THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 5, 2006

John Rheinecker and Mark Buehrle were both drafted in 1998, Rheinecker in the 30th round out of an Illinois high school and Buehrle in the 38th round out of a Missouri junior college.

Rheinecker turned down the chance to sign with Seattle, enrolled at Belleville Area Community College in Illinois, and later transferred to Southwest Missouri State. In 2001 he was drafted by Oakland in the supplemental first round, and signed.

Buehrle, on the other hand, signed with the White Sox as a draft-and-follow in May 1999, after an intervening season with Jefferson Community College, where he once faced Rheinecker at Belleville, and lost.

If Buehrle hadn’t signed, he would have pitched in 2000 and 2001 at Southwest Missouri State — with Rheinecker.

Buehrle and Rheinecker, born two months apart, have forged massively different baseball paths since that 1998 draft. Buehrle has as many All-Star Game appearances (two) as Rheinecker had major league appearances going into yesterday’s game, and the two southpaws looked nothing alike in Sunday’s rubber match of the three-game series between Texas and Chicago.

Rheinecker was a lot better.

That’s not to suggest that you’d rather have Rheinecker on your staff than Buehrle, but for one day, we got yet another reminder that the trade Jon Daniels on the last day of March has been simply impossible to believe. In a sense, Daniels converted Juan Dominguez (for Rheinecker and John Koronka) and Ricardo Rodriguez (for Vicente Padilla) into 11 wins in the first third of the season. Think about that.

Texas actually has 16 wins in games started by Rheinecker, Koronka, and Padilla, even though the trio didn’t get the decision in five of those.

Is it unfair to almost expect that Daniels will find a way to trade Joaquin Benoit for a couple starters and a 7th-inning horse? Obviously, that won’t happen. But it’s hardly more bizarre than expecting that he would have been able to trade Dominguez and Rodriguez, both pitching in AAA now, for what amounts to 60 percent of a rotation that has Texas in first place in June.

Rheinecker needed only 94 pitches to get through eight innings yesterday, giving up two second-inning runs and nothing more, working at a swift, Buehrle-esque pace. In the 20.1 innings Rheinecker has contributed in his three Ranger starts, he’s walked one batter and set 13 down on strikes. He has a phenomenal ratio of 36 groundouts to 13 flyouts (2.77). He’s needed just 13.7 pitches per inning, which would be the third most efficient rate in the game (next to Roy Halladay and Brandon Webb) if he had enough innings to qualify.

Fluky? Rheinecker’s groundball-to-flyball ratio in nine Oklahoma starts this spring was 2.79. He fanned 38 batters in 49.2 innings, walking 11. In his final seven AAA starts, his ERA was 1.80. As a Ranger, it’s 1.77.

In his three big league starts, Rheinecker is holding batters to a line of .234/.263/.325.

He’s the only Rangers starter to go eight innings in consecutive starts this year.

Just as Koronka has, Rheinecker will have his struggles. But it’s looking very good for now.

Gerald Laird tied a franchise record yesterday with four extra-base hits in one game, going deep twice and adding a pair of two-baggers. He’s hitting .367/.387/.633 in 60 at-bats, and his eight extra-base hits are three fewer than Rod Barajas’s 11, which the veteran has amassed in 149 at-bats. Laird has cut down 55.6 percent of opposing would-be basestealers, Barajas 27.3 percent.

Laird’s batting average is better than that of any catcher in baseball. So is his slugging percentage. And his 1.020 OPS. He doesn’t qualify in those categories because he doesn’t have enough at-bats to do so.

You can bet he’s going to qualify in 2007.

Laird caught righthander Agustin Montero three times last summer when both were in Oklahoma City. In those three relief appearances, Montero didn’t allow a home run. No such luck for Montero yesterday, who gave up his second big league bomb, and Laird’s second of the day.

Righthander Antonio Alfonseca will likely be activated before tomorrow’s series opener in Kansas City. Infielder D’Angelo Jimenez is probably in the most jeopardy of losing his roster spot, not only because of the recent addition of Jerry Hairston Jr. but also in view of Saturday’s doubleheader in Boston. Having an extra pitcher for now makes more sense than an extra player on the bench.

Righthander Frankie Francisco will make his second rehab appearance for Frisco tonight, and righthander Josh Rupe and lefthander Brian Anderson will each pitch in extended today.

Frisco lefthander Shane Wallace was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

Baseball America reports that the signing bonus that Texas agreed last week to pay draft-and-follow third baseman Steve Marquardt was $170,000, which is roughly fifth-round money.

Mike Hindman has a new blog entry up, reviewing the month of May up and down the Rangers farm system and previewing June.

You should have gotten an email from me last night with details on Newberg Report Night at Ameriquest Field, which will take place on Sunday night, July 2, against Houston. We’re taking reservations now.

The Rangers sit at the number 12 slot in tomorrow’s draft. As weak as this draft class is, no matter who is available at that slot is going to carry plenty of risk considering that he’ll command a signing bonus close to $2 million.

But just like the Dallas Mavericks making a draft day trade to get Dirk Nowitzki at number nine in 1998, as long as there’s going to considerable risk, you might as well respond by targeting the guy who, if it all pans out, gives you the most upside.

Eight years from now he may not provide the baseball equivalent of Nowitzki hanging half a hundred on the other guys in the conference finals, but my gut instinct tells me I’ll be happiest if the Rangers make what many will call an extremely risky decision tomorrow, and draft The Woodlands High School righthander Kyle Drabek.

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

1 Comment

Come and have a look at a recording of Derek Jeter on Letterman
http://psycho.mlblogs.com/

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