both of whom have closer issues right now.

Over the next six days, hopefully Francisco Cordero can make it clear that the Rangers don’t have one of their own.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 19, 2006

King Felix is not in Cooperstown yet, and John Koronka is not Jamie Moyer.

Brad Wilkerson doesn’t strike out every time up, and neither does Laynce Nix.

There may not be a player in Rangers history as dependable as Michael Young.

Phil Nevin is contributing, and so is D’Angelo Jimenez, and for very different reasons it’s been unexpected.

Francisco Cordero is still capable of a boring ninth.

They play the games for a reason. And after 14 of them, Texas sits a game out of first.

Bullpen trends can change on a dime, but at the moment I’m as comfortable with Antonio Alfonseca and Akinori Otsuka setting up Cordero as I was with Carlos Almanzar and Frankie Francisco in 2004.

By the way: As Koronka held Seattle to one run on five hits and four walks in five frames, fanning four, Juan Dominguez (1-2, 5.84) was giving up two runs to the Mariners’ AAA club in Tacoma, permitting eight hits and two walks in 4.2 innings while striking out three.

Tuesday was a big day for two Ranger players who could have been lost this winter in the Rule 5 Draft. Drew Meyer has parlayed a solid off-season and spring and a couple strong weeks at Oklahoma into what is expected to be his first big league look, and Nick Masset has exploded back onto the Ranger radar with three outstanding starts for Frisco.

With the Rangers finally making the determination that they can’t continue to play a man short due to Mark DeRosa’s ailing ankle, it wasn’t 40-man roster member Aarom Baldiris they dipped down to grab as a reinforcement. Instead, it’s Meyer, a non-roster member who has never hit enough to match his ability to defend and his baseball IQ and the expectations heaped on a former premium pick. Though no move has been made, multiple reports indicate that one will be made before tonight’s game, and it will be the purchase of Meyer in conjunction with the deactivation of DeRosa.

Taken with the 10th pick of the 2002 draft, Meyer was the first player ever chosen by scouting director Grady Fuson and easily the most controversial pick of Fuson’s three draft classes. The debates were instant, as Texas lacked picks in the second, third, fourth, and fifth rounds that June and yet used its first-rounder not on a pitcher but a college shortstop, at a time when Alex Rodriguez was in the midst of his second of what was expected to be at least seven seasons as a Ranger. Among the players Texas curiously passed on in favor of Meyer — and this is not a hindsight call — were high school lefthander Scott Kazmir, high school outfielder Jeremy Hermida, and fellow college shortstop Khalil Greene. Scouts didn’t doubt Meyer’s athleticism or arm strength or intangibles but some questioned whether he’d be able to overcome an identifiable hitch in his swing.

Meyer’s first three seasons failed to erase those questions, and Texas left him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in 2004 and 2005, and no team — not even Fuson’s Padres this winter — was willing to invest $50,000 to give Meyer a spring training chance to earn a bench role.

Though Meyer was drafted as a shortstop, he has turned into an ideal utility player: a guy who can play every position on the field (there was even a time when Texas considered making him a catcher), who runs well, who bunts well, who hits from the left side, and whose game intelligence and energy makes instant fans out of those who get the chance to watch him play the game.

After getting off to a .321/.372/.417 start with Frisco last year (his fourth year out of four to spend a portion of the season in AA), Meyer was given his first taste of AAA pitching and it didn’t go particularly well. In 42 games, he hit .247/.301/.354, striking out a fourth of the time.

Meyer redeemed himself in the Arizona Fall League, however, hitting .306/.354/.333 in 72 at-bats, but the Rangers still left him off the 40-man roster, just as they’d done the winter before. He went undrafted in December, and came to camp slated to play second base for Oklahoma, assuming Jimenez earned a spot in Texas.

Meyer had multiple hits in each of his first three RedHawk games and four of his first five, playing exclusively at second base before Tim Olson’s broken arm prompted manager Tim Ireland to move him to third base on Sunday. Meyer was back at second base on Monday, however, and held out of the lineup on Tuesday, as the Rangers prepared to purchase his contract. The 24-year-old was hitting .360/.373/.520 in 50 RedHawk at-bats, including a .417 clip in 36 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. A third of his hits went for extra bases.

It’s conceivable that Meyer won’t even play while he’s up in DeRosa’s absence. But considering that he might have come into the season as a longshot to ever suit up in a big league game for the Rangers, this is an accomplishment.

As for Masset, he breezed through seven shutout innings last night, limiting San Antonio (Seattle’s AA squad) to three singles and three walks while setting four Missions down on strikes and forcing 13 others to ground out (against just four flyouts). With the effort, he improved to 2-0, 0.47 in three starts.

Masset, an eighth-round draft-and-follow taken in the 2000, months after he’d had high school Tommy John surgery, rushed onto the scene two years ago, earning November addition to the 40-man roster and a 2005 rotation spot with Frisco, but he struggled early and was run through waivers two months into the season. No team put in a claim — needing only to devote a spot on the 40-man roster to Masset, not an active roster spot — and Texas outrighted him.

Masset didn’t fold, however, bouncing back to earn the organization’s pitcher of the month honors in July, as he went 2-1, 2.03 in six starts, holding Texas League hitters to a .189 average. But he then struggled in August, and was inconsistent in the AFL, going 3-2, 5.27 in 10 relief appearances, though he did strike out 13 and walked just four in 13.2 innings. But like Meyer, Texas left him off the roster, and he went unchosen in the Rule 5 Draft.

Returned to Frisco to start the 2006 season, Masset got less publicity than rotation-mates John Danks, Thomas Diamond, and Armando Galarraga, but he’s unquestionably been the most dominant pitcher on the club and perhaps in the Texas League. In his three starts, the 23-year-old has scattered 10 hits (.154 opponents’ average) and six walks in 19.1 innings, punching out 16. Consistent with his history, he’s inducing ground balls at a rate (3.3 groundouts for every flyout) as high as anyone in the system, featuring a heavy two-seam fastball built for Ameriquest Field.

If Masset sustains his effectiveness all season, and maybe even if he doesn’t, he’s a good bet to join Danks and Diamond as additions to the 40-man roster in November. But if he keeps pitching this brilliantly, he just might see the 40 before the season is over, just as Meyer has done.

The expected promotion of Meyer to Texas follows a wave of moves made on the RedHawks roster on Tuesday. Righthanders Jon Leicester (left knee inflammation) and Jayson Durocher (right shoulder tendinitis) and infielders Marshall McDougall (left hamstring strain) and Tim Olson (left forearm fracture) were placed on the disabled list. Lefthander Derek Lee was activated off the DL, infielder Jace Brewer was promoted from Frisco, and catcher Justin Hatcher was promoted from Bakersfield.

In addition, righthander Ryan Bukvich was activated from the Oklahoma DL and assigned to Bakersfield.

Clinton outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was activated off the DL, and to make room on the LumberKings roster, infielder Joey Hooft was reassigned to extended.

Righthanders Josh Rupe and Frankie Francisco threw bullpen sessions on Monday. Francisco will throw batting practice tomorrow or Friday.

Correction: Lefthander Erasmo Ramirez did have a prior outright (in May 2003), meaning he had the right to decline his assignment to Oklahoma when Texas designated him for assignment and got him through waivers last week. He accepted the assignment, however, and is pitching out of the Redhawks bullpen.

After a white-hot start, San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has gone 4 for his last 22, bringing his numbers back down to .300/.364/.460. Outfielder Terrmel Sledge (.160/.276/.200) was optioned to AAA. Righthander Chris Young is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts, with an impressive ratio of 17 strikeouts to six walks in 18.2 innings.

Washington general manager Jim Bowden was arrested shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday morning in Miami and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. About 10 minutes before he was pulled over for running a stop sign, he was allegedly involved in a physical altercation with his fiancee, Joy Browning, who was arrested on charges of domestic violence as well as resisting arrest. She apparently refused to get out of the car when Bowden was pulled over and then struck an officer twice.

Nationals righthander Ryan Drese won’t need Tommy John surgery after all. Doctors determined he has a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow that will cost him four to six weeks.

University of Texas outfielder Jordan Danks broke his right ankle Saturday and will miss about six weeks. The freshman was hitting .327 (including .368 in conference play) despite dealing with a finger injury all spring.

Eleanor Czajka has transcribed the chat session we had on Friday with Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus. You can read it on the Minor Details page.

Kevin Millwood vs. Jamie Moyer tonight. Let’s go.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 17, 2006

If you refused to get beneath the surface, you wouldn’t understand that when Max says, “Note,” he’s really telling you he’d like a donut, if it’s not too much trouble. At a quick glance, Kameron Loe’s 0-2 record — nearly 0-3 — tells you roughly as much about his work in 2006 as “Note” would objectively get you to “Donut.”

Loe, thanks to Adam Eaton’s middle finger, caught Josh Beckett rather than Nate Robertson, and John Lackey rather than Jeff Weaver, in his first two starts. Whether that 0-2 record would have been different had he not been thrust into the number three role is impossible to say, and it’s also meaningless — Loe is not the type to make excuses or dwell on what might have been. Just as his imposing size disguises his funky, deceptive stuff, his strength under the lid as a starting pitcher isn’t what you’d expect out of a former 20th-round pick whose ceiling just a year ago was thought to be that of a big league middle reliever.

He’s a young pitcher with remarkable stamina, both physically and mentally. He’s a bull.

The way that guys learns, and gets better, that mistake to Eric Chavez isn’t go to be there in 2007. It probably won’t be there in August.

Loe’s groundball/flyball rate is 2.6, a tick better than it was in 2005, which was a tick better than it was in 2004. Four starters in baseball had rates that high last year: Brandon Webb, Jake Westbrook, Derek Lowe, and Mark Mulder. Only Webb, Lowe, and Westbrook were that effective in 2004.

And speaking of 2004, yesterday’s win felt like 2004. The 25th man taking Loe off the hook with an eight-inning homer. And then a four-spot in the ninth off the other team’s closer, turning a two-run deficit into a two-run lead. Mark Teixeira’s game-tying bomb was exhilarating but hardly unforeseeable. What was really great to see was that the offense didn’t stop there. After Phil Nevin grounded out and Hank Blalock skied out, a Kevin Mench single was followed by a Brad Wilkerson double and a Rod Barajas single — all opposite-field jobs — and in minutes Texas had not only gotten up off the mat but had pinned the A’s down.

On a day when the two most important pitchers in the Ranger bullpen weren’t particularly sharp, the Rangers won a tight game. That one felt great.

As much as has gone wrong in these first two weeks, the Rangers find themselves only a game and a half out of first.

Only two players in the American League (Adrian Beltre and Jay Payton) have more RBI-less at-bats than Mench, who comes off a spring training in which he drove in more runs than all but five players in baseball and nearly won the Cactus League Triple Crown.

Course, Mench could come out and hit three jacks off Felix Hernandez tomorrow, which would be no more stunning than Vicente Padilla giving up home runs on three straight pitches after pitching lights-out the previous 17 innings.

John Koronka will face Hernandez in the series opener in Seattle — objectively, there’s no reason to feel all that confident about the game, but in 2004 you wouldn’t have written off any matchup. Can’t wait.

Loe’s season debut against Beckett was the second time the two have faced off. The first was in the summer of 1998, when Loe (age 16) sported a Reds uniform and Beckett (age 18) wore Rangers red in an Area Code Games matchup at Long Beach State.

Oklahoma righthander Robinson Tejeda had his best start since Texas acquired him two and a half weeks ago, allowing two runs in a six-inning no-decision against Nashville yesterday. He scattered four hits and two walks while fanning five Sounds.

RedHawk third baseman Tim Olson broke his wrist in a collision with Nashville baserunner Tony Gwynn Jr. on Friday. As a result, Drew Meyer has moved from second base to third, suggesting that Marshall McDougall must be hurt again (he hasn’t played since Friday). Ruddy Yan, at least yesterday, moved from the outfield to second base. The Rangers had converted him from second to center field after acquiring him off waivers from the White Sox in November 2004.

If the Rangers decide that Mark DeRosa’s ailing ankle is limiting their options too much by shrinking the bench, Meyer could get his first big league opportunity. The 2002 first-rounder is hitting .370/.370/.522 and is capable of playing plus defense all over the field.

Frisco righthander Thomas Diamond earned his first win yesterday, holding San Antonio to two runs on five hits and three walks in five frames, setting six down on strikes. Diamond is striking AA batters out at a high rate (15 in 10.2 innings) but he’s allowed far too many baserunners (12 hits and eight walks) in his three starts.

Eighteen-year-old righthander Omar Poveda was activated and assigned to Clinton, whom he started for on Saturday, giving up a run on two hits (including a solo homer) and two walks in 4.2 innings, fanning four. He induced eight groundouts and just two flyouts. Lefthander Broc Coffman was brilliant in relief of Poveda, punching out six in 4.1 scoreless frames while yielding one single and one walk.

To make room for Poveda, righthander Cain Byrd was dropped from the LumberKings staff to extended.

The Yankees signed first baseman Carlos Pena to a minor league contract.

Righthander Warren Rosebrock has caught on with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League.

Meant to mention this a week ago: If you ever find yourself in serious primary colors withdrawal, just get yourself to a place where a group of NASCAR fans is likely to be. You’ll get your fix in no time.

I’ve got an entry in the Dallas Observer blog that should appear later this morning.

Enjoy it over coffee and a note.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 15, 2006

Max and I had a Guys’ Day Out yesterday. An airport run (“Jet!!”), a quick stop downtown that included a couple escalator rides (“Up!!”), a drive through Wendy’s (“Fries!!”), a lot of basketball and baseball and soccer and chase in the house (perpetual smiles on both of our faces), and a baseball game (“Bat!!”).

I was overcome with an urge to get Max to a ballgame. But Texas was out of town. Frisco was out of town. The two closest high schools were off, having played on Thursday.

So it was on to the University of Texas at Dallas. (I would have tracked down a Little League game if I had to.)

I was stunned by how relatively subdued Max was. At 20 months, he’s almost never still, usually moving horizontally, vertically, or both, at breakneck speed. But with the Comets going toe to toe with the hated ‘Roos of Austin College, Max decided to slow life down just a bit.

I knew no more players on the field than Max did, and as a result I had the chance to simply enjoy the Great Game, to ease into Lesson One, father to son, without any emotional attachment to what was going on between the lines. (UTD won the game, 13-8, completing a doubleheader sweep.)

From time to time, Max would excuse himself from the tutorial, opting to climb down about three or four steps on the metal bleachers, and climb back up. And then down, and then up. And again and again, occasionally interrupted by a crafty sideways duck under the metal handrail dissecting the aisle.

But he didn’t try to climb on people, to pull down the chain-link fence, or to find a domesticated animal whose tail clearly needed yanking. The game that grabs Max’s attention on TV captivated him in person, at least on his scale. He handled this rookie experience with the extraordinary (if unsurprising) poise of Ian Kinsler. And, happily, without any dislocations.

And it sort of taught me, as I saw Max climb up and down and up and down, making no particular progress but having the time of his life, that I’m going to be just fine this baseball season, the first three Rangers series notwithstanding. Like Max on those stairs, I’m going to try and make sure I don’t get too high or too low, and just appreciate the fact that I’m lucky enough to care about baseball the way I do.

So when I describe last night’s effort by Kevin Millwood, Akinori Otsuka, Antonio Alfonseca, and a balanced Ranger offense that made Barry Zito throw a lot of pitches early and scored an efficient six runs without going deep, as a very big win at a very important time against the division’s best team with its best pitcher on the mound, understand that I mean that in the most understated way.

Nice game for D’Angelo Jimenez, a really solid winter acquisition.

Ditto on Alfonseca.

Texas activated lefthander C.J. Wilson and sent righthander Scott Feldman to Oklahoma. Feldman didn’t pitch his way off the big club, but he’s the only reliever who had options.

Lefthander John Koronka will get Tuesday’s start on one extra day of rest, and righthander Rick Bauer will move to the bullpen, at least for now.

Righthander Josh Rupe will begin throwing from a mound next week. Frankie Francisco and Ryan Bukvich have progressed to the point of facing hitters in extended. Lefthander Matt Riley, rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, will toe it up against hitters next week.

Overshadowed by more heralded rotation-mates John Danks, Thomas Diamond, and Armando Galarraga, Frisco righthander Nick Masset was the most effective RoughRiders starter in the early going. In his first two starts, the 23-year-old went 1-0, 0.73, holding the opposition to seven hits (.167 average) and three walks while fanning 12, with a spectacular ground ball-fly ball ratio of 3.4. Outrighted off the roster in June, Masset was exposed to the league this winter but went unchosen in December’s Rule 5 Draft. Jon Daniels has acknowledged that Masset is squarely back on the radar.

To make room on the AAA squad for Erasmo Ramirez, lefthander Derek Lee was placed on the disabled list with a strained quad muscle.

Infielder Jace Brewer was sent from Oklahoma down to Frisco to make room on the RedHawks roster for Marshall McDougall, who was activated from his AAA rehab assignment and procedurally optioned to the club. Brewer replaces RoughRider infielder Craig Ringe, who landed on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring.

The Rangers traded Oklahoma righthander Chris Baker to Houston for future considerations. The 28-year-old made one RedHawk relief appearance, giving up one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings.

Frisco first baseman Vincent Sinisi is hitting .367/.424/.400. He’s hitting the ball again, but his only extra-base hit among 11 safeties is a double.

Bakersfield righthander Eric Hurley was dominant on Thursday, holding Visalia — which leads the California League in home runs and runs scored — to an unearned run on four ground ball singles (including one bunt) and no walks, punching out seven.

Utility man Joey Hooft mopped up to complete Clinton’s seven-inning, 16-3 loss to Kane County yesterday. He came in and induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of the one hitter he faced, catcher Anthony Recker, who had previously gone 2 for 3 with three runs scored.

The transcript of our fascinating chat session with Jonah Keri will be up in a day or two.

Washington righthander Ryan Drese hurt his elbow again and is headed for the disabled list.

Cincinnati signed lefthander Mike Venafro to a contract with AAA Louisville.

Has Ricardo Rodriguez really not found a job, of any kind, anywhere? It’s now been two and a half weeks since the Phillies released him.

It’s been three unemployed weeks for Carlos Pena.

Pumped for Padilla-Harden this afternoon. But first, I think Max and I will find another game to take in.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 13, 2006

One of the biggest disappointments of my life was when, at age six or eight or ten, I completely forgot to tell my Dad that Joe had called earlier in the afternoon. Turns out Joe had had two extra tickets to the Cowboys game, two tickets that some other friend of Joe’s probably got to use for himself and his six- or eight- or ten-year-old kid since I failed to give my Dad the message. If you doubt how devastating that was to a young sports fan like I was, ask yourself how many phone messages from 25 or 30 years ago you remember failing to pass along.

The Rangers disappointment that I know will gnaw at me a generation from now has to do with the development of catchers. More specifically, the seemingly complete absence of an effort to do so until the past two years.

Since January 2004, the Rangers have signed Rod Barajas as a minor league free agent. Developed Gerald Laird into a complete player. Used high draft picks on Mike Nickeas and Taylor Teagarden. Put big bucks into the signing of Dominican Republic wunderkind Cristian Santana. Got San Diego to patch the Adam Eaton-Akinori Otsuka trade with Billy Killian. Outbid at least a couple other teams to land free agent Nick Trzesniak. Catching is now an organizational strength.

When Pudge Rodriguez was here, Rangers management did very little to address catching depth. As a result, the club made a terrible miscalculation. It bugs me today, and always will.

A few days ago, T.R. Sullivan suggested in an MLB.com article that these were the five worst trades in Rangers history:

1. April 1, 1982: minor league pitchers Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the Mets for outfielder Lee Mazzilli.

2. November 10, 1978: pitchers Dave Righetti, Mike Griffin, and Paul Mirabelli and outfielders Juan Beniquez and Greg Jemison to the Yankees for pitchers Sparky Lyle, Larry McCall, and Dave Rajsich, catcher Mike Heath, and infielder Domingo Ramos.

3. July 29, 1989: pitcher Wilson Alvarez, outfielder Sammy Sosa, and infielder Scott Fletcher to the White Sox for outfielder Harold Baines and infielder Fred Manrique.

4. June 20, 1985: pitcher Frank Tanana to Detroit for minor league pitcher Duane James.

5. Winter following the 1975 season: pitcher Ferguson Jenkins to Boston for pitchers Craig Skok and Steve Barr and outfielder Juan Beniquez.

T.R. missed one that surely fits in the top five, and might end up being the worst ever.

Had Texas been in a position to sign Barajas in January 2003 rather than January 2004, maybe the club would have resisted trading hitter Travis Hafner and pitcher Aaron Myette to Cleveland for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese that winter.

How different would this offense look with Hafner, who won’t finish the season hitting .433/.541/1.067 but who just might be the most well-rounded hitter in the American League?

It’s easy to look back and say Texas gave up too much for Diaz, which is unquestionably true. But what drives me crazy is that we were so staggeringly unprepared for Rodriguez’s departure that we even thought we needed Diaz in the first place.

The funny thing is, and it’s really not funny at all, that the Rangers’ offense isn’t pulling its weight, while the rotation has been pretty good. Vicente Padilla and Kameron Loe have done their jobs. Kevin Millwood will be fine. John Koronka and Rick Bauer have been surprisingly effective. Toss out R.A. Dickey’s disastrous effort — and you can do that because he probably won’t be back in the rotation — and the club has probably gotten better starting pitching than it should have, given the injuries to Eaton and Josh Rupe and C.J. Wilson and the trade of Juan Dominguez, which effectively meant Texas had to go nine-deep to field a rotation out of the gate.

But the offense, before last night’s healthy assault, was hitting an anemic .261/.312/.404, striking out a fifth of the time and walking only one-third as frequently. And on Tuesday night, the club’s leader in hitting, slugging, and reaching base — Ian Kinsler — busted his left thumb sliding into second base.

Imagine this lineup with Hafner hitting fourth. Unless you don’t want to feel sick to your stomach.

Laird has to start here next year, doesn’t he? Has to.

Texas placed Kinsler on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, activating outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. from the 15-day DL. The club also reinstated infielder Marshall McDougall from the DL and optioned him to Oklahoma, where he’d already kicked off a rehab assignment.

Kinsler is expected to miss three weeks, at most. His thumb ligament is strained, not torn.

It’s the first time Kinsler has been on a disabled list in his four pro seasons.

Outfielder Kevin Mench was flown back to the Metroplex to get a cortisone shot in his foot. The second toe on his right foot is sprained.

You probably knew that Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season last night, but did you realize that he also hadn’t struck out all season until he fanned in his fourth trip to the plate in the Texas win, his 43rd plate appearance of the year? He’s drawn seven walks.

Wilson fanned one in a scoreless inning of work last night, giving him 3.1 innings of one-run ball in four Frisco appearances, with two walks and an impressive six strikeouts. He could return to the big club tomorrow for the start of the Oakland series.

The Rangers got lefthander Erasmo Ramirez through waivers and outrighted him to Oklahoma.

Righthander Ryan Bukvich, coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, could depart extended and join Frisco or Oklahoma next week.

Jason Botts (.444/.469/.889, three homers in seven games) is at or near the top of just about every offensive category in the Pacific Coast League, but he’s chasing teammate Drew Meyer (.448/.448/.621) in the league batting race.

Adam McCloskey conducted an offbeat, 20-minute interview with Botts a few days ago. You can listen to it by going to Eleanor Czajka’s "Minor Details" page on NewbergReport.com.

Righthander Robinson Tejeda and lefthander John Rheineicker haven’t fared nearly as well as Koronka since the injury to Eaton triggered trades for all three. In two starts each, Tejeda’s Oklahoma ERA is 9.00 and Rheinecker’s is 9.31.

In two RedHawk relief appearances each, John Hudgins has allowed one unearned run in five innings, scattering two hits and no walks while punching out seven, and Ron Mahay has given up an unearned run in three frames, permitting one hit and no walks while setting six down on strikes.

Righthander Michael Schlact, pitching in High A at age 20, debuted for Bakersfield by getting nine of his 15 outs on the ground and another four on strikes on Tuesday. Clinton lefthander Zach Phillips, pitching in Low A at age 19, blanked Burlington on four hits and no walks over seven innings on April 8, punching out four.

Bakersfield second baseman German Duran, making a two-level jump, has driven in seven runs in his first five Blaze games, hitting .381/.435/.619.

Clinton first baseman Freddie Thon’s homer last night was the LumberKings’ first of the seven-game-old season. Thon was the Northwest League home run king in 2005.

Righthander Chris Young yesterday, in his second San Diego start, following a sloppy debut: six shutout innings, one hit and three walks, six strikeouts, first win.

Righthander Juan Dominguez yesterday, in his second AAA Sacramento start, following a sloppy debut: five shutout innings, one hit and three walks, four strikeouts, first win.

Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .393/.433/.607.

San Diego righthander Doug Brocail had a second angioplasty on Tuesday, after doctors discovered additional coronary blockage.

This week’s edition of "Goin’ Deep" is now posted on the Rangers website. This edition was our monthly Q&A turn, where I fielded some of your questions on baseball’s procedural rules. Here’s the link: Goin’ Deep

One of the issues covered in the Q&A regards Oklahoma DH Erubiel Durazo, who can in fact be brought up to the big club before May 15 since he’d been released from a minor league contract in March, rather than a big league deal.

Durazo can, however, leave if Texas doesn’t bring him up by that date. The Rangers have granted him that out in his deal.

The Rangers have published their 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, and it includes the following:

1970s: Jeff Burroughs, Tom Grieve, Mike Hargrove, Toby Harrah, Al Oliver, Gaylord Perry

1980s: Steve Buechele, Danny Darwin, Pete O’Brien, Larry Parrish, Mickey Rivers, Jeff Russell

1990s: Will Clark, Mark McLemore, Dean Palmer, Roger Pavlik, Mickey Tettleton, Bobby Witt

Independent league moves: The Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League) signed lefthander Nick Bierbrodt. The Joliet Jackhammers (Northern League) released lefthander Seth Hill. The Gateway Grizzlies (Frontier League) announced the retirement of catcher Ben Margalski.

If you’re interested in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Golf Classic, set to take place on May 5 at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, there’s now one more perk. Attorney Lee Vendig will take you to the Rangers-Yankees game on May 4 if you sign up for the tournament. You can call Lee for more details at 214-683-8702.

The inaugural issue of Total Texas Baseball magazine, a project headed by Rangers director of publications Kurt Daniels, is now out, featuring articles on the Rangers, Astros, the state’s minor league clubs, and all Texas college programs, and it boasts the most in-depth coverage of Texas high school baseball coverage that you’ll find anywhere. There are also feature articles on Nolan Ryan and his sons, Tris Speaker, and the legend of the Texas fastball (authored by Baseball Prospectus’s Will Carroll).

For more information, go to http://www.totaltexasbaseball.com/.

Jonah Keri, editor of the new book "Baseball Between the Numbers" and an author at BaseballProspectus.com, will chat with us at noon tomorrow. Make plans to click "Chat" on the NewbergReport.com side menu to join the chat session.

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

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