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.

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