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.

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