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.

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