THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 21, 2006

When Kevin Millwood agreed to terms with Texas on the day after Christmas, he talked about how he wasn’t afraid of pitching in Arlington. He doesn’t have much of a problem pitching in the road grays and blues, either.

Millwood has pitched five times on the road this season. In all five starts he’s gone seven innings. His record in those games is 4-0, 2.31. And in his 35 innings of work, he’s set 30 hitters down on strikes.

And walked none.

Ace.

With last night’s win, Texas guaranteed no worse than an even split on this big trip to New York, Boston, and Houston. And of their three losses going into Sunday’s finale in Houston, Texas led by nine runs in the first one (and had a one-run lead in the ninth), lost by one run in the second, and led by a run in the eighth in the third. Could have been a lot better, but before the trip began you probably would have taken a split.

No Astro reached second base against Millwood yesterday, and none did at all until there was one out in the ninth and Craig Biggio doubled off Francisco Cordero.

Cordero in May: 9.1 innings over 10 appearances, one run (0.96 ERA) on seven hits (.200 opponents’ average) and two walks, nine strikeouts. The only extra-base hit he’s allowed this month was the Biggio two-bagger.

Leadoff hitter Gary Matthews Jr. in May: a .393/.439/.656 line in 61 at-bats, hits in 13 of 15 games, five walks and six strikeouts. Half of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases.

Brad Wilkerson since April 28: .362/.443/.638.

Alfonso Soriano over the same stretch: .226/.278/.512.

(Give Soriano this much credit: Despite going to a pitchers’ park in a new league, his season line of .277/.323/.559 is better than his 2005 numbers [.268/.309/.512] were with Texas, and his slugging percentage would be a career best if he maintains it.)

Ranger catchers in May: .339/.388/.581.

Righthander Rick Bauer fired a perfect eighth in relief of Millwood and has a 2.63 ERA in his last nine appearances. He’s pretty impressive.

So was righthander Robinson Tejeda on Friday. He threw too many pitches and issued four walks in five frames, but held Houston to two hits and fanned half a dozen. And he did a good job getting a key sacrifice bunt down, as Millwood did yesterday.

To make room on the roster for Tejeda, Texas placed reliever Antonio Alfonseca on the disabled list with elbow soreness. The club backdated the move to May 9 (the last time Alfonseca pitched), meaning he can be activated as soon as Thursday.

Pitching on the same day as Tejeda — not coincidentally, I’m sure — righthander John Wasdin fired a complete game shutout for Oklahoma on Friday, scattering six hits and two walks while punching out nine Salt Lake Stingers. Wasdin improved to 2-3, 2.53 for the season, in six starts and a relief appearance. He’s got an impressive 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his 52 punchouts are third-most in the 16-team Pacific Coast League.

Reliever Scott Feldman is day to day after spraining his ankle on an unassisted putout in the seventh inning Friday night.

The rehabilitation of righthander Adam Eaton’s middle finger tendon is reportedly ahead of schedule. Early speculation was that he might miss the season’s first four months, but it’s now looking like his timetable might be slightly accelerated. He’s been cleared by a hand specialist to begin baseball conditioning exercises.

Lefthander John Danks complained of soreness in his left elbow and forearm area after a 12-strikeout performance in six innings on Monday, prompting the Rangers to schedule an examination with Dr. Keith Meister, the Rangers’ team physician. In his last three starts, Danks is 2-0, 3.00 with 28 strikeouts in 18 frames, having allowed only 13 hits and five walks.

The Rangers are hopeful that Danks will miss just one start. Hold your breath.

Lefthander Fabio Castro kicked off his rehab assignment with Frisco by starting in Danks’s place last night. Working on a 55-pitch limit, Castro went 2.2 innings, giving up three runs (all unearned due to an Adam Morrissey error) on three hits and three walks, and fanning two. He’d thrown seven scoreless innings in extended spring training before being assigned to the AA squad for a rehab stint that can last up to 30 days.

My next “Going Deep” feature for MLB.com will be published tomorrow, focusing on the rules pertaining to rehab assignments such as the one that the Rule 5 pick Castro is on.

Oklahoma knuckleballer R.A. Dickey left Thursday’s start complaining of shoulder soreness.

RoughRider first baseman Jim Fasano was the Texas League player of the week for May 1-7 — his first full week in Class AA — while Frisco righthander Thomas Diamond was named the league’s pitcher of the week for May 8-14. Fasano hit .367 with three doubles, two homers, and nine RBI in his big week, while Diamond was rewarded for his May 12 gem (six shutout innings, two hits and a walk, 11 strikeouts).

Oklahoma left fielder Jason Botts is heating up again. With home runs the last two days, the switch-hitter is one short of the Pacific Coast League lead with 10 bombs and is hitting .324/.373/.634, good for second in the circuit in slugging and fourth in OPS. Botts is hitting .520 and slugging 1.160 in 25 at-bats over his last seven games.

The Rangers released Frisco infielder Craig Ringe, the club’s 23rd-round pick in 2002. In six seasons in the system, the popular Ringe hit .235 (including .205 in 73 at-bats this season for the RoughRiders) with 11 home runs.

The Rangers placed Bakersfield lefthander William Rodriguez on the disabled list with a sprained finger, and promoted righthander Wandy Morla to the Blaze from extended.

Catcher Alberto Martinez has joined the Clinton roster out of extended.

Baseball America published its first mock first round for the June 6 amateur draft, pegging University of Missouri righthander Max Scherzer (a Scott Boras client) as the Rangers’ pick at number 12. BA projects University of Houston righthander Brad Lincoln as the Tampa Bay’s pick, third overall. The Rangers selected Lincoln out of Brazoswood High School in the 28th round of the 2003 draft but couldn’t sign him.

Righthander John Hudgins is now 1-0, 0.60 for AA Mobile, after firing six no-hit innings last night in which he walked one hitter and fanned six. Righthander Paul Abraham, the Rangers’ 12th-round pick in 2000, took the 1-0 loss for the BayBears, permitting an eighth-inning run. Left fielder Vincent Sinisi (.125/.176/.156) singled in three trips, and second baseman Chris O’Riordan (.250/.333/.375), who was teammates with Hudgins at Stanford and in the Rangers system (Clinton 2003), went 0 for 2 with a walk.

Unemployed outfielder Richard Hidalgo is working out for the Yankees.

The San Angelo Colts of the independent United Baseball League signed lefthander Wilfredo Rodriguez. The Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League signed third baseman Randall Shelley.

Rookie John Koronka vs. rookie Taylor Buchholz today. Here’s something completely meaningless for you to chew on:

Koronka and Buchholz have faced off four times in their careers (not counting once in the Arizona Fall League last year when Buchholz started and worked two scoreless frames for the Surprise Scorpions while Koronka finished the game with a perfect inning for the Mesa Solar Sox). In the three games that pitted Koronka against Buchholz as starters in 2004 and 2005, Koronka’s ERA was 9.82 and he surrendered 25 hits and six walks in 14.2 frames, fanning four. Buchholz had an 8.31 ERA in those games, permitting 10 hits and 10 walks in 8.2 innings, failing to strike anyone out.

Koronka had a hit, drew a walk, and drove in two runs in five trips off Buchholz.

Buchholz went 1 for 3 and drove in one run off Koronka.

You should obviously ignore all of the above. What’s important is that the two have been among the most impressive rookie starters in baseball this year, though Koronka’s last start (five runs in 4.2 innings of Tuesday’s meltdown in New York) and Buchholz’s last two (16 runs in 7.1 frames) have been their worst.

Sure would like to see Koronka (who is fighting a cold) straighten things out, not only to come away with a 5-3 road trip (and hey: the Silver Boot!), but more importantly to head into 10-game homestand against the AL West with the whole rotation on a roll.

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

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