May 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 18, 2006

I have one thing to say about the big club today. I don’t know that the win-loss record would be any different if it weren’t the case, but it’s astonishing how many baserunners we’ve had cut down this year — hitters trying to stretch one into two, runners trying to score from second, and would-be basestealers (Texas has baseball’s second-fewest attempts but the worst success rate at 46.7 percent) — and it feels like it’s getting worse.

To state the obvious: Those plays not only erase a player attempting to get into scoring position, if not across the plate, but also reduce by one the number of outs the other guys have to get.

As demoralizing as that is, it doesn’t get any more uplifting than the news that Rudy Jaramillo has been pronounced by his doctors as cancer-free. Jaramillo has been with the club on this trip but won’t resume full duties until the Rangers return home.

All three American League divisions have two-team ties at the top.

In the last two nights, the Rangers and Mavericks have lost three games by a combined three runs/points.

The Rangers’ serious interest in lefthander John Koronka dates back almost four years. Texas made two picks in the December 2002 Rule 5 Draft, taking infielder Marshall McDougall in the first round (ninth overall) from Cleveland and Koronka in the second round (21st overall) from Cincinnati. Neither player stuck, but the Rangers were able to work a deal out for McDougall, running him through waivers and then trading lefthander Derrick Van Dusen to the Indians for McDougall, who was assigned to Frisco. They simply returned Koronka to the Reds.

Texas also lost two players in that draft, as Minnesota took infielder Jose Morban and Oakland swiped outfielder Rontrez Johnson from the Rangers’ minor league system.

There were also two future Rangers chosen in that draft, as Pittsburgh chose righthander Matt Roney from Colorado (promptly trading him to Detroit) and Boston drafted outfielder Adrian Brown from the Pirates.

The first pick in the 2002 Rule 5 Draft, however, was infielder Enrique Cruz, whom Milwaukee’s new general manager, Doug Melvin, chose from the Mets. On Saturday, Cruz became a Ranger.

The Rangers had designated lefthander Brian Shouse for assignment on May 8, after a calf injury and ineffectiveness against lefthanders eliminated the 37-year-old from the team’s plans. Texas was bound to lose Shouse one way or another, as he was unlikely to clear waivers and, even if he did clear, he had the right (having been outrighted before) to decline an outright assignment and take immediate free agency. So Jon Daniels didn’t attempt to run Shouse through waivers as the 10-day designation window opened, instead working the phones to see if he could create a trade market for the southpaw reliever.

(For more on this process and the strategy involved, check the article I wrote this weekend for MLB.com.)

Milwaukee made the best offer, putting Cruz on the table along with a player to be named later — there Daniels goes again, getting one extra player thrown in as he’s done in seemingly every trade he’s made as Rangers GM — and Shouse became a Brewer without Texas ever having to expose him to the waiver wire.

The 24-year-old Cruz was used mostly at third base in his four seasons in the Mets system, with some work at shortstop, before his disjointed Rule 5 season in Milwaukee in 2003, when he hit an anemic .085/.145/.099 (just six hits in 71 at-bats, with 30 strikeouts), seeing time at shortstop, second base, and third, mostly in late-inning situations. His season was such a disappointment that, one year after being the top pick in Rule 5 Draft, he was run through waivers and cleared, allowing the Brewers to outright him to the minor leagues.

Milwaukee assigned Cruz to AA Huntsville to begin the 2004 season, and he struggled, hitting .188/.284/297 over six weeks, prompting a demotion to High A High Desert. It was there that he appeared to have made the Rule 5 investment pay off. The right-handed hitter put together a .283/.347/.476 line, clubbing 17 homers and driving in 65 runs in just 361 at-bats.

An encore with Huntsville in 2005 was promising as well, as Cruz hit .300/.354/.466 in a full Southern League season, playing nothing but shortstop.

Milwaukee gave Cruz his first AAA assignment to kick off the 2006 season, and it didn’t start well, as 27-year-old Chris Barnwell beat him out at shortstop and he was shifted back to third base, where he didn’t have the requisite power to foreseeably figure in the Brewers’ plans. Cruz was hitting .261/.320/.377 at the time of the trade, with just one home run and 10 RBI through 24 games.

The Rangers want to see if Cruz can give them another utility infield option, and since the plan was to move him back to shortstop — despite 37 errors in 2005 — Texas assigned him to Frisco rather than Oklahoma, where Joaquin Arias plays shortstop every day. In his first two RoughRider games, Cruz has singled three times in eight trips, fanning three times.

The player to be named later in the deal will reportedly be identified in late July (presumably once post-draft roster needs are determined), but as with all such trades, the teams could resort to a cash fallback instead if they can’t agree on the player.

The Brewers assume the remainder of Shouse’s 2006 salary, which amounts to about $500,000.

Oklahoma designated hitter Erubiel Durazo had a contractual right to request his release if not brought to Texas by May 15, and he did so, triggering a right that the Rangers had pursuant to the contract to trade him within 72 hours. With Durazo on the disabled list, nursing a barky hamstring, no deal materialized, and Texas released Durazo yesterday.

Sorry that one didn’t work out. But this brings Jason Botts (.308/.362/.586) one step closer to getting another opportunity in Texas, though he’s currently day to day with his own hamstring injury.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler is 2 for 17 (.118/.211/.176) on his rehab assignment with the RedHawks. His progress is being monitored by minor league field coordinator Mike Brumley, who incidentally is now serving as interim manager for the club, as new skipper Mike Boulanger has a detached retina and will be sidelined for a couple weeks. Brumley will run the club through May 21, after which farm director Scott Servais will take over from May 22-25 while Oklahoma visits Colorado Springs before Brumley takes over again. Servais played for the Sky Sox in 2000 and 2002, and was a scout for the Rockies before the Rangers hired him in November.

Boulanger had been named as a permanent replacement as Oklahoma manager for Tim Ireland, who was dismissed after the RedHawks got off to an 11-22 start. Boulanger had been acting interim manager while Ireland was serving a 10-game league suspension in connection with his conduct leading to and following an ejection from Oklahoma’s game on May 3.

Wayne Kirby was named Oklahoma hitting coach, which had been Boulanger’s role. Kirby was the organization’s baserunning, bunting, and outfield coordinator.

Pitching rehab news: Righthander Frankie Francisco saw Dr. Lewis Yocum after cutting short an appearance in extended spring training with elbow tenderness, but Dr. Yocum determined that Francisco was merely dealing with scar tissue. Righthander Josh Rupe and lefthander Brian Anderson have progressed to the point that they are throwing live batting practice.

Righthander Antonio Alfonseca experienced elbow stiffness while warming up Tuesday and is a candidate for the disabled list. Since he hasn’t pitched since May 10, the move could be backdated. The trouble spot was in a different area of the elbow than the stress fracture that limited Alfonseca in 2005.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports speculates that Texas could be interested in Florida lefthander Dontrelle Willis.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Dejan Kovacevic says that "multiple sources" told him at the Winter Meetings in December that Texas offered Hank Blalock to the Pirates for lefthander Oliver Perez but were turned down more than once. Perez has had an awful year. I’d still love to get that guy. But certainly, at this point, not for Blalock, who sits at .336/.404/.537 with 16 walks and just 19 strikeouts and looks like a changed player.

Three of the Rangers’ top four pitching prospects had their finest outings of the season within a week of each other. Frisco lefthander John Danks punched out 10 Tulsa hitters in six innings on May 5, holding the Drillers to one run on four hits. Bakersfield righthander Eric Hurley set 15 High Desert hitters down on strikes on May 9, yielding a run on four hits and no walks in eight frames. Frisco righthander Thomas Diamond blanked San Antonio on two singles and one walk in six innings on May 12, fanning 11 Missions, 10 of whom went down swinging.

Danks followed his gem with two more terrific six-inning stints, first giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks, fanning six, and then punching out 12 while issuing just one walk as he yielded three runs on three hits. Diamond’s encore was last night, a five-inning stint in which he gave up one run on three hits and four walks, setting eight Midland hitters down on strikes.

Danks (56) and Diamond (49) are currently the top two strikeout pitchers in the eight-team Texas League.

Hurley’s 49 punchouts are second-most in the California League.

Oklahoma center fielder and leadoff hitter Freddy Guzman is 3 for 21 (.143/.182/.143) since Texas acquired him from San Diego. His arrival has resulted in Laynce Nix sliding over to right field.

Righthander John Hudgins earned the win in his debut for AA Mobile, permitting two Jacksonville runs on four hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, fanning six. Vincent Sinisi is 2 for 20 (.100/.182/.100) for Mobile, playing two games at first base and three in left field for the BayBears.

Pretty soon we’re going to start hearing sidewinder Wes Littleton’s name as a candidate for bullpen help this year in Texas. The 23-year-old righty, who is already on the 40-man roster, is having a mind-boggling spring. In 22.2 Frisco frames, Littleton has permitted 11 hits (.139 opponents’ average) and seven walks while fanning 20 Texas Leaguers. He’s given up two runs, one earned, giving him a 0.40 ERA to go along with a 3-0 record and a pair of saves, and he’s induced 35 groundouts and only 12 flyouts (and no home runs).

There were questions in the past about Littleton’s ability to get left-handed hitters out with his sidearm look. Last year in Frisco, lefties hit .336 off him while righthanders managed only to hit .265. This season, nobody can figure Littleton out: lefties are hitting .167 while righties are hitting .122.

Oklahoma lefthander Kevin Walker and Frisco southpaw Jesse Carlson are in pretty good grooves, which might have factored into the decision to drop Shouse from the roster. Walker, has allowed three runs (3.12 ERA) on nine hits and two walks in 8.2 May innings, punching out 12 hitters, while Carlson has surrendered just two hits and a walk in six scoreless frames in the month, striking out four.

Frisco outfielder Anthony Webster is hitting .440/.462/.560 in 50 May at-bats. Third baseman Travis Metcalf and outfielder Jake Blalock have also rebounded from disappointing Aprils.

As his history promised he would, Arias has caught fire after a slow start. A notoriously poor April hitter, the Oklahoma shortstop is hitting .353/.365/.412 in May, with five steals in six tries.

Bakersfield catcher Emerson Frostad, one of the Ranger system’s biggest breakthrough stories of the season so far, was placed on the disabled list with a hand injury on May 14. He’d been hitting .323/.417/.710 for the month, and .298/.398/.595 for the season.

The considerable catching depth that the Rangers have developed over the last couple years has been decimated by injury. Taylor Teagarden will miss most, if not all, of the season due to Tommy John surgery, which 18-year-old Manuel Pina also needed. Cristian Santana, the 16-year-old wunderkind, will apparently miss the season due to a partially torn labrum. And Blaze catcher Mike Nickeas, on the disabled list for the second time with a hamstring injury, has played only 16 games.

Clinton outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is heating up, hitting .283/.371/.433 in May. LumberKing righthander Jake Rasner, last summer’s seventh-round pick, is 2-1, 2.00 in three May starts, holding the Midwest League to a .148 clip. In 18 innings of work, he’s allowed just nine hits and three walks, fanning 17. Interestingly, three of the four runs he’s allowed in the month have come on solo bombs.

Texas released Oklahoma righthander Jose Silva after the 32-year-old posted a 6.75 ERA in three relief appearances. Frisco righthanders Nick Masset, Joselo Diaz, and Bryan Corey were promoted to the RedHawks, though Masset returned to the RoughRiders after one spot start.

Infielder Adam Morrissey was demoted from Oklahoma to Frisco and got off to a .304/.333/.609 start for the RoughRiders.

Lefthander Shane Wallace and righthander Danny Touchet were promoted from Bakersfield to Frisco, and Clinton righthander Nate Fogle — who had a 0.00 ERA in 14 LumberKing innings, punching out 20 while allowing six hits and seven walks — was promoted to Bakersfield.

Righthander Jon Wilson, who had a phenomenal rookie season in 2005 for Spokane (3-1, 2.08 with 11 saves, 49 strikeouts and only four walks in 34.2 innings), was activated from the disabled list and assigned to Bakersfield.

Blaze infielder Mauro Gomez was placed on the disabled list with a hand injury, and infielder Joey Hooft was summoned from extended to replace him. With the injuries to Frostad and Nickeas, Bakersfield also got catcher Ben Crabtree from Clinton.

LumberKing lefthander Mike Kirkman was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Righthanders Josh Giles and Gerry Oakes were sent from extended to Clinton.

The Rangers signed 28-year-old reliever Jeremy Ward to pitch out of the Oklahoma bullpen. He debuted for the RedHawks on Monday, allowing an unearned run on one hit in three innings of work. Ward, who was a second-round draft pick of Buck Showalter’s Diamondbacks in 1999, pitched in Arizona’s system until being traded to the Yankees in May 2004. He split the 2005 season between Atlanta’s AA and AAA clubs, and was pitching for the Atlantic City Surf of the independent Atlantic League when Texas signed him. He’d thrown five hitless innings for the Surf in five appearances.

Texas also signed a lefthander named Yoon-Hee Nam.

Washington righthander Ryan Drese has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Season-ending Tommy John surgery is a possibility.

The Nationals’ primary medical provider, D.C. Sports Medicine Group, fired Dr. Bruce Thomas, who was serving as the club’s medical director.

The White Sox purchased righthander Agustin Montero from AAA Charlotte.

The Yankees signed outfielder Jason Conti to a contract with AAA Columbus.

Oakland optioned righthander Matt Roney to AAA Sacramento and designated righthander Chris Mabeus for assignment. Milwaukee put in the prevailing waiver claim on Mabeus, whom Texas took in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft but didn’t keep.

Former Ranger farmhand Ryan Cullen, dealt to Oakland with Aaron Harang for Randy Velarde in 2000, is healthy and pitching well in the Mets system. The lefthander earned a promotion to AAA Norfolk and has yet to allow a run in 5.1 innings of relief for the Tides.

Old friend Fernando Tatis is hitting .317/.379/.460 for AAA Ottawa in the Baltimore system.

Baltimore released lefthander Matt Perisho, the Cubs released righthander Sam Marsonek, and Seattle placed shortstop Jose Morban on the suspended list.

The Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League released infielder Bobby Lenoir and righthander Shawn Phillips. The Sussex SkyHawks of the independent Can-Am League signed Lenoir. The Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League signed righthander Fernando Rijo.

Draft-and-follows are eligible to be signed for another 12 days (unless the player in question is still playing for his junior college team). Texas is reportedly negotiating with Daytona Beach Community College infielder Chase Fontaine, last year’s 18th-round pick. Fontaine, who played for the University of Texas before transferring, hit .407 with 10 homers this season.

The season isn’t yet over for 23rd-rounder Steve Marquardt, a third baseman for Columbia Basin Community College in Washington, and so the Rangers can’t negotiate yet with him.

Whether arm injuries to righthanders Brad Barragar (eighth round) and Dexter Carter (12th round) are enough to cool the Rangers’ interest in signing them is anyone’s guess.

The Rangers hired AAA Round Rock groundskeeper Dennis Klein to replace Tom Burns as head groundskeeper at Ameriquest Field. Klein once spent three years as Burns’s assistant.

Mike Hindman’s column for MLB.com on the Rangers farm system is now kept in blog format, at http://rangersfarmreport.mlblogs.com/. He published a new entry yesterday, focusing on the relatively unnoticed progress that Anthony Webster and John Mayberry Jr. are making.

The prospect video packages that I’ve recorded for the Jumbotron are in the process of being loaded on my MLB blog page. The first two I did this season, on Travis Metcalf and Thomas Diamond, are now available in one click.

Bakersfield righthander Michael Schlact has updated his excellent Newberg Report diary, which can be found by clicking "EMC’s Minor Details" on the website side menu.

Rob Cook’s and Tim Darley’s pitcher and player of the month features are loaded on the Minor Details page as well, as is the recent chat session we had with Rangers radio color analyst Victor Rojas.

Rangers-Yanks at noon. Although it doesn’t feel like it, Texas has a chance to get out of New York with a series split. Sure, it could have been a lot better than that, but in the big picture you’d jump at a road draw against that team, wouldn’t you?

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 17, 2006

"Max, the Rangers were up nine runs last night by time you went to bed."

Newberg_baby_1

"Beese. Ball."

"But the Yankees scored 10 straight runs and took an 11-10 lead."

Newberg_baby_1

"Beese. Ball."

"And get this — we got the lead back the next inning. New York then tied it up, but in the ninth we scored again, and it was 13-12."

Newberg_baby_1

"Beese. Ball."

"We were an out away from nailing it down, and lost. That’s baseball. It happens. We’ll be OK."

Newberg_baby_1

"Beese. Ball."

"One of our players, after the game, said this to reporters: ‘That’s a great team over there. But we’re a good team.’ Not exactly what I wanted to hear."

Newberg_baby_1

"Dad. Give the guy a break. As bad as that game must have made you feel, imagine what they felt like in the clubhouse. You’re zeroing in on semantics. You keep telling me how much heart and tenacity this team has — and I’m still at an age where I’m supposed to believe everything you say. Don’t worry about that game, and don’t worry about the things those guys said minutes after it ended. We’ll get ‘em tonight. Beese. Ball."

Let’s go, Kam. Nail this one tonight.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 16, 2006 POST-MORTEM

I had so much I was planning to write about tomorrow, and that was before this game ever started.  Don’t bother looking for a report in the morning. 

I have nothing in the tank.  I’m going to go watch “The Sopranos” right now, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep for hours.

Right now I can’t imagine getting up the energy to go to work tomorrow.  I know how bizarre that sounds, and how bizarre it is, but I still feel like Wednesday has no shot at pulling me out of this.  How crazy is that?

And, yeah, it’s only a game.  Just one of 162.  Good teams split on the road, and so far we’re even up in this series, a game up on this trip.  And still in first place.

But I’m sick to my stomach. 

I’m trying hard to make myself get back into that mindset of seeing Max climb the metal bleachers at UTD a month ago, up and down, up and down, and having the time of his life.  Trying to reabsorb that lesson it taught me.

Can’t.  Not tonight.

There’s lots to write about.  Lots.  But it won’t be until Thursday, and it won’t have one single, solitary thing to do with tonight’s game.  Not even remotely.

Good night.

– Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 16, 2006

C’mon, Kevin. You were playing the part correctly early on, pitching well but staking the Yankees to a 2-0 lead. You even allowed two of the three players in their lineup who make shockingly normal baseball money to drive those two runs in. Bubba Crosby and Robinson Cano may not pull down $12 million a year yet, but being the veteran you are, you understood that pinstripes are pinstripes. They’ll get their payday soon enough.

Though four, when Cano drove in the game’s second run, New York had forced you to throw 52 pitches. Thirteen pitches per inning is not quite what the Yankees lineup averages, but close enough. Good work — you didn’t embarrass them through four.

But then your teammates picked you up with a couple scores in the top of the fifth — the nerve – and you got better. Seven pitches in a scoreless fifth. Nine pitches in a scoreless sixth. Ten pitches in a scoreless seventh. What, were you trying to get back to the hotel to watch Mavs-Spurs?

Just who do you think you are?

You’d never beaten New York before (0-3, 5.92 ERA in four career starts). Impressive, and appropriate. Then last night, just when we thought we could depend on some consistency out of you, you went out and did what you did.

No walks? You do understand, don’t you, that the New York offense was leading the league in bases on balls? Didn’t care, did you?

No wonder New York didn’t outbid Texas this winter or even really play ball when you were on the open market. You don’t show the proper respect for baseball’s signature franchise.

The umpires did. They had your teammates hit through a hammering rain in the top of the eighth, and yet Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock impudently singled in runs. Upholding the sanctity of the Great Game, the men in blue then halted play and ushered the tarp onto the field so that the Yanks didn’t have to fight through the same conditions.

And that’s probably what cost you the ball. You certainly could have thrown more than the 78 pitches you delivered in seven innings of work. Especially on an extra day of rest. Particularly having retired the final dozen Yankees you faced.

Once the rain subsided, Francisco Cordero and Akinori Otsuka followed your example, failing themselves to follow the script as they faced seven Yankee hitters and retired six of them. All three of you should be ashamed.

Hey, pal. The Rangers had lost their last five games in Yankee Stadium, and the last eight overall against New York. Don’t care that you’re new here: Do your research.

Maybe you weren’t properly locked in since you weren’t even supposed to pitch in this series, only getting the assignment because of Sunday’s rainout in Boston. Still, that’s no excuse.

The league office will expect a formal apology. Let’s tend to that promptly, and be a little more respectful of the Beloved Yankees and the natural order of baseball things than you were last night.

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

THE NEWBERG WEATHER REPORT — MAY 14, 2006

Sweep.

THE NEWBERG WEATHER REPORT — MAY 13, 2006

Sweep?

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 12, 2006

The eighth anniversary of the Newberg Report is coming up. As I think back on the decisive moments that, at least from my standpoint, have sort of shaped what this thing has become, a bunch of reports come to mind.

There have been playoff dirges. Long-winded draft recaps that took eight hours to write and probably not much less than that to read. Rants against Luis Alicea and Todd Zeile. Self-indulgent (and probably self-important) exercises in nostalgia. Campaigns to urge you to believe in Michael (not Mike) Young, a letter to Erica when Alex was traded, the 2004 birth of the Snake. Reports from spring training, and from the Winter Meetings, including the stalking of Peter Gammons.

There are only a few reports that stand out for me because of a particular game, and among them one clear frontrunner as far as those on the farm are concerned.

On July 1, 2004, I went to Frisco to see Felix Hernandez make his first AA start — and John Hudgins, his third.

What Hudgins did that night, 13 months after he’d been drafted, inspired me to write a report that, on page 206 of your 2005 Bound Edition, begins: “I was in Frisco last night, and I saw the future. His name is John Hudgins.”

In seven innings, the Stanford product outpitched King Felix, blanking San Antonio on three hits and no walks, punching out 11 Missions with artistic command of a lot of unoverwhelming stuff. It was mesmerizing.

It was certainly the best game Hudgins has pitched since the College World Series, and if he’s going to top it, it’s going to come as San Diego Padre property. Texas traded Hudgins and first baseman-outfielder Vincent Sinisi to the Padres yesterday for outfielder Freddy Guzman and righthander Cesar Rojas.

The key discussion point from this deal is not the departure of Hudgins or Sinisi, both of whom probably had limited futures here, but instead the addition of Guzman, who potentially gives Texas something it doesn’t have and hasn’t had in years. But because this space is what it is, and because the papers are going to tell you a lot more about the return today than the cost, I’m gonna say a little about Hudgins first.

You’ve never met a ballplayer as unassuming as John Michael Hudgins, the 2003 College World Series MVP (despite the fact that the Cardinal fell to Sinisi’s Rice club in the title game). The son of a minister, Hudgins earned his economics degree in just three years, building computers (as well as the seminal unofficial Pac-10 Baseball website) in all that spare time he must have had while burning through that watered-down Stanford education. He’s probably the most intelligent baseball player I’ve ever known, he’s definitely the most humble — almost apologetic — and he’s a competitor.

Hudgins is the kind of player that unquestionably understands his limitations, and the success he’s had is largely because he understands yours. If you saw what he did to that AA team the Mariners sent out there, you know what I’m talking about.

After that impressive first full season (8-5, 3.14 between Stockton, Frisco, and Oklahoma in 2004, with a system-leading 145 strikeouts and just 41 walks in a combined 146 innings, followed by a stint in the Arizona Fall League — give http://www.dickiethon.com/eczajka/hudginsafldiary.htm a few minutes of your time), it seemed that Hudgins was more likely to reach Arlington in 2005 than to go 4-9, 5.70 between Frisco and Oklahoma, but that’s what he did, missing the last month of the season with a sore right forearm and calcium deposits in his elbow that were surgically removed. Texas left the 24-year-old exposed to the 2005 Rule 5 Draft, but no team — not even the Padres, where Grady Fuson was in power — spent a pick on him in December.

Virtually forgotten as the Rangers broke camp this spring, Hudgins returned to Oklahoma in April, making five relief appearances and two starts over the first month of the season. Five very good outings were marred by two awful ones, and as a result his RedHawk ERA was 6.38, though he did strike out 16 batters in 18.1 frames and held opponents to a .250 batting average.

To see Hudgins land in San Diego is no surprise. Fuson has been with three organizations and has targeted Hudgins at each stop. While with Oakland, he drafted Hudgins out of high school (in the 20th round). He drafted and signed the Stanford ace while with Texas. And now in San Diego, Fuson was certainly the driving force behind trading for him. While his upside may be debatable, Hudgins will have a better chance to reach the big leagues in San Diego than he would anywhere else. And his flyball tendencies aren’t as daunting to imagine in Petco Park as they would be in Ameriquest Field.

His Padres career will evidently begin back in AA, and San Diego intends to work him as a starter.

Sinisi will go back to AA as well, the latest move in what has been a strange professional odyssey for the 24-year-old. The Rangers’ second-round pick in 2003 (one round before Hudgins), most thought at the time that he was a first-round talent that dropped because Scott Boras was his advisor, because he was a draft-eligible sophomore who didn’t need to sign right away, and because Rice University has a knack for keeping even its juniors around, let alone its sophomores.

But Sinisi hasn’t lived up to the well-above-slot $2.075 million bonus that Texas agreed to give him, and it was a freak accident on June 13, 2004 that might be the biggest factor why. Playing for Stockton and hitting a robust .306/.383/.472 with 40 RBI in just 64 games, seemingly on the verge of a promotion to Frisco, Sinisi collided with Ports shortstop Joaquin Arias on a short fly to left, breaking his forearm.

The fracture led not to one operation, but seven, as he surgically contracted a staph infection that introduced a potentially deadly bacteria (MRSA) into his system that was unusually resistant to antibiotics. Sinisi missed the remainder of the 2004 season and the first six weeks in 2005.

Upon his return last May, he got off to a great start in Bakersfield, hitting .363/.438/.600 over six weeks, and he earned a promotion to Frisco, where he was on fire for about a week before struggling the rest of the season. His final RoughRider line was a disappointing .258/.300/.343, which many speculated might have been the result of a loss of stamina after such a lengthy layoff. Like Hudgins, Sinisi was left off the winter roster and yet went undrafted in December.

In terrific shape this spring, Sinisi earned a spot on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, homering early in the tournament off Australia righthander Rich Thompson (an Angels farmhand), and upon his return to camp, the Rangers moved him in from the outfield to first base, where he’d played in college. With Adrian Gonzalez gone via trade, the organization made the same move in camp with Jason Botts, who would start the year as Oklahoma’s first baseman.

Sinisi hit right out of the gate this year, but without much power. His .309/.373/.368 line in Frisco sort of sums up the issue — there’s no questioning Sinisi’s ability to hit the baseball, but you can’t keep a big league job at first base or in left field by hitting singles. Among his 21 RoughRider hits were just two doubles and a triple, and he didn’t go deep before getting a promotion to Oklahoma three weeks into the season.

After playing his first four AAA games at four different positions (first base, left field, right field, center field), Sinisi settled in at first (with Botts returning to the outfield) but hadn’t gotten untracked yet, hitting .220/.298/.300 in 50 at-bats before yesterday’s trade. He doubled four times but had no triples or home runs among his 11 RedHawk hits.

It’s arguably acceptable to hit like Darin Erstad if you can defend like Erstad does, but Sinisi is not that player. In his Prospect Previews in February, Mike Hindman suggested that one player that Sinisi could become is Mike Lamb, and it’s a pretty good comp. There’s a place in baseball for Mike Lamb, but at the same time, there are enough of those types around that you don’t hesitate to trade one if you can fill a need in return.

And that’s what Texas believes it has done. With Hudgins no longer in the mix here as a candidate to help anytime soon, and with Sinisi not yet developing into a middle-of-the-lineup threat (and on a team where a corner man on the bench is not a foreseeable need), Texas agreed to move both to the Padres — where Sinisi, incidentally, once again finds himself behind Adrian Gonzalez on the depth chart — for Guzman and Rojas. Guzman is the key.

I generally measure trades by asking two questions:

1. Who got the best player in the deal?

2. Would I be upset if Oakland or Seattle made the trade instead of Texas?

The way I answer both questions, I like the trade. I’m happy for Hudgins and happy for Sinisi, who suddenly find themselves in better situations for their own careers, but I like what Texas has done here.

In 2004, the season in which Hudgins threw his masterpiece against King Felix and in which Sinisi suffered his devastating injury, Guzman was having a season that would make him the Padres’ number two prospect, according to Baseball America. Guzman hit .283/.359/.370 for AA Mobile, earning a promotion to AAA Portland, where he was even better at .292/.365/.379, and finished the year by making his big league debut (.211/.250/.250 in 76 at-bats).

What you can see in those numbers is that Guzman is a decent hitter for average, doesn’t pose much of a power threat, but will get on base enough to be a factor offensively. What you don’t see in those numbers are two key things: (1) it’s OK if Guzman doesn’t rack up many extra-base hits because he gets into scoring position another way — he’s not only among the fastest players in baseball, he is effective with his speed, leading the minor leagues with 90 steals in 2003 and adding 70 in 2004 (including his time in San Diego); and (2) he is a plus defender in center field, something that can really help this club.

A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Guzman (who was known as a two-and-a-half-years-younger Pedro de los Santos before AgeGate came down in 2002) was in line to compete for San Diego’s starting center field job in 2005 before he blew out his throwing elbow early in camp, necessitating season-ending Tommy John surgery. Never blessed with a weapon for an arm, the Dominican wasn’t robbed of any key aspect of his game as a result of the procedure, and of course it had no effect on his ability to use that 6.5 speed in the 60 to run down everything in center field. You see the huge return Florida got from the Cubs for Juan Pierre, you see what Tampa Bay has refused to part with Joey Gathright for, and you get a sense of what a player who can run and defend is worth, even if his offensive game is basically an exercise in slash-and-burn.

The Padres traded for Mike Cameron this winter and still had Dave Roberts on hand, and as a result Guzman was sent to AAA when camp broke (on just his second option). He was hitting .274/.348/.411 when yesterday’s trade was made, and was getting hot, hitting .333 in May after a .250 April. (While he’s never going to hit for power, it should be noted that he has two homers [and two triples] among 11 extra-base hits in 124 at-bats — which is a greater extra-base hit rate than the homerless Sinisi has in the same league.) He’s been a slightly better hitter against left-handed pitching this year, but in recent seasons has been more effective against righties.

Guzman has an impressive 14/19 walk-to-strikeout rate, and he’s been successful on 11 of 14 stolen base attempts, slightly below his career swipe rate, a sturdy 85 percent. What might even be more tantalizing than the stolen base ability Guzman brings is the idea that he can be a guy who goes from first to third, or scores from second, on every single. Texas can use more of that.

On the rare occasion that the Rangers have had guys at the upper levels who can run (Ramon Nivar, Ruddy Yan, Drew Meyer), they’ve tried to make (or at least toyed with the idea of making) center fielders out of them. Not necessary with Guzman. He’s a born center fielder. If he can continue to refine his game as a potentially disruptive catalyst offensively, then the Rangers will have accomplished a lot with Thursday’s trade.

For now, does Guzman step in for Adrian Brown as a bench outfielder and pinch-runner? Or is it more important right now to continue to get him five trips a game against Pacific Coast League pitching?

What does this do to Laynce Nix’s prospects with the organization?

What about Botts, now that Sinisi is gone? Does he move back to first base, or does Texas still view him as a potential big league outfielder?

Mike Boulanger will be in charge of overseeing those things, having replaced Tim Ireland, whom the Rangers fired yesterday as Oklahoma manager. More on that next time.

The 19-year-old Rojas signed with San Diego out of Venezuela in 2002 for a significant $135,000 price tag. His one stateside season came last year, when he pitched in the Arizona League, going 2-4, 6.75 in 11 starts and two relief appearances. In 49.1 innings, he permitted 48 hits (.261 opponents’ average) and 32 walks (second-most in the league) while fanning 33. His worst outing of the summer came at the hands of the Rangers, who spanked him for eight runs in 3.1 frames on August 16.

Rojas, who remained in extended for the Padres this spring and will report to extended in Surprise (bet he pitched against his new team at some point in the last month), amps it up into the mid-90s with a slider and a change, and he has one of those projectable 6’3″ frames that the lower half of the Rangers system is starting to feature a lot more.

Rojas is far from a sure thing — four straight springs in extended raises a question or two — but he’s an interesting project, the type of raw, toolsy arm that the Rangers like to take chances on more these days than they did when Fuson was running the scouting department.

But this trade isn’t about Rojas at all. It’s about Guzman — whom Daniels told reporters yesterday was discussed at the time of the Akinori Otsuka trade in January — but as in seemingly every trade Daniels has made in his seven months on the job, he got an extra player thrown in to add to inventory.

If you assess this trade from the standpoint of a San Diego fan, you might see it as a legitimate prospect (plus a project arm) for a AAA middle reliever with a 6.38 ERA and a first baseman without a home run in 2006, either of whom could have been chosen in the Rule 5 Draft five months ago but wasn’t. But since we know plenty more about Hudgins and Sinisi here, we don’t see them that way at all — which ought to be a lesson. Whatever flaws you think you see in Guzman by studying his numbers, or whatever excites you about him, remember that the numbers can teach you only so much about a player.

Stated another way, if the numbers lie, they can certainly obscure hidden negatives just as easily as hidden positives.

When Fuson did his interview with the Newberg Report a couple months after the 2003 draft, he said of Hudgins, “As far as instincts, as far as knowledge, as far as repeatability is concerned, I think we got one of the better college pitchers in this draft.” And he said there were “only a handful of college hitters out there that had the approach, the swing, the knowledge of the strike zone, the potential upside with some power, and the instincts for the game” that Sinisi had.

Time will tell whether Fuson was right about those two. I hope Hudgins and Sinisi both get to the big leagues, and I’m confident that they’re in the right organization to get that shot.

I’m also confident that Texas just made a very good trade.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 11, 2006

I can feel the quiet river rage
Forcin’ my lips into a smile
Don’t believe that the world is empty
Just too noisy to hear the sound
I can feel the quiet river rage
And I’m fallin’ down
Saved by the river now
Saved.
– Live, “Feel the Quiet River Rage,” The Distance to Here

If that hair-dryer wind was behaving any differently, the path of that Mark DeRosa shot might have found a clear path into the visitors’ bullpen, a few inches to the right of the wall it instead crashed into, and we’d have had a tie game in the eighth.

If Vicente Padilla’s three-hitter through six didn’t turn into a complete loss of command in the seventh, who knows?

If Gerald Laird doesn’t muff that foul pop, Tony Batista doesn’t get the chance to drive in Minnesota’s third run on a 4-6-3 Twin killing. But even if Juan Castro still fans next, Lew Ford comes up with the bases full. Then what?

If Gary Matthews Jr. were healthy enough to start, would the entire game have gone differently? If he were healthy enough to make the final play of the eighth a closer one, with DeRosa on third, there’s no telling.

If Erubiel Durazo were healthy enough to be on the roster right now, available to hit with two outs in the eighth, or two outs in the ninth, would he have made a difference?

I sorta wish the club didn’t have an off-day today, after those last two games and before this potentially crucial trip to Boston, New York, and Houston (a.k.a. the “Roger Towns”). Everyone can use the day off, but maybe having an extra 24 hours to think about home losses to starting pitchers who came in with ERAs of 8.59 and 9.71 and about the gauntlet that awaits the club isn’t the healthiest thing right now.

And yet, we’re a fifth through the season, and despite all the injuries and the closer catastrophe, Texas remains tied for first place.

It’s gonna be OK. It doesn’t feel so much like it right now, but this is one little valley that will soon be forgotten in favor of more valleys, some of which promise to be deeper, and a handful of peaks, some of which will probably leave some of us overconfident.

It’s gonna be OK, because this offense will get better. And that’s because Mark Teixeira is about ready to take off. Because Michael Young is going to be Michael Young all year. Because I’m pretty sure that Hank Blalock is back to what, not long ago, we all thought he was becoming.

And because when Ian Kinsler comes back, it might not be the worst thing in the world to have DeRosa give Phil Nevin a little breather.

I also believe that Jon Daniels is fully prepared to act aggressively in the next 10 weeks. And when I say fully prepared, I don’t mean mentally. The guy is probably laying groundwork for a July 2007 trade right now, in all likelihood. If Texas is in the mix in July, I’m betting Daniels will see to it that the roster is stronger in August. And that’s not even taking into consideration the possibility that it includes Adam Eaton, Frankie Francisco, and Brian Anderson.

And if Texas isn’t in the mix late in July, there’s some things JD can do in that case as well.

So I’m going to take a deep breath, and even if I don’t accept this little 1-5 swoon, I can at least put it behind me, force my lips into a smile, jump back in after this welcome day off, and roll with the current, just as likely to find an unwelcome and unhappy stagnation or sad little runoff as it is to gain momentum and bounce decisively off the rocks, rushing toward something bigger, whatever that might be.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 9, 2006

Mark Teixeira singled to right in the first inning.

He singled to right again in the third, driving in a run and then scoring the go-ahead run minutes later.

He was intentionally walked in the fifth, eventually coming around to score the Rangers’ sixth run on a wild pitch.

Teixeira hit a home run before the game.

About an hour before the first pitch, Teixeira stood before a microphone, a cluster of cameras, and a gathering that was about one-third children: his 11-week-old son Jack and about 10 enthusiastic kids from the Arlington Boys & Girls Club.

Jack slept through the 30-minute event. Not so in the case of Cameron, Macey, George, and the other kids who got the chance to represent the Boys & Girls Club on Monday, becoming the first of many to benefit from the Mark Teixeira Charitable Fund that Mark and his wife Leigh have established.

Teixeira will fund $5,000 college scholarships for six deserving high school students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area this spring — suggesting that he hopes that, in 15 years, he’s funding 50 such scholarships annually — as part of the latest extension of a commitment to giving back that dates back to his days at Mount St. Joseph High School in the Baltimore suburb of Severna Park.

Mark’s high school friend Nick Liberatore, as Mark put it, wasn’t a great athlete, and wasn’t a great student, but he was a great guy. Nick was killed in an auto accident in 1997, when he and Mark were juniors at Mount St. Joseph. Mark established a memorial grant in Nick’s honor, and each year since then a student at the school has been honored for exhibiting the values, character, and spirit that Nick demonstrated.

Mark and Leigh have been involved in a number of charitable efforts locally since Mark signed with Texas in 2001 and reached Arlington in 2003. For the last three years they’ve co-hosted the Park Place Dealerships Texas Rangers Triple Play, which raises money for Habitat for Humanity homes, college scholarships, and youth ballparks. Mark, along with his teammates, regularly visits local children’s hospitals. He spent time at local shelters during last year’s hurricane relief efforts. And he’s the club spokesperson for the Dr Pepper Junior Rangers.

In that role, and as part of yesterday’s event, he donated 100 Junior Rangers kits to local Boys & Girls Club children, making them official members of the Rangers Kids Club at no cost. Cameron, Macey, and George were plenty happy to be among the first of the newest Junior Rangers. Jack continued to sleep.

In addition to subsidizing the local scholarships — which are meant to kickstart college careers for kids who aren’t necessarily the best students and who aren’t necessarily athletes, but just good kids like Nick Liberatore was — Mark will raise additional money through memorabilia auctions held at every Rangers home game in 2006. And the Rangers will donate $100 to Mark and Leigh’s fund every time Mark hits a home run this year.

Every dollar that the fund raises will stay in the Dallas/Fort Worth community.

As they unveiled the baseball-and-shooting-star logo for the fund, which Leigh designed, you could see the kids light up almost as much as when they each got the chance to shake Mark’s hand. I happened to be standing next to Jim Sundberg at the time, thinking about how happy I’d have been 30 years ago to be in a room like that, at a moment like that, lucky enough to be picked from my group of friends to shake Sunny’s hand as he talked with the press about things I didn’t really understand.

The kids understood the huge smile on Mark’s face as he made time for each one of them at the end of the gathering, 30 minutes before a game in which he did his real job, getting on base three times, driving in a run, and scoring twice.

He gets it.

And even if Mark’s not giving out 50 scholarships a year in 2021, the idea that he’ll be supporting some number of Dallas/Fort Worth kids when Jack is a high school freshman sounds good to me. It probably means Mark will retire as a Ranger, and there will be a whole lot of Metroplex students, some of whom might not start out as baseball fans, who will be glad he did.

Just as the last time I ever misspelled the word “bungalow” was at Old City Park in whatever year that spelling bee was, I guarantee you that the last time Emily Jones will forget that a stroller is called a stroller was yesterday afternoon, at about 5:15.

Funny how John Koronka pitches into the seventh, allowing three runs, and it feels like just a mediocre effort despite the fact that he was probably no better than 10th on the Cubs’ rotation depth chart six weeks ago. In seven Ranger starts, Koronka has allowed more than three runs just twice — and only four runs in those two games. He’s the leading winner on a first-place club, five weeks into the season. Incredible.

Hank Blalock is hitting .333/.404/.492. This is the player we all thought he’d become. He’s defeating the overshift instead of defying it.

Texas, able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation the next time through, optioned righthander Robinson Tejeda to Oklahoma. He can’t return to Texas for at least 10 days, unless it’s in conjunction with a big league disabled list move. The Rangers’ May 16 start in Yankee Stadium could go to Rick Bauer, John Rheinecker, or John Wasdin, who will be eligible to return to Texas as of May 15. In 24.1 AAA innings, Wasdin (1-2, 3.33) has 33 strikeouts and eight walks.

The club recalled righthander Scott Feldman from Oklahoma, where his ERA was 1.46 in 10 relief appearances, nine of which (including the last eight) have been scoreless. Feldman held the Pacific Coast League to eight hits (.190 opponents’ average) and one walk in 12.1 innings, fanning 11, with an impressive ratio of 18 groundouts to seven flyouts.

The Rangers also designated lefthander Brian Shouse for assignment. After the 37-year-old gave up two runs in 4.1 big league innings in April — which included an unsightly .400/.400/.600 line in 10 at-bats facing left-handed hitters — he landed on the disabled list with a strained calf muscle and struggled in his rehab assignment, giving up seven hits and four walks in five one-inning appearances for Oklahoma, fanning three. He was transferred to Frisco late last week, pitching two scoreless innings in a pair of appearances, but Texas has removed him from the roster.

The Rangers have 10 days to trade Shouse, release him, or outright him if he clears waivers. He has the right to refuse an outright assignment and take immediate free agency, but if he does so he’d forfeit the balance of the $725,000 contract he’s owed for 2006.

Since moving out of the closer’s role, Francisco Cordero has pitched five times, throwing four scoreless innings and allowing one hit and no walks in that span, fanning four.

Designated hitter Phil Nevin is torching lefthanders but is hitting just .219/.318/.417 against righties. Meanwhile, Oklahoma DH Erubiel Durazo is hitting .365/.421/.558 against AAA righthanders. Unfortunately, Durazo has been placed on the RedHawks DL with hamstring soreness. How this affects the Rangers’ May 15 deadline to prevent Durazo from leaving by bringing him to the big club is unclear.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler played in an extended spring training game yesterday, going 2 for 3 in four trips as the DH, and he’s expected to play defensively in extended today. He could head to Oklahoma tomorrow or Thursday for a brief rehab assignment.

Lefthander Fabio Castro is slated to pitch two innings today in Surprise and another two frames on Friday, and then three more innings on Monday.

Righthander Josh Rupe threw a bullpen Friday and reportedly came away feeling good.

Righthander Frankie Francisco threw 15 pitches in a game in extended on Saturday, and he’s supposed to throw two innings today before visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum for a check-up tomorrow.

Lefthander Brian Anderson will throw a bullpen for pitching coach Mark Connor today.

Lefthander Matt Riley has decided to submit to a third Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister will take tissue from Riley’s right leg to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, having used tissue from his left forearm and left leg for his first two procedures. Jose Rijo is the one known big leaguer to have made it back to the big leagues after a third Tommy John procedure, having done so in 2002.

RedHawks first baseman-outfielder Jason Botts (.294/.355/523), the organization’s minor league player of the month for April, fell a home run short of the cycle last night in Albuquerque, while Laynce Nix (.326/.333/.500) lacked the triple. Botts was intentionally walked with the RedHawks up 8-7 in the top of the ninth and runners on second and third.

Frisco second baseman Aarom Baldiris has been promoted to AAA, having hit .298/.359/.452 in 84 RoughRider at-bats, striking out only seven times.

Righthander Luke Hochevar, the 2005 Roger Clemens Award winner as the top pitcher in college baseball, will make his regular season debut for the Fort Worth Cats on Saturday at LaGrave Field. He made his second exhibition appearance for the Cats yesterday.

Outfielder Cody Nowlin, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 1998 (the draft in which the club selected Barry Zito in the third round), has surfaced. The St. Joe Blacksnakes of the independent American Association have signed the 26-year-old.

The Lincoln SaltDogs of the same league released righthander Gary Hogan.

Carlos Silva tonight and Kyle Lohse tomorrow afternoon, and then a day off before a trip to Boston. Anybody else getting the feeling that Mark Teixeira, in keeping with the baseball-and-shooting-star logo that was undraped yesterday for his charitable fund, is about to unleash a five-month home run barrage?

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

MAY 6 ADDENDUM: A LESSON

Let me explain something to you, Rangers fan, because you’re probably too naïve to understand.

Dale Scott is supposed to give Jason Giambi calls on borderline pitches that your team is not ever going to get. He’s just doing his job.

Chad Fairchild is supposed to call Johnny Damon safe at first on a play like that. Since Kameron Loe doesn’t play for the Yankees, there’s an unwritten rule that he has to beat any Yankee player to the bag by two steps.

Kudos to Fairchild, in just his second year in the bigs. He gets it.

The Rangers’ highest-paid players in 2006 are Phil Nevin and Kevin Millwood. Neither makes as much as the 10th-highest-paid Yankee.

I freakin’ hate the Yankees. But it’s really sad that you don’t understand that they have earned the right to be treated like the unique team that their TV/radio deal dictates they should be.

If you have the chance to pay for one their 25 cab fares tonight, you should. It’s probably the law. They’re the Yankees.

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

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