THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 10, 2006

OK. I’ve held off, and held off, and held off. I’m now officially getting concerned about Mark Teixeira.

Is it crazy to have questions about a guy hitting .290, which is higher than his career average, and getting on base at a .380 clip, which would be a career best? Betcha Teixeira would be the first to tell you that those numbers don’t compensate for the .454 slugging percentage that’s lower than any mark he’s had as a pro. He knows this club is counting on more explosiveness from him.

Teixeira is on pace to hit 16 home runs and drive in 84 runs, though I’ll bet you anything that he obliterates those totals, eclipsing them in August and conceivably even in July. But with Texas hanging onto a tight lead in the division, it sure would be great if he got into an extra-base-hitting groove.

Granted, there have been a ton of balls that Teixeira has rifled only to have them snared by a perfectly positioned infielder and plenty that he has driven to the warning track. But it’s also true that Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird each have a fourth of the plate appearances that Teixeira has, and they are one homer and two homers short of his season total.

There’s something promising about the fact that this first-place team seems to have more regulars whose numbers should come up than those whose numbers might be tough to sustain, but of the hitters who can and should produce more, Teixeira is the most important. He’s more capable than anyone else of carrying this team.

I’m sure not going to bet against him.

Vicente Padilla can be pretty tough to watch. He threw his seventh quality start last night, one short of the team lead, but as has become customary with him, there seems always to be one meltdown inning. After Thursday’s disaster in Kansas City, and facing a Saturday twinbill in Boston, it was absolutely critical for Padilla to step up last night and give the entire team a boost by saving the bullpen.

And yet, he scuffled his way through the first inning, giving up singles to the first two Sox hitters before retiring David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and, with a chance to get out of the frame unscathed, he fell behind Trot Nixon and then served up a three-run blast.

Padilla then settled down and fired six scoreless frames, monumentally important in terms of the bigger picture as this road trip gets underway. The only bullpen work was Francisco Cordero’s 16-pitch eighth (an ugly one at that), and that’s a good thing heading into today’s doubleheader.

This statistic stunned me: in the 32 games Cordero has pitched this year, the 32 batters he has first faced are hitting .192/.344/.308. I would have guessed a lot worse. It may seem like he’s put the first batter he faces on base more often than not, but in those 32 matchups, Cordero has permitted just five hits (four singles and a home run) and four walks, and drilled two batters.

The job of getting the ball to Cordero no longer belongs to Antonio Alfonseca. Texas designated the veteran for assignment yesterday, and it can’t be too great a shock. The idea in the off-season was to bring him in to serve as a potential stopgap while Frankie Francisco rehabbed. While Francisco probably won’t be back until late this month at the earliest, hitters were tuning Alfonseca up at a .348/.405/.545 rate, he’d only registered five strikeouts in 16 innings of work, and since a return from the disabled list this week, his velocity had dipped.

The Rangers now have 10 days within which to trade Alfonseca, release him, or, if he clears waivers, outright him to the farm, though he’ll have the right to refuse an outright assignment and take free agency. He’s probably done here.

Taking Alfonseca’s place in the bullpen was not a 40-man roster member like Wes Littleton or Fabio Castro or Robinson Tejeda or Edinson Volquez. It wasn’t C.J. Wilson, who hasn’t yet spent the requisite 10 days on the farm since being optioned, and it wasn’t Francisco, whose rehab assignment is going well (two strikeouts in a perfect inning again last night) but certainly shouldn’t be rushed.

It’s 32-year-old Bryan Corey, a veteran of 14 pro seasons, eight major league organizations, and four big league appearances. He’s established a bizarre pattern, getting to the bigs with all the regularity of a Presidential election, or an Olympic Games. Corey debuted in the major leagues with Buck Showalter’s Diamondbacks in 1998, making three relief appearances in May of that year, pitching one inning in May 2002 for the Dodgers, and now resurfacing with Texas.

Corey started the year as Frisco’s closer, and he was brilliant. In 13 games, he went 1-0, 2.08 with seven saves, allowing 16 hits and six walks in 17.1 innings while fanning 19. He was promoted to Oklahoma in mid-May and was even better. The righthander posted an ERA of 0.60 in 12 appearances, recording eight saves and scattering eight hits and two walks in 15 frames while punching out 16 Pacific Coast Leaguers.

A fastball-slider pitcher who throws strikes, Corey credits an adjustment in his mechanics for the huge improvement he’s made this year. Given the shakiness of the middle relief corps lately, he’ll probably get a chance, like Rick Bauer did, to make an impact despite emerging from completely off the radar. He’ll probably need to show something quickly; otherwise, Francisco’s imminent return could make Corey’s big league run a brief one.

On not an unrelated note, righthander Josh Rupe is slated to make his first rehab appearance for Frisco tonight. He and Francisco could be huge bullpen factors in the second half. But Texas needed a hot hand right now, and nobody’s been hotter than Corey.

Righthander Adam Eaton, recovering from surgery on a tendon in his right middle finger, is throwing off flat ground at distances up to 75 feet. He could throw off a mound before the month is over.

The news isn’t good as far as lefthander Brian Anderson’s rehabilitation is concerned. An MRI revealed a new tear in his elbow, nearly 11 months after Tommy John surgery. The 34-year-old will need to repeat the procedure if he wants to pitch again.

Nine days remain in Castro’s rehab assignment, at most (unless a new injury arises). In five RoughRider appearances, he’s gone 0-1, 1.98, allowing 14 hits and eight walks in 13.2 innings while fanning 10.

Second baseman D’Angelo Jimenez was designated for assignment on Tuesday to clear roster space for Alfonseca’s momentary return from a rehab assignment. Jimenez’s utility to the team was stamped out by the arrival of Jerry Hairston Jr., who is far more versatile.

I hope everybody read a story or two about the extremely difficult circumstances under which Kam Loe was pitching Thursday night. That guy’s a warrior. He can pitch for my team any day.

Oklahoma activated catcher-infielder Jamie Burke, and RedHawk infielder Dave Berg retired.

Infielder Adam Fox was activated and transferred from Frisco to Bakersfield, and infielder Joey Hooft was sent from the Blaze to extended.

Frisco lefthander John Danks, righthanders Thomas Diamond and Nick Masset, infielder Adam Morrissey, and outfielder Anthony Webster were selected to play in the Texas League All-Star Game, though Masset is now in AAA and thus won’t appear. Clinton first baseman Freddie Thon was the lone LumberKing recognized as a Midwest League All-Star.

Texas traded Oklahoma infielder Derek Wathan to the Cardinals for a player to be named later. Acquired from Colorado for a player to be named in April, Wathan appeared just three times for the RedHawks before breaking his thumb.

The Rangers named Diamond and Webster their Pitcher and Player of the Month for May. We’ll have the Newberg Report winners soon.

This can no longer be considered just a hot streak for Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison. The 2004 seventh-rounder out of the University of Florida is hitting .282/.388/.534, sitting fifth in the California League in slugging, third in homers, fourth in RBI, and just outside the top 10 in doubles and reaching base. He’s healthy now — and that includes the vision correction he had last spring — and he just might be the best power-hitting prospect on the Rangers farm right now.

The Rangers announced a number of signings yesterday from this week’s draft. The club has reached agreements with first baseman Chris Davis (5th round, Navarro Junior College), outfielder Grant Gerrard (7th round, Southern Illinois University), outfielder Josh Bradbury (8th round, Orange Coast College), outfielder Craig Gentry (10th round, University of Arkansas), third baseman Matt Jaimes (12th round, Chino High School [CA]), lefthander Mike Ballard (14th round, University of Virginia), outfielder Cody Podraza (16th round, Tomball High School [TX]), and righthander Adam Schaecher (31st round, Creighton University).

Jaimes wasted no time in coming to terms on a pro deal even though he had the leverage of a commitment to the University of Hawaii.

Texas also signed the following undrafted free agents: Navarro Junior College righthander Jeremiah Haar, Southern Illinois University catcher Hunter Harrigan, St. Thomas University righthander Ivan Izquierdo, Newbury College lefthander Jared Locke, and Columbia Basin Community College lefthander Forrest Rice.

Harrigan was a Ranger draftee in 2003, taken in the 43rd round out of Cowley County Community College.

“Izquierdo” means “lefthander” in Spanish.

Just before the draft, the Rangers signed Cal Irvine fifth-year senior Glenn Swanson, the club’s 49th-round pick from last summer. The lefthander went 9-4, 2.86 in 14 starts (including an April no-hitter) and seven relief appearances this season, fanning 69 and issuing 15 walks in 91.1 innings. The Anteaters’ career strikeout leader, Swanson has had arm problems in college but was projected by Baseball America to have gone much higher in last week’s draft had Texas not signed him.

For an idea of what it will take for Texas to sign its first-round pick, Russell County High School lefthander Kasey Kiker, last year’s number 12 pick, Beaumont West Brook High School outfielder Jay Bruce, signed with Cincinnati for $1.8 million.

Righthander Brandt Walker, from St. Stephens Episcopal School in Austin, has a scholarship to Stanford in the bag.

Next time I’ll run down the entire 50-round draft class for the Rangers.

Atlanta has already signed its second-round pick, shortstop Chase Fontaine, whom Texas drafted in the 18th round last year but couldn’t come to terms with as a draft-and-follow.

The Evansville Otters of the independent Frontier League traded catcher Jason Mann to Windy City for a 2007 first-round draft pick.

The Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League released righthander Todd Ozias, who came to Texas along with Erasmo Ramirez and Chris Magruder in the Andres Galarraga trade.

The Yankees decided against signing outfielders Richard Hidalgo and Jason Romano after working the two former Rangers out.

Nice pub for the Newberg Report from Ken Davidoff of Newsday last weekend.

The second half of the current season of “The Shield” won’t be the end of the series after all. FX ordered an eighth season, which will air in late 2007 or early 2008. Outstanding.

The last two nights notwithstanding, the Rangers still maintain the second-biggest division lead in baseball, a 2.5-game edge on Oakland. And now the A’s will once again be without righthander Rich Harden, this time for up to two months, due to an elbow injury.

You don’t mirage your way into first place two-and-a-half months into the season. If Mark Teixeira gets into a Mark Teixeira groove pretty soon, this thing could get very, very cool.

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

1 Comment

I’ve looked around the internet, and at the Fort Worth Star Telegram website, but can find nothing about “extremely difficult circumstances under which Kam Loe was pitching Thursday night.”

He’s one of my favorite pitchers on the team, so I’m extremely curious about what was going on.

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