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.

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