April 2006


Planned to write today. Not going to.

Division game, ninth-inning collapse.

The brightest spot in the lineup is now a hole in the lineup, thanks to a dislocated thumb.

But you’re not supposed to panic before Tax Day, at least not about baseball.

This dark cloud has to drift away, at some point.

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


I’m less concerned about the fact that Texas has the worst winning percentage in the American League than I am about what I can imagine might be going on in the room.

I hope the players aren’t as frustrated as I am. No, check that. I’m sure they’re more frustrated than I am — I just hope they don’t let it affect them on the field. The core members of this team are still young, and my fear is that some of them could start to press, especially offensively. It’s a recipe for bad things.

Frankly, this is the first instance since David Dellucci was traded that I’m thinking he’ll be missed. Not so much between the lines — he was an integral contributor here but I make that trade 10 times out of 10 — but rather as a stabilizing veteran influence, a mentor.

(Instead, he’s got the chance to spread some wisdom in the Philadelphia locker room, as the Phillies are winless in four. Dellucci has pinch-hit in each Philadelphia game. He has a double in four trips.)

Stated another way: I don’t think the absence of Dellucci has anything to do with the 1-4 start. I just hope not having him around doesn’t make bouncing back from this a bigger challenge.

Rudy Jaramillo is surely missed, too, if not as a mechanic then as a counselor.

We’re one time through the rotation, but it’s not time to panic (which I have to keep reminding myself). Not for you or me, or for anyone wearing the uniform.

But that doesn’t mean the roster should be left alone, and Jon Daniels has already made a change. R.A. Dickey had a miserable night in the opener of the Detroit series, and the combination of his massive ineffectiveness and the tax he put on the back of the bullpen on Thursday prompted Daniels to option him to Oklahoma in order to get a fresh arm up. Righthander Rick Bauer was purchased — procedurally, only a pitcher not on the 40-man roster was eligible to be added — and he was predictably used to relieve lefthander John Koronka last night, as Koronka isn’t yet stretched out enough to get the ball to the key members of the pen.

As disappointing as Dickey’s start was, his quotes afterwards were a little surprising, especially coming from someone who has historically said all the right things, all the time. He was far more appropriate yesterday after the news that he’d been sent down to AAA.

Koronka was not too bad last night, giving up four runs on six hits and no walks in five innings, striking out one. Two of the runs came in a second inning marred by a windblown double to right that gets caught 99 times out of 100 and a dribbler to third that Hank Blalock lost in the transfer.

Bauer surrendered only one run on four hits and a walk over the ensuing three innings, fanning two, but he threw strikes only 60 percent of the time.

Robinson Tejeda started the RedHawks’ opener on Thursday, giving up four runs (three earned) in three innings, yielding six hits and four walks while striking out four. Not terribly good.

Last night, John Rheinecker took the hill for Oklahoma and wasn’t any better, getting tagged for five runs on 10 hits in 4.1 frames, fanning three.

For what it’s worth, Juan Dominguez started last night for AAA Sacramento and had a very rough time. In 2.2 innings, he gave up six runs on six hits (including two homers), four walks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch, and a balk. He got two of his eight outs on strikes, another two on the ground, and four in the air.

Frisco aces Thomas Diamond (two runs on two hits and four walks in two Thursday frames, fanning two) and John Danks (five runs on eight hits and a walk in four Friday innings, striking out four) had disappointing season debuts.

On the pitching rehab front, C.J. Wilson was touching 94 in his inning of work with Frisco on Thursday, and Brian Anderson, Josh Rupe, Frankie Francisco, and Ryan Bukvich are all throwing. The Rangers released righthander Nick Regilio, who hadn’t pitched since late June due to elbow tendinitis. He could take a coaching position with the organization.

Ian Kinsler is off to a fantastic start. So is Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego. And Ryan Klesko is about to have shoulder surgery, meaning the Gonzalez era in San Diego is basically underway.

Alfonso Soriano, on the other hand, was removed from the game by Washington manager Frank Robinson on Wednesday for not running out a pop-up.

Chris Young gave up four runs in 5.1 innings last night in his Padres debut. He allowed only four hits (though two were home runs) and one walk, punching out seven.

Mark DeRosa left Thursday’s game with a high ankle strain, sustained while chasing a foul ball. He thinks he’ll be able to avoid the disabled list.

Is it a good sign, in a way, that Eric Hurley registered only one strikeout in his 4.2-inning Bakersfield debut last night? He gave up five hits and one walk, yielding four runs — but all were unearned, coming after a Mike Nickeas throwing error with two outs in the Rancho Cucamonga fifth.

Oklahoma infielder-outfielder Drew Meyer and Frisco outfielders Jake Blalock and Kevin Mahar are off to terrific starts at the plate.

RedHawks righthander John Hudgins punched out four Memphis hitters (three swinging) in two perfect innings of relief last night, throwing 18 strikes out of 23 deliveries.

If you’re not on the Newberg Report mailing list yet, you should be. Mike Hindman is in mid-season form with his daily minor league recaps.

The Rangers re-signed designated hitter Erubiel Durazo (whom they had released a week and a half ago) to a minor league contract. He can’t be brought up to Texas, under any circumstances, prior to May 15, since he was released prior to Opening Day. (Same with John Wasdin.) Should Phil Nevin play his way into a release of his own, Durazo and Jason Botts could form a very good platoon at DH.

Interestingly, May 15 is not only the first day Durazo can be called up — the Rangers have reportedly also given him the right to ask for his release if they don’t bring him up on that date.

Oklahoma righthander Jose Silva is serving a 15-game minor league suspension, reportedly for testing positive for a banned substance more than two years ago.

Texas signed catcher Reese Creswell, a Perryton, Texas product who was drafted in the 10th round by the Phillies in 2004. He has reported to extended.

Minor league catcher Jon Higashi retired, and righthander Juan Pascual was released.

Outfielder Andrew Wishy is set to sign with the North Shore Spirit of the independent CanAm League, and lefthander Craig Frydendall signed with the Fullerton Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League.

San Diego acquired righthander Chris Jaile from Seattle. San Francisco signed righthander Brandon Villafuerte. St. Louis signed righthander Gary Hogan.

St. Louis released outfielder Ramon Nivar. Washington released outfielder Ruben Mateo and righthander Billy Sylvester. Milwaukee released outfielder Jason Romano and lefthander Wilfredo Rodriguez. Pittsburgh released lefthander Derrick Van Dusen. The Mets gave righthander Ryan Dittfurth a spring training look but then let him go.

Kevin Millwood goes tonight for Texas. I’m more interested in seeing him step up to get this thing turned around than I am in seeing him improve on his own Opening Day effort. These last two Tigers games are probably a little important than the sixth and seventh games of the season should be.

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


When the 2005 season ended, Texas had 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster.

When the 2006 season began, Texas had 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster.

There are only 10 who maintained their roster spots. And one of those is Frankie Francisco.

Without one game being played, Jon Daniels turned over more than half his pitchers — not just on the active big league roster, but on the 40. And he’s not done.

The process continues.

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


For one night, from his seat next to Tom Hicks, Jon Daniels had to feel pretty good.

Phil Nevin, the player he traded Chan Ho Park for — and make no mistake, Daniels played a major role in that deal — drove in five runs from the cleanup spot. He did his job.

Vicente Padilla, the player Daniels basically traded nothing for — Ricardo Rodriguez still has no job a week after being released by the Phillies — was at best the third most important pitching acquisition Daniels made this winter. Maybe the fourth. He had exquisite command of a versatile fastball against a strong lineup, touching 95 at times. Padilla pitched like a number one, for one night. He did his job.

Brad Wilkerson, the most important everyday player Daniels picked up this winter, singled twice, homered (off a lefthander), stole a base, and scored three runs from the leadoff spot. He did his job.

As Akinori Otsuka and Francisco Cordero wrestled a bit to put Boston away, Daniels was probably thinking about Robinson Tejeda’s side session earlier in the day, or the inning of work C.J. Wilson will get in Frisco’s opener on Thursday, or the opportunity he has in the next four or five days to trade Erasmo Ramirez and avoid losing him on a waiver claim.

But that 27th out had to feel good, better than Monday’s. It’s likely that Daniels didn’t allow himself to think, "I did my job," instead saying to himself, "It’s just one night." Hope he took a second to appreciate the fact that, for the first time, a roster he was ultimately responsible for designing won a major league baseball game.

And so it’s on to the rubber match. Daniels is probably thinking, it’s just another one of 162. Here’s what I wrote about tonight’s game, back on November 22, when the Rangers’ attempt to trade for Josh Beckett fell short:

"I’m not sure what sorts of emotions will dominate when Beckett pitches on April 3, 4, or 5 as Boston opens in Arlington. I’m not upset at him; he certainly didn’t have the prerogative to choose which team he’d be with in 2006.

"But on whatever day he pitches, wearing the same number 21 that fellow Texan Roger Clemens wore, he’ll be in the way, and I hope we destroy the Red Sox. Destroy them."

Adam Eaton had surgery yesterday to repair a pulley connecting the tendon to the bone at the base of his right middle finger. Doctors estimate the rehabilitation process could take four months rather than three. Eaton will spend the first six weeks of rehab in Surprise.

John Koronka, whom the Rangers plan to start against Detroit on Friday, threw 67 pitches over a simulated four innings on Sunday. He gave up no runs on two hits and two walks.

Tejeda will start for Oklahoma in its opener tomorrow and could join the big league rotation after two RedHawk starts. If Koronka pitches well against the Tigers, it’s possible, according to a couple stories, that he could survive and that it might be R.A. Dickey’s spot that Tejeda takes.

Texas reportedly had to throw in $450,000 to get Tejeda for David Dellucci, but in exchange got the Phillies to upgrade the second player in the deal from an organizational soldier to outfield prospect Jake Blalock.

A quote from Dellucci, who I suggested on Sunday could conceivably come back in 2007: "The most important thing is the respect of your teammates, and I leave here knowing that I was well-respected and well-loved by my teammates and the staff. . . . I would love to come back [to the Rangers] and play with my teammates, with the guys. I love living in Texas and playing for these fans. [But] I’m not taking any more discounts."

Though Gary Matthews Jr.’s rehab assignment could be brief, he’ll start at designated hitter for Oklahoma tomorrow rather than test his shoulder defensively right away.

According to Buck Showalter, righthander Nick Regilio, who continues to deal with elbow discomfort, is thinking about retiring and taking a coaching job with the organization in extended spring training.

All four full-season minor league clubs open tomorrow. If you’re on the Newberg Report mailing list, you’ve seen Mike Hindman’s reports on what the Opening Day rosters look like for Oklahoma, Frisco, Bakersfield, and Clinton.

No staggering surprises, though I thought Mike Nickeas might have been assigned to catch Johnny Lujan in Frisco rather than Bakersfield. The thought is evidently that the organization wanted to match Nickeas up with the promising young starters who will front the Blaze rotation (primarily Eric Hurley and Michael Schlact), and to have Nickeas there to help Emerson Frostad with his conversion from third base to catcher.

John Mayberry Jr. begins the season on the disabled list with the hamstring that nagged him through spring training. He’s likely slated for LumberKing duties. Lefthander A.J. Murray starts the year on Oklahoma’s disabled list, and righthander Jose Silva remains in extended.

One thing to consider with regard to the release of outfielder Juan Senreiso, whom Texas wanted to convert to pitcher: I’m pretty sure that he would have had six-year free agency rights at the end of the season if not on the 40-man roster.

Among the Red Sox contingent in town this week is former Rangers P.R. man John Blake, whom Boston named vice president for media relations over the weekend.

Lefthander Darren Oliver earned a job in the Mets bullpen.

San Diego signed second baseman Chris O’Riordan to a minor league contract.

The Lincoln SaltDogs of the independent American Association signed lefthander Chris Russ, and the Calgary Vipers of the independent Northern League signed infielder Tyler Klippenstein.

Victor Rojas has started a blog for MLB.com, called "The Spoils." If the first couple entries are any indication of what’s in store for us, you ought to bookmark the project right away.

It’s basically meaningless that Texas is tied for first place in the AL West as the club gets set for Kameron Loe vs. Josh Beckett tonight — the Rangers are tied for last as well — but I’m really pumped for this one. Even if it’s just another night for the club, and its general manager.

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


It was about as unlikely as Travis Hafner legging out a triple for his first major league hit, or Rafael Palmeiro going down the left field line for his 3000th hit.

Ian Kinsler went the opposite way for his first major league base hit.

Facing Curt Schilling in the third inning of yesterday’s opener, Kinsler singled to right field. If you know Kinsler’s history, you know he might actually get drilled this year more often than he forces the right fielder to make a play.

It was a perfect moment in an otherwise disappointing day.

And slightly more memorable than Mack Brown introducing me to his wife as the guy who knows more about his recruiting class every year as anyone in the country. For about three-fourths of a second, I couldn’t decide whether to correct him. But I did, breaking it to him that that’s the other guy, not me.

(Probably freaked him out that, if I really was the other guy, I’d have traveled all the way from Atlanta just to track him down at a Texas-Boston baseball game.)

The two guys from yesterday’s game who are going to have bigger years than anyone expects: Laynce Nix and the exceedingly dirty Jonathan Papelbon.

It’s a popular story to write these days that Kevin Mench is about to explode, busting down the 26-homer and 73-RBI career marks that he’s set. He might. But Nix could put up the same numbers, assuming he gets the same number of at-bats, that we all expect from Mench, and he’ll play above-average defense whether he hits at that level or not. For now, Nix probably won’t face lefthanders and it’s unclear what will happen to his role when Gary Matthews Jr. returns from the disabled list.

But don’t underestimate what Nix is capable of — right now.

And if Kinsler is going to go with the pitch with any sort of regularity, no matter how optimistic you might be about his rookie season, you’d better be careful about underestimating him, too.

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


In the final hours before U2 took the stage in Tempe, Arizona on April 2, 1987 to kick off their Joshua Tree tour, I bet the fusion of nerves and adrenaline and impatience was almost overwhelming.

Though the band had just finished recording their masterpiece and had already arrived at that level they’d probably dreamed of their whole lives, it was time to put it all on the line, to take those pieces they’d assembled, and perform. To take what they’d designed, and play.

On that spring day, 19 years ago today, U2 was out to prove, on stage, that the whole was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. To find out how justified they were in feeling so good about what they’d put together.

It’s exactly what Jon Daniels, who is about as old today as Bono and Edge and Larry and Adam were then, must feel like tonight.

Time to play.

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


I’m not in the clubhouse. Never have been. I don’t know what goes on in there. But based on what we think we know by way of the press, it seems that in the past two days, Texas has traded both the player that was least trusted in the room and the player who might have had the most respect.

After moving Juan Dominguez on Friday, Jon Daniels traded outfielder David Dellucci on Saturday. Dellucci goes to Philadelphia in exchange for 24-year-old righthander Robinson Tejeda, whose upside is measurably greater than that of John Koronka or John Rheinecker, the two southpaws acquired in the three-team Dominguez deal. The Phillies are also throwing in Hank’s brother Jake Blalock, an outfielder who has spent each of his three full seasons in Class A.

Like Koronka and Rheinecker, Tejeda has at least one option remaining — in fact, the Phillies had optioned him to AAA on Wednesday — and it seems likely that he would have been the better bet to start the Rangers’ fifth game, but his wife gave birth yesterday and Texas decided to keep Koronka (who will throw a simulated game today) in place for the Friday start against Detroit.

This is, in a way, the antithesis of Friday’s trade. While trading Dominguez raises questions about the talent exchange but not about the impact in the clubhouse, the Dellucci trade does just the opposite. Texas sold low with Dominguez. The club is selling high with the 32-year-old Dellucci.

Ever since Dellucci arrived in the winter following the 2003 season, he has been one of the unquestioned glue guys on the roster. Add to that the fact that in 2005, he had the finest year of his nine years in the big leagues, setting career marks in at-bats (435), hits (109), home runs (29), RBI (65), walks (76), and slugging (.513).

But given the off-season acquisition of Brad Wilkerson, the desire of the club to have Phil Nevin protecting Mark Teixeira in the lineup, and the apparent return to health of Laynce Nix, there were three things working against Dellucci getting the same kind of playing time that he got last year: a new leadoff hitter, a new designated hitter, and two healthy left-handed-hitting outfielders to play alongside Kevin Mench.

Those two factors — coming off a career year and facing a diminished role — apply to Tejeda as well.

Tejeda’s breakthrough 2005 happened to be his first season in the big leagues. Having pitched six years in the Phillies system with only one season as high as Class AA, Philadelphia assigned the Dominican righthander to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last April, and they didn’t need to see much.

Tejeda made five Red Baron starts, in which he gave up more than one run only once, posting a 2-0, 2.22 record, scattering 21 hits (.214 opponents’ average) and 13 walks in 28.1 innings and fanning 28. It was as effective as he’d ever been as a pro.

When Philadelphia reliever Tim Worrell left the club for undisclosed personal reasons early in May, the Phillies called Tejeda up to work out of the bullpen, something he’d never done regularly as a pro.

The results were excellent. Tejeda made eight relief appearances in the space of three and a half weeks, allowing hits in only half of them and runs on his ledger just twice. Particularly impressive was a three-inning, hitless stint against St. Louis, foreshadowing what the 6’3″ righthander would do once the Phillies moved him into the rotation.

Tejeda’s first major league start came on June 8, as Texas visited Citizens Bank Park. He earned a no-decision but was brilliant. In five innings, he blanked the Rangers on two hits (a Richard Hidalgo double and a Rod Barajas single) and two walks, striking out four. (Philadelphia went on to win, 2-0, with former Ranger Aaron Fultz getting the win.)

Next time out? Tejeda went into Oakland and shut them out on four hits and three walks in 5.2 frames, this time getting his first big league win.

In his next three starts, Tejeda gave up one Mets run in six innings, two Mets runs in four frames, and no Atlanta scores over six. A bad start against Washington was followed by a second stint in the bullpen, and in the second half he would make seven starts and five relief appearances.

All told, Tejeda — who touches 96 with his fastball and mixes in a solid change and an improving curve — went 4-3, 3.57 in 13 starts and 13 relief appearances. He was markedly better as a starter, posting a 2.87 ERA in that role (allowing more than two earned runs only twice) while recording a 6.48 ERA in relief. The primary difference was in his control; he actually held batters to a lower batting average and slugging percentage out of the bullpen, but he walked a batter per inning in relief (16 in 16.2 frames) while issuing free passes at half that rate when starting (35 in 69 frames).

In 85.2 innings, Tejeda held opponents to a stingy .218 average and did an outstanding job suppressing power despite pitching half his games in a pronounced hitters’ park. Hitters slugged only .329 off Tejeda (even though his groundball-to-flyball ratio was slightly upside-down), with a home rate actually a tick lower than on the road. Only three baserunners attempted to steal all season off the righthander, suggesting he holds runners well; just one succeeded.

Tejeda’s sinker-curve-change repertoire was tougher on left-handed hitters (.210 average) than righties (.226), though he had bigger control issues against the lefties (.360 on-base percentage, as opposed to .326 by righthanders).

Tejeda did miss two weeks in early September with shoulder soreness, returning to action to make a couple mid-month relief appearances before the club shut him down for good. But he pitched in the Dominican Winter League, and appeared briefly for the Dominican squad in the World Baseball Classic, giving up one earned run in an inning and a third, spanning two relief appearances.

Philadelphia didn’t add the kind of frontline pitching over the winter that objectively would have pushed Tejeda out of contention for a role on the club’s staff, but his stint in the WBC probably did hurt his cause. He only got 7.1 innings of work in Phillies camp in addition to the 1.1 tournament frames, allowing five earned runs (6.14 ERA) on nine hits (.301 opponents’ average) and four walks in Grapefruit League play, striking out six. The club optioned him to AAA four days ago.

Tejeda threw four innings in a minor league game yesterday afternoon, and then flew to Boston for the birth of his child.

Blalock is no carbon copy of his older brother. The 22-year-old is three inches taller than Hank, hits right-handed, and moved from third base to the outfield early in his pro career. While Hank came into pro ball as a pure hitter whose power was expected to develop, Jake arrived with raw power and less of an expectation that he’d hit for average.

After somewhat of a breakthrough in 2004 (.271/.350/.449 for Low A Lakewood), Blalock experienced a dip in power in 2005, when he hit .279/.359/.388 for High A Clearwater. His doubles fell from 40 to 22, his homers dropped from 16 to 11, and his RBI plummeted from 90 to 65.

Blalock doesn’t project to be a star, and he needs to make a major step forward to be considered a future starter. But he does have some prospect status, and in this system that just might make him a top five outfielder.

Blalock was not on Philadelphia’s 40-man roster and thus doesn’t go on the Rangers’ 40-man.

Interesting deal — and the second one in two days that probably doesn’t happen if Adam Eaton doesn’t strain his middle finger. Dellucci should have a bigger impact in Philadelphia than Dominguez will in Oakland, at least in 2006. And Tejeda, in my opinion, is a more important pickup than Koronka or Rheinecker. This latter trade makes more sense from a baseball standpoint than a chemistry standpoint, while the Dominguez deal was seemingly driven by chemistry more so than talent.

I’m comfortable with this one, with my only reservation being that I hope it doesn’t cause a problem in the clubhouse. But I’m not all that concerned: I have enough faith in the leaders of this club that while the move may not be popular, it won’t affect how the team plays.

With Adrian Gonzalez, Erubiel Durazo, and Dellucci gone, and Nevin surely gone in a year, Jason Botts has suddenly become a much bigger factor going forward.

On the other hand, can we really rule out the possibility that Dellucci returns in 2007, if the player and team agree at that point that there’s a fit? His contract, which will pay him a base of $950,000 in 2006, expires at season’s end.

Since trades don’t materialize in 24 hours (and in this case, the Philadelphia papers had been speculating on Tejeda for Dellucci for about a week), it stands to reason, doesn’t it, that the Dominguez trade had less to do with timing the acquisition of a fifth starter candidate than with timing the selling of Dominguez? If, on Friday, Texas knew it could get Tejeda, then getting Koronka and Rheinecker would have been less pressing. And that must mean that trading Dominguez when the club did and for what it got was simply a decision that, instead of using an option on Dominguez, there was an opportunity to get something for him while the club could.

To get the Opening Day roster finalized, the Rangers purchased the contracts of three non-roster players: righthander Antonio Alfonseca, infielder D’Angelo Jimenez, and outfielder Adrian Brown. Texas placed lefthander C.J. Wilson, righthanders Josh Rupe and Frankie Francisco, infielder Marshall McDougall, and outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. on the 15-day disabled list, with Eaton retroactive to March 30 and the rest retroactive to March 24, making all but Eaton eligible to be activated on April 8. That’s really only meaningful in Wilson’s and Matthews’s case. Matthews will report to Oklahoma for a rehab assignment that will kick off on Thursday, when the RedHawks open their schedule.

The exchange of Tejeda and Dellucci didn’t affect the 40-man roster, but the addition of Alfonseca, Jimenez, and Brown took Texas to 41 players. Rather than move Francisco or Eaton (who has opted for surgery, which will reportedly take place this week and cost him three months) to the 60-day disabled list, the Rangers got back down to 40 by placing righthander Omar Beltre, who remains in the Dominican Republic due to visa issues, on the restricted list.

Texas also designated lefthander Erasmo Ramirez for assignment, not to get the roster down to 40 players but because Rule 5 pick Fabio Castro made the staff, and the Rangers couldn’t demote Ramirez since he was out of options. The club has 10 days to trade Ramirez, release him, or, if he clears waivers, outright him to the minor leagues. The Rangers got righthander Jon Leicester through waivers early in the week and outrighted him to Oklahoma.

Interestingly, the Rangers plan to stretch Leicester out by putting him in the RedHawks rotation.

Tejeda and Rheinecker were optioned to Oklahoma — so Tejeda can’t return for Friday’s game due to the 10-day rule — and outfielder Adam Hyzdu was reassigned to minor league camp. Righthander Jose Silva was reassigned to minor league camp a few days ago, and he’s decided to stay with the organization rather than take a more lucrative offer to pitch in the Mexican League.

Accordingly, the Rangers’ Opening Day roster is as follows:

Pitchers (12): Antonio Alfonseca, Joaquin Benoit, Fabio Castro, Francisco Cordero, R.A. Dickey, Scott Feldman, John Koronka, Kameron Loe, Kevin Millwood, Akinori Otsuka, Vicente Padilla, Brian Shouse

Catchers (2): Rod Barajas, Gerald Laird

Infielders (7): Hank Blalock, Mark DeRosa, D’Angelo Jimenez, Ian Kinsler, Phil Nevin, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young

Outfielders (4): Adrian Brown, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Brad Wilkerson

Nix will evidently return to center, with Wilkerson moving to left.

Castro is the first Rule 5 pick to stick with the Rangers since righthander Ramon Manon, who made the club in 1990 but lasted just four weeks before Texas returned him to the Yankees.

As expected, righthander John Wasdin signed a minor league contract days after being released, and he’s expected to pitch in the Oklahoma rotation.

The Rangers released four minor league pitchers: lefthanders Brian Mattoon and Ivan Ramirez (Erasmo’s brother) and righthanders Mark Roberts and Kellan McConnell.

The Phillies released righthander Ricardo Rodriguez.

San Diego placed Ryan Klesko on the disabled list, paving the way for Adrian Gonzalez to break camp with the big club and start at first base.

Washington got righthander Travis Hughes through waivers and outrighted him to the minor leagues.

Kevin Gryboski (Washington), Steve Karsay and Einar Diaz (Cleveland), Keith McDonald and Jose Veras (Yankees), Jason Tyner (Minnnesota), and Jose Morban (Seattle) were reassigned to minor league camp.

Chan Ho Park will pitch in relief for San Diego.

The Padres, after releasing righthander Brian Sikorski, signed him to a minor league contract.

By the way, I was still in a crummy baseball mood when I woke up yesterday morning, but watching Grant Schiller hold forth at the Welcome Home Luncheon got my head right with ball.

I’m ready for tomorrow.

Thank you, David Dellucci, for September 23, 2004, one of the greatest baseball moments I’ve ever experienced.

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


Not long ago, this one would have made some real noise.

Three winters ago, John Rheinecker was judged by Baseball America to be Oakland’s number two prospect, behind Rich Harden and ahead of Bobby Crosby.

Three winters ago, John Koronka was a 22-year-old auditioning for a big league job, having been Rule 5’d by the Texas Rangers.

Three winters ago, Juan Dominguez was Jose Dominguez, poised to embark on one of the most mercurial three-year periods of any player who has ever suited up for the Rangers.

When Texas announced last night that it had traded Dominguez and acquired Rheinecker and Koronka, it hit me with an empty feeling, emptier than I thought it would. I can’t remember a pitcher developed by the Rangers whose natural talent offered so many breathtaking moments, or a Rangers player whose act was so maddening.

I kept hoping that age and maturity would erase the frustrations, in time for Dominguez and his teammates to reap the benefits of that supernatural ability. Kept waiting for the wakeup call that would trigger a commitment from Dominguez to be as great as he’s capable of being.

And now I sit here wondering if that wakeup call has just taken place, with the best team in the Rangers’ division poised to profit.

I’m not going to sit here and throw Dominguez under the bus by itemizing every stupid thing he did and didn’t do since signing with Texas the day after Christmas 1999. There’s no point in listing all the incidents, other than to sum them up by saying that without them, and maybe without half of them, there’s virtually no doubt that he would be an untradeable core member of the Rangers rotation. And I wouldn’t be writing this report, which feels like a requiem, and sort of is.

Is it Jose or Juan? Born in 1982 or 1980? What are we gonna get today: two runs in eight innings against the eventual World Champion White Sox, or a missed flight? Is that 94 or 78 coming at me?

Everything about Dominguez feeds into the enigma.

Dominguez angered me, and energized me. I’ve said this to friends, and I’ll say it here now: For the last two years, I’ve thought that there was an equal chance that, at age 35, Dominguez could be a 150-game winner, or walking the streets of an impoverished village in a sparsely populated region of the Dominican Republic. Or worse.

There were efforts in Frisco and in Yankee Stadium that I’ll never forget, and stories about Dominguez that we’ve all read plus a couple I’ve heard that I’ll never forget.

There was a game in Oakland in September that the A’s didn’t forget. With one week to go in the regular season, Dominguez went into Oakland and held the A’s to two runs on eight hits and no walks in 7.1 innings, fanning three. They’ll probably send Dominguez to AAA this weekend, but they certainly have bigger plans for him before long.

For the most loyal of fans, baseball trades are often emotional, hard to take. I bet Jon Daniels had a tough time as a 10-year-old when his Mets traded Jesse Orosco and got Kevin Tapani, Wally Whitehurst, and Jack Savage back.

But Daniels had to make a baseball decision here, and it couldn’t have been easy. Unquestionably, Dominguez is the most talented player involved in the deal that sees him go to Oakland, and the Rangers, because of his well-chronicled baggage, had to sell low. The A’s sent Rheinecker, a 26-year-old lefthander, and utility player Freddie Bynum to Texas, who flipped Bynum to the Cubs for Koronka, a 25-year-old southpaw, and either a player to be named later or cash.

Koronka (who I’m pretty sure has one option) is expected to step in as the Rangers’ fifth starter, at least while others get healthy or try to decide whether they want to pitch in 2006. Rheinecker (who definitely has at least one option) will go to Oklahoma, where he’ll be part of the RedHawks rotation.

Texas chose Koronka from Cincinnati in the December 2002 Rule 5 Draft, after a season that he split between High A, AA, and the Arizona Fall League. A fastball-changeup-slider pitcher now, he was just a fastball-changeup guy then. In March 2003, he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 5.1 spring innings for the Rangers, fanning three, and Texas returned him to the Reds with a week and a half to go in camp.

After making 25 AA starts in 2003, Cincinnati traded Koronka to the Cubs for lefthander Phil Norton. He finished that season in AA for Chicago and spent all of 2004 pitching for AAA Iowa. He returned to Iowa for the 2005 season, making his big league debut in June when Chicago needed someone to step in for the injured Mark Prior. Koronka won that start, yielding three Dodger runs over five frames. He’d lose his next two starts and make one relief appearance for the Cubs, finishing at 1-2, 7.47. He allowed 19 hits and eight walks in 15.2 innings while fanning 10.

While with Iowa last year, Koronka was predictably better against left-handed hitters (.231 opponents’ average, 1.88 groundball-to-flyball ratio, 5.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio) than righthanders (.274, 1.03, 1.4). And his best month was his final full month, as he went 2-0, 1.32 in four August starts.

Incidentally, Koronka faced Oklahoma twice in 2005, in the space of one week. On June 23, he allowed two RedHawk runs on two hits and three walks in seven innings, fanning one. On June 30, he shut Oklahoma out over a season-high eight frames, scattering five hits, walking nobody, and punching out seven.

Koronka followed the season with a strong showing in the AFL, pitching 13 scoreless innings, all in relief. He allowed just eight hits (.178 opponents’ average) and five walks, setting 11 prospects down on strikes. And interestingly, right-handed hitters were completely impotent against him, managing just three hits (.107) in 28 at-bats, while lefties hit .294.

In camp this spring, Koronka held the Cactus League to a .227 average in 10 relief appearances, permitting five runs (3.75 ERA) on 10 hits and three walks in 12 innings, striking out seven. The Rangers, who already believed in his makeup from his 2003 stint in Surprise, saw a far better breaking ball this spring. They now believe he has an effective enough third pitch to get righties out, and thus to succeed in a starting role.

But look again at that spring line: 10 appearances, 12 innings, all in relief. How deep into Friday’s game against Detroit can the Rangers really expect Koronka to go? He’ll throw a simulated game tomorrow.

With the little I’ve seen of Koronka, I can’t imagine him having the upside that Josh Rupe or C.J. Wilson or Edinson Volquez have, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Koronka optioned at some point in April (the fifth spot will probably only be called on three times in the month) or shortly thereafter. And I’m sure he doesn’t have the upside that Dominguez has. Few do. But there’s a difference between upside and prognosis. Josh Hamilton and Brien Taylor and Toe Nash had upside.

And it should be pointed out that, just as looking at the Padres trade as Chris Young for Adam Eaton inappropriately ignores the importance of Akinori Otsuka in that deal, this wasn’t simply Dominguez for Koronka, even though it will be judged by the soundbite segment of the local media that way for the next month, when Koronka pitches in the fifth spot that was to have been Dominguez’s. From the Rangers’ standpoint, they also get Rheinecker and a Cubs player to be named later (or cash). From Oakland’s, they had to give up not only Rheinecker, but Bynum as well.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Rheinecker was off to the best start of his career in 2005 when his season was derailed by a tendon injury in the middle finger of his throwing hand. It’s exactly what happened to Eaton last summer in San Diego, and to be sure, without the Eaton recurrence this week, Dominguez-for-Koronka-and-Rheinecker probably never happens.

Rheinecker, spending his third season with AAA Sacramento, was off to a spectacular 4-0, 1.77 record in seven starts — six of which were quality starts — when a torn tendon ended his season on May 13. He was primed to make his big league debut if not for the injury. Instead, Seth Etherton was called on to step in for the injured Rich Harden, days after Rheinecker for hurt. He tried to rehab the finger but never did get back on the mound, reportedly unable to grip a baseball even at season’s end.

The 37th overall pick in the 2001 draft (chosen right before the Mets took a high school third baseman named David Wright), Rheinecker followed an impressive debut summer with a sensational first full season, going 3-0, 2.31 in nine starts for High A Visalia and 7-7, 3.38 in 20 starts for AA Midland, fanning a combined 162 and issuing a scant 34 walks in 178.2 innings.

But in 2003, rather than take the next step forward, Rheinecker leveled out. Nobody in the minor leagues allowed more than the 233 hits he surrendered in 180.1 innings between Midland and Sacramento. His walk rate increased from 1.71 per nine innings in 2002 to 2.20 (still very good) in 2003, and his strikeout rate fell from 8.16 to 5.74.

Rheinecker spent all of the 2004 season in Sacramento, going 11-9, 4.44 in 27 starts and one relief appearance. In his breakthrough return to the RiverCats in 2005, he was able to use his fastball-cutter-slider-change repertoire to keep righthanders off balance (.158 in 120 at-bats) while lefties hit .250 in 40 at-bats before the finger injury ended his season after six weeks. His groundball-to-flyball ratio was a solid 1.56.

Quick aside, while on the subject of injured finger tendons: Eaton had barely descended from the mound on Wednesday when he told reporters that he was pretty sure he was going to miss a lot of time. Reporters wrote that Eaton, on Thursday, seemed inclined to opt for surgery on the injured tendon (which was on the same finger but in a different area from last summer). I’ll admit I was in a crummy baseball mood when I heard that, but it sure sounded like someone thinking more about protecting his long-term contract prospects than about his opportunity to help Texas win in 2006.

Back to Rheinecker. He’s evidently healthy, having appeared five times in camp with the A’s this spring, though he wasn’t very effective. In 8.1 innings, he gave up six runs (6.48 ERA) on 10 hits (.303 opponents’ average) and five walks, striking out three.

This was a trade that basically involved two pitchers who, in the space of a few days, were getting fifth starter consideration only because of an injury to someone else; another pitcher who will be in AAA for the fourth straight year and has yet to make a big league appearance; a 25th man; and a player to be named later. Outside of Texas, Oakland, and Chicago, it’s not going to get much attention.

But because of the promise that Dominguez always teased us with, the trade is a tough one to take. He threw six quality starts out of his final eight last year. When his fastball-changeup combination is right, when his head is right, he can be a heck of a major league pitcher. If he puts it together with Oakland, this one is going to hurt for a long, long time.

But if he continues to wander, to drift, to frustrate, he will end up being a very sad story.

Either way, this one doesn’t set up to have a happy ending here. It’s probably true that Dominguez needed the change of scenery, as did Texas. But as much as I knew that this day was always a possibility, I’m more disappointed than I anticipated I’d be.

Back on January 27, I wrote the following:


You might argue that it’s unfair that the local press made a story out of the fact that Juan Dominguez missed a flight to Rangers mini-camp this week, especially since he still managed to make it to Arlington on schedule, and that he was carrying 15 pounds more than the organization wants him to, given that the games won’t count for another 10 weeks.

You might instead argue that Dominguez, based on his track record, has waived the right to have stories like that overlooked by the media.

I have moments where I fall into each camp. But it doesn’t change the fact that developments like this make me mad.

It makes me mad because I want Dominguez to get it right. He’s as skillful as any pitcher on the staff, among the most talented pitchers this organization has ever developed. I want him to recognize how gifted he is and realize how tragic it would be if he didn’t do everything he could to make the most of his gifts.

It makes me mad because I’m afraid the club might run out of patience with Dominguez — and I’m not suggesting they should — and give up on him.

It makes me mad because it feels almost inescapable at this point that Dominguez is going to disappoint us, one way or another. Either because he won’t fulfill his potential, or he’ll fulfill it in another uniform.

It upsets me a lot, because I want Dominguez to be dependable, to be focused, to want to be as good as I want him to be. I don’t know if it’s an issue of emotional maturity or genetic wiring, and I wonder whether, in either case, he can change. And don’t get me wrong — missing a flight this week isn’t why I feel this way, or why I’m writing this today. Neither is the weight issue. Those two matters surfacing in the paper this week simply serve as a reminder that the greatness that Dominguez is capable of — at least in my opinion — seems to be something we all want for him much worse than he wants it. I don’t know — maybe we want it more than Dominguez can want it for himself.


Bottom line: Maybe it was inevitable, if not now then sometime soon, but this morning Juan Dominguez is gone because of Adam Eaton’s middle finger. I’ll never root for Oakland, but I’m pulling for Dominguez. I really do hope he gets it right.

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