THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 15, 2006

It’s on a far smaller scale given where we are on the schedule, but the way last night’s game potentially (and maybe surprisingly) changed the complexion of this baseball series sort of had a Miami Heat Game Three feel to it. Well, other than the fact that Vicente Padilla and Francisco Cordero blanked the White Sox, which isn’t at all like coming back from a fourth-quarter, 13-point deficit. And other than the difference between a four-game set in the season’s first half and a best-of-seven league championship series.

OK, so there’s really not anything in common between what Texas did last night and what Miami did the night before.

Great, great effort from Padilla, who saved the bullpen on a night when it badly needed a lot of inactivity. Padilla’s stuff was so good that he threw 45 or 50 straight fastballs to start the game, and though he threatened to have that one meltdown inning that seems to plague him every time out, he narrowly averted it in the third and dealt from that point forward.

This week’s Newberg Report “Going Deep” article on MLB.com is our monthly Q&A, and in that vein, I thought we’d make today’s Newberg Report a Q&A as well — except some of these questions won’t have answers.

Texas is 4-6 in home series, and 7-2-2 in road series. What’s up with that?

No way to explain it. Theoretically, the home team has an advantage, through a combination of having the home crowd and familiarity with the park and a roster tailored to the way the park plays and getting the last at-bat. If the Rangers were playing like an average team does at home, they’d be running away with the division. Weird.

The Rangers have outscored their opponents 65-32 in the fourth inning this year. Fluky?

Maybe not. On the average night, the fourth frame is when the meat of the Rangers’ order gets its second look at the opposing starter.

Is Jon Daniels going to make an impact trade in July?

I’m as sure of it as I’ve ever been in any Ranger season. We have no previous July with JD at the helm to consider as precedent, but the past eight months give me the confidence that no Rangers GM before him was any more aggressive, or any more prepared.

If Daniels has the ammunition to make one major trade next month, who is he most likely to go after: a Jason Schmidt type, a Joe Borowski type, or a Carlos Lee type?

Not Borowski. By mid-July, the Rangers pen could be impacted by Frankie Francisco and Josh Rupe, and C.J. Wilson could be a factor before then. The relief corps unquestionably needs a boost, but there might not be a reliever on the market any better than Francisco or Rupe could be – and that’s without taking into consideration the fact that you’d have to give up a legitimate prospect to bring one in. (And maybe Salomon Torres is more likely anyway; he’s not only pitching well for Pittsburgh, but he also has ties to the Rangers, having built the organization’s new baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.)

Does Adam Eaton’s likely return make a deal for Schmidt or someone similar unlikely? Do Robinson Tejeda’s last couple outings mean Texas stops looking for rotation help?

Probably not. John Koronka has been inconsistent lately, and so has Kameron Loe. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Loe could move into a seventh-inning role if he continues to struggle and if a rotation horse is added.

But if it’s me, I go after the bat. Milwaukee is in the wild card chase, but if the Brewers decide there’s no chance that they can resign Lee in the off-season, which would they choose: (1) Keeping Lee and getting two compensatory draft picks for him this winter – which will cost them around $2 million next June to use; or (2) moving Lee in July for some puzzle pieces?

Would an offer of Thomas Diamond, either Kevin Mench or Laynce Nix (both of whom were drafted during Doug Melvin’s tenure here), and Joaquin Benoit be enough? Probably not if there are a number of other teams in on Lee, which is likely to be the case. But are we on the right track?

How does Fabio Castro figure into all of this?

We’ll know soon enough. His rehab assignment, which began at Frisco and has moved to Oklahoma, expires after Saturday. Can the Rangers afford to sacrifice a spot on the big league staff for him right now? Keep in mind not only that Castro had never pitched in the major leagues before April – he’d never pitched in Class AA until May, and had never pitched in Class AAA until this week. He now has 23 innings at those three level combined.

If the Rangers don’t activate him by Sunday, then – unless they can demonstrate another injury – they’ll have to run him through waivers and, if he clears, offer him back to the White Sox, who will have the right to reacquire him for $25,000 and be able to send him to their farm system. It’s a near-certainty that Castro will either be in the Rangers’ bullpen or be with another organization in half a week.

What’s the status of the designations for assignment of infielder D’Angelo Jimenez and righthander Antonio Alfonseca?

Daniels couldn’t find a suitable trade partner as far as Jimenez was concerned, releasing him on Wednesday. The hunt for a team to trade Alfonseca to continues.

Are righthanders Scott Feldman and John Wasdin healthy?

Texas had lefthander C.J. Wilson ready for activation before yesterday’s game but decided not to make a move, evidently suggesting that Feldman’s forearm bruise and Wasdin’s hand bruise weren’t bad enough to sideline them for long.

This Gary Matthews Jr. thing has me thinking: Is there a team more proficient than Texas at signing minor league free agents and getting them to the big leagues?

Impossible. Daniels, his pro scouts, and John Lombardo, not to mention John Hart and Grady Fuson, are primarily responsible for these non-roster additions the last five years:

2002
Dan Miceli
Hideki Irabu
Rudy Seanez
Chris Michalak
Steve Woodard
Anthony Telford
Todd Greene
Calvin Murray
C.J. Nitkowski
Ruben Rivera
Juan Alvarez
Donnie Sadler

2003
Sadler
Nitkowski
Chad Kreuter
Brian Shouse
Rosman Garcia
Ryan Christenson
Victor Santos
Tony Mounce
Ron Mahay
Robert Ellis
Mickey Callaway

2004
John Wasdin
Doug Brocail
Frankie Francisco (he was a six-year free agent the winter after the Carl Everett trade brought him here)
Carlos Almanzar
Rod Barajas
Ken Huckaby
Danny Ardoin
Chad Allen
Manny Alexander
Andy Fox
Gary Matthews Jr.
Allen
Jason Conti
Mike Bascik

2005
Allen
Michael Tejera
Andres Torres
Esteban German
Wasdin
Alexander

2006
Bryan Corey
Wasdin
Adam Hyzdu
Adrian Brown
D’Angelo Jimenez
Antonio Alfonseca
Rick Bauer

A bunch of those moves have worked out extremely well. There’s no chance that another club has had more success along those lines, is there?

Why did first-round pick Kasey Kiker accept less than slot to sign with Texas yesterday?

Given how quickly he signed, I wonder if he figured he would have dropped from number 12 to either 16 (Milwaukee) or 24 (Atlanta) on Draft Day had Texas not taken him, and thus committed that day that he’d take a slightly below-slot figure of $1.6 million if Texas took him at number 12. It’s about what the Brewers’ slot should pay, but more than the Braves would have had to cough up to sign him.

Why are the Rangers assigning Kiker to Spokane, when they almost always send their high school picks (including John Danks and Eric Hurley) to the Arizona League to start out?

Texas has consistently talked about Kiker’s lack of fear, his developed off-speed stuff, his experience pitching against top international competition, and his history of leading the top high school team in the country as a junior as factors in the organization’s decision to assign Kiker to the Northwest League. Here’s another thought: There were unspecified rumors leading up to Draft Day about some sort of off-the-field questions surrounding Kiker; while the Rangers were quick to say that whatever the alleged issues supposedly were, the organization was satisfied that they were unfounded, I still wonder if they might have decided that, in addition to those stated factors that suggest the 18-year-old might be prepared for heightened competition, it might also be worthwhile to have him around a collection of 21-year-old teammates rather than a bunch of fellow high school grads, from a development standpoint.

But there’s also that wicked changeup to go along with his mid-90s velocity.

Is Frisco outfielder Jayce Tingler a prospect?

Not sure yet. But I can assure you of this: if we’d been the team who drafted him in the 10th round in 2003, as Toronto did (seven rounds before Texas popped his college teammate Ian Kinsler), and he hit .330/.432/.375 for two months at Bakersfield and reached base in four of his first eight trips following his promotion to AA, we’d absolutely call him a prospect, whether we’d be right to or not.

The fact that the Blue Jays left Tingler off their AAA roster this winter, allowing the Rangers to acquire him via the minor league Rule 5 Draft, diminishes his prospect status, just as his 5’8”, 155-lb. stature does. But production is production, and not every prospect is Kinsler (or Scott Feldman), getting to the big leagues that quickly. Let’s keep an eye on him.

Does anyone hate the NBA’s floating overhead camera as much as you do?

Doubt it.

Have any trivial childhood memories that you haven’t mentioned in the newsletter before?

Yeah. Tearing the Dallas Morning News open on Thursday mornings while in first grade, to see what was on the D.I.S.D. school lunch menu the next week.

Anything else?

I was obsessed with those NFL pencils in second grade, especially the ones for those new teams, the Seahawks and Buccaneers.

Stop.

Wait: The song “Abacab” reminds me of driving to my BBI games at Norbuck Park, and “Good Times Roll” reminds me of driving to the Waxahachie Tournament in the Saturday morning fog as a junior.

Stop.

OK.

How’s Erubiel Durazo faring in the Yankees system?

Not so well. He’s hitting .250 with no extra-base hits in 28 at-bats for AAA Columbus.

Did the Rangers do anything interesting on Day Two of the draft last week?

Their first pick of the second day, 19th-rounder Miguel Velazquez, an outfielder out of Puerto Rico who turned 18 just three months ago, has five-tool potential. Righthander Tyler Fleming, the club’s 20th-round pick, pitched for the Rangers’ seventh farm club, Cowley County Community College. Austin high school righthander Brandt Walker, taken in the 21st round, has committed to pitch for Stanford. His adviser is former Ranger hurler J.D. Smart.

Diminutive lefthander Danny Herrera, who features a filthy Eraser-esque changeup, was among the nation’s ERA leaders for most of the season before Texas took him in the 45th round. The Rangers’ penultimate pick, Atlanta (Texas) High School outfielder Clint Stubbs, is the brother of Reds first-rounder Drew Stubbs. Clint is likely to play for the University of Texas, possibly assuming the center field role that Drew just vacated. The final pick of the Rangers draft, Gonzaga righthander Patrick Donovan, pitched his college games in the same stadium as he will as a member of the Spokane staff, should he sign.

Don’t write off the Rangers’ Day Two crop. In 2003, for instance, their 30th-round pick was Feldman. Their 28th-rounder was Brazoswood High School righthander Brad Lincoln – who instead went to the University of Houston and signed yesterday with the Pirates for $2.75 million, as the fourth overall pick in last week’s draft.

Here’s a complete rundown of the Rangers’ 2006 draft class, with the 19 players who have signed so far in bold:

1. Kasey Kiker, LHP, Russell County High School (AL)
2. No selection
3. Chad Tracy, C, Pepperdine University
4. Marcus Lemon, SS, Eustis High School (FL)
5. Chris Davis, 1B, Navarro College (TX)
6. Jacob Brigham, RHP, Central Florida Christian Academy
7. Grant Gerrard, OF, Southern Illinois University
8. Josh Bradbury, 3B-OF, Orange Coast College (CA)
9. Brennan Garr, RHP, University of Northern Colorado
10. Craig Gentry, OF, University of Arkansas
11. Craig Crow, RHP, Rice University
12. Matthew Jaimes, 3B, Chino High School (CA)
13. Kevin Angelle, LHP, Bridge City High School (TX)
14. Michael Ballard, LHP, University of Virginia
15. Cody Himes, SS, College of San Mateo (CA)
16. Cody Podraza, CF, Tomball High School (TX)
17. John Maschino, RHP, Seminole State College (OK)
18. Michael Wagner, RHP, Washington State University
19. Miguel Velazquez, RF, Gabriela Mistral High School (P.R.)
20. Tyler Fleming, RHP, Cowley County Community College (KS)
21. Brandt Walker, RHP, St. Stephens Episcopal School (TX)
22. Cory Luebke, LHP, Ohio State University
23. Jay Heafner, SS, Davidson College (N.C.)
24. Robert McClain, LHP, Walters State Community College (TN)
25. Derek Holland, LHP, Wallace State Community College (AL)
26. Ken Gregory, 1B, Immaculata High School (N.J.)
27. Jared Olson, 3B, Frederick Community College (MD)
28. William Hall, LHP, Lees Summit High School (MO)
29. Daniel Hoben, LHP, Chandler-Gilbert Community College (AZ)
30. Nick Cadena, 3B, Florida International University
31. Adam Schaecher, RHP, Creighton University (NE)
32. Shannon Wirth, RHP, Lewis-Clark State College (ID)
33. Eric Fry, RF, San Jacinto Junior College (TX)
34. Austin Weilep, RHP, Lewis-Clark State College (ID)
35. Brian Nelson, OF, Corban College (OR)
36. John Slusarz, RHP, University of Connecticut
37. John Lambert, LHP, Chesterson High School (IN)
38. Jon Hollis, RHP, Yale University (CT)
39. Gary Poynter, RHP, Weatherford Junior College (TX)
40. Chris Dennis, RHP, Auburn University (AL)
41. Brandon Gribbin, RHP, Golden West Community College (CA)
42. Lance West, OF, Captain Shreve High School (LA)
43. Shawn Sanford, RHP, Cinnaminson High School (NJ)
44. Dan Sattler, RHP, Purdue University (IN)
45. Danny Herrera, LHP, University of New Mexico
46. Clifton Thomas, OF, El Cajon Valley High School (CA)
47. Joey Norwood, 3B, Modesto Junior College (CA)
48. Ryan Ostrosky, RHP, Lethbridge Community College (Can.)
49. Clint Stubbs, CF, Atlanta High School (TX)
50. Patrick Donovan, LHP, Gonzaga University (WA)

Where are the Newberg Report May Player and Pitcher of the Month features?

They’re now up on Eleanor Czajka’s Minor Details page. Rob Cook and Eric Carter have chosen Omar Poveda and Anthony Webster as the May winners. Check it out.

Any new prizes for the toy drive raffle on Newberg Report Night?

Yeah, a couple more. I’ll send out an updated list soon.

Anything else we should know?

Frisco outfielder Jake Blalock was placed on the disabled list with a broken nose, suffered on a hit-by-pitch on Sunday.

Bet you anything White Sox reliever Sean Tracey gets optioned today, after failing to drill Jake’s big brother in the bottom of the seventh last night.

Bakersfield placed two players on the California League All-Star Team: Tingler, who won’t be around for the California/Carolina League All-Star since he was just promoted to Frisco, and righthander Eric Hurley, who may not be far behind Tingler on his way to the Texas League. It’s sort of shocking that outfielder Ben Harrison wasn’t tabbed.

Oklahoma third baseman-outfielder Tim Olson was activated from the disabled list, after recuperating from a forearm fracture.

The Rangers released righthander Tanner McElroy, the Lake Highlands product who was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament tear in March.

The Mets signed outfielder Rashad Eldridge. Atlanta signed righthander Jonathan Johnson – yes, that one – and released righthander Matt Lorenzo, who promptly signed with Pittsburgh. Milwaukee released lefthander Andy Pratt. San Diego placed outfielder Billy Susdorf on the restricted list. The Yankees released outfielder Jason Conti.

The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association signed catcher Dustin Smith. The Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League signed catcher Jason Mann.

Did you realize that the Rangers are finished with Boston for the year, have only three games left with the Yankees (at home), and have only three left against the White Sox (in Chicago)?

Yes.

Do you really think Texas can earn a series split tonight, with rookie John Rheinecker going up against Mark Buehrle?

Sure. See June 4.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers

%d bloggers like this: