THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 18, 2006

I’ve been really tired the last few weeks, unusually so for me. I’d thought maybe it was because, on top of being in a busy cycle at work, I’m also dealing these days with having to find a new car (if you sell Acura’s, Honda’s, Infiniti’s, or Toyota’s, email me — seriously) and dealing with our DCAD property tax appeal. The oven temperatures outside probably factored in, I figured.

But it hit me a couple days ago, while talking to a buddy whose sports insanity is as certifiable as mine. All those things might be part of it, but there’s no doubt that the NBA playoffs have as much to do with my weariness as anything else.

I feel like I’ve been in trial for a month. When I’m trying a case, I don’t know if it’s adrenaline or the eight hours a day of dialing up my senses, but I don’t realize how tiring a day in court is until I’m driving away. It’s as if all the energy I’d worked up and drawn on for the day just spills out, leaving me completely sapped. The Spurs series and the Suns series and, so far, the Heat series have left me feeling like that. I can’t wait for tonight’s game and Tuesday’s, and at the same time, strangely, I can’t wait until it’s all over.

I’m completely drained.

Which brings me to this point: When the Rangers have that season where they win a playoff series, and then a second, and get to the Fall Classic, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble.

My death certificate will probably say: “Cause of Death: World Series.”

While I didn’t think the Mavs would puke it up like that on Thursday, I didn’t like their chances at all that night. The thing that alarmed me was that every single Dallas player who was interviewed the day before and day of the game said they hadn’t slept after the devastating loss in Game Three. They might as well have said, “Hey, Heat. You’re in our heads. And go ahead and body us on Thursday; we’ll have no stamina.”

Should be fascinating tonight. Dallas had all the momentum after the first two games (really, the first two and seven-eighths games). Yet after four, it feels like the series belongs to Miami.

It’s not unlike the season John Koronka has had. Through his first seven starts, he was 4-1, 3.65, holding hitters to a .246 average. In his next six, he went 0-3, 7.18, allowing a .349 average.

And then last night, though it wasn’t necessarily pretty, Koronka held Arizona to two runs in 5.1 innings, earning his first win in six weeks.

Sure would be nice to see Dallas follow suit tonight. They don’t need to win pretty. Just win.

Andruw Jones is hitting .271/.337/.506.

Johnny Damon is hitting .297/.365/.479.

Jim Edmonds is hitting .253/.349/.396.

Grady Sizemore is hitting .291/.369/.522.

Ken Griffey Jr. is hitting .268/.326/.512.

Coco Crisp is hitting .262/.307/.374.

Aaron Rowand is hitting .281/.323/.473.

Meanwhile, there’s Gary Matthews Jr., hitting .343/.396/.566, outpacing those seven center fielders (all of whom sit in the top 15 outfielders in their league’s All-Star voting) — in every category.

Among center fielders in baseball, only Carlos Beltran (.288/.395/.619) and Vernon Wells (.323/.380/.615) have a higher OPS than Matthews.

And he made a play at the wall last night that Beltran and Wells would have applauded.

Matthews is making about $2.4 million this year, his final season before he can explore free agency. What’s he going to command on the open market this winter?

Nobody figured that he would be the Ranger outfielder with the strongest hold on an everyday spot. But that’s exactly what he is, and it’s not even debatable right now.

Texas placed righthander John Wasdin on the disabled list with a sprained right thumb and recalled lefthander Fabio Castro from Oklahoma. Deciding the bullpen needed another southpaw, the Rangers turned to Castro — whose rehab assignment (and, potentially his Ranger career) would have concluded last night — rather than C.J. Wilson, who was placed on the minor league DL due to soreness in his left biceps muscle.

In 17.1 innings between Frisco and Oklahoma, the rehabbing Castro gave up five earned runs (2.60 ERA) on 19 hits and nine walks, fanning 15.

Ian Kinsler and Jason Botts sat out last night after fouling Brandon Webb pitches off their calves on Friday, but both are fine.

One of the things we talked about when I was on Baseball Prospectus Radio with Will Carroll yesterday was that, even though I have no doubt that Jon Daniels will be prepared and unafraid to make an impact trade in July, the problem will be that, like last summer, the list of available impact players will be very short, due in large part to what the Wild Card race does to the trade market each summer. There might be no starting pitcher all that more interesting than Adam Eaton, and no reliever with more potential upside than Frankie Francisco.

Here’s an idea that has absolutely no basis and, truthfully, would probably work only in a fantasy league setting: Kevin Mench, Thomas Diamond, and Julio Gonzalez to Philadelphia for Bobby Abreu, David Dellucci, and some cash.

Diamond turned in a quality start for Frisco last night, though his velocity sat at 89-91 and he hung a few curves that were punished. Josh Rupe relieved Diamond and had a much livelier fastball and sharper breaking ball, though he was hit hard and didn’t complete the one inning that the Rangers had planned for him to get in, as he was charged with three runs on two hits (a double to the right field wall and a triple over center fielder Kevin Mahar’s head) and a walk, all coming after he’d coaxed two weak groundouts.

Francisco is slated to pitch two innings for the RoughRiders today, which will be his first multi-inning effort since his April 2005 Tommy John surgery. In his last appearance, a one-inning stint against Corpus Christi on Thursday, he faced the top three hitters in the Hooks’ lineup, center fielder Josh Anderson (now hitting .308), shortstop Ben Zobrist (.324), and catcher J.R. House (.350).

Strikeout swinging.

Strikeout swinging.

Strikeout swinging.

Eaton threw about 15 fastballs off a mound yesterday, the first time he’s pitched from the hill since ripping a tendon in his middle finger less than a week before Opening Day. He won’t throw breaking balls for at least another week.

Righthander R.A. Dickey was activated off the Oklahoma disabled list and made the start for the RedHawks last night.

Oklahoma center fielder Freddy Guzman was involved in a home plate collision in the top of the first on Friday, and he didn’t finish the game or play in yesterday’s doubleheader.

If the way RedHawks righthander Edinson Volquez started the month of May diminished his chances of contributing at the big league level this year, his last three weeks have more than made up for it. The 22-year-old has fired five straight quality starts (14 hits, 14 walks, and 36 punchouts in 33 innings), and his last two have been utterly dominant.

After blanking Omaha on one hit and one walk in seven innings on June 10, fanning nine, the righthander fired another seven scoreless frames on Thursday, holding Memphis to two hits (both doubles) and three walks while punching out 10 Redbirds. He retired the final 12 batters he faced, extending his scoreless streak to 19 innings.

Daniels was clear the next day that, barring injury to someone on the big league staff, Volquez isn’t on the verge of returning to Texas. Good. For that matter, the organization is also holding off on significant prospect promotions, at any level, until after minor league all-star games have been played. The Texas League and Midwest League All-Star Games will be played on June 20, while the California/Carolina League All-Star Game is set for June 27.

Spokane’s Northwest League title defense kicks off on June 21. The Arizona League opens June 22.

Among those who would seem to be in line for a post-All-Star Game promotion is Bakersfield righthander Eric Hurley, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Stockton on Thursday night. Only once in the 20-year-old’s last 10 starts has he given up more than two earned runs. Hurley stands at 5-3, 2.54 in 13 starts, and his 80 punchouts are good for second in the Cal League.

Eighteen-year-old Clinton righthander Omar Poveda (1-7, 4.44) has seven quality starts in his last nine, and in 12 starts he has yet to walk more than two opponents.

Frisco first baseman Nate Gold is hitting .328/.385/.569 in June, with six multi-hit games in his last eight. He and RoughRider outfielder Anthony Webster (.311/.366/.467 overall) have to be back on the map.

Blaze righthander Wandy Morla was reassigned to Spokane to make room for the activation of Blaze lefthander William Rodriguez.

Bakersfield outfielder Brandon Boggs has extra-base hits in each of the club’s three games since he returned from a two-month layoff due to a broken hand. The 23-year-old is 4 for 10 with a double and two triples since coming back.

In 17.2 innings, Clinton righthander Josh Giles, an undrafted free agent signed last summer out of New Mexico Junior College, has yet to allow a run. Giles, who went 1-2, 8.48 between the Arizona League, Clinton, and Bakersfield in 2005, has scattered nine hits and four walks while punching out 22 Midwest Leaguers.

Eleventh-round pick Craig Crow, a junior righthander out of Rice, is the only Rangers draftee whose team is alive in the College World Series. Should he eventually sign, he’s a likely candidate for Spokane.

Baseball America named lefthander Danny Herrera, the Rangers’ 45th-round pick, to its Third-Team All-America squad. The Odessa Permian and University of New Mexico product, who checks in at 5’7″, 145, went 10-0, 2.24 this season despite pitching in the thin air in Albuquerque.

Dodgers righthander Jae Seo’s 17th inning against Oakland last night: single by number nine hitter Marco Scutaro, strikeout, walk, strikeout, four-pitch walk, five-pitch walk. Game over. Nice work, Jae. Thanks for the help.

The Nationals relieved John Wetteland of his duties as Washington bullpen coach on Thursday because of “philosophical differences” with manager Frank Robinson. A couple Nationals relievers, defending Wetteland, did admit that there were times they weren’t paying close enough to the game. Wetteland was in his first season with the club after spending the better part of the last 10 years with the Rangers as a player and then a coach.

The Nationals replaced Wetteland with Randy Knorr, who — get this — played only 15 games as a Ranger but managed to catch the final pitch of the last two saves and last two wins of Wetteland’s career, in September of 2000. Knorr also singled and homered — one of two bombs he would hit as a Ranger — in the game in which Wetteland would record his final save. Knorr’s solo shot in the sixth produced the Rangers’ final run of the game, a 6-5 win over Kansas City. (I love Retrosheet.)

Righthander Spike Lundberg parlayed a 7-1, 2.40 start for AA Jacksonville into a promotion by the Dodgers to AAA Las Vegas.

Outfielder Jason Conti signed with St. Louis.

University of Texas outfielder Jordan Danks (.319/.429/.517) was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team.

Former Ranger farmhand Reggie Rivard was centrally involved in a beanball-brawl war between the Edmonton Cracker-Cats and Calgary Vipers of the independent Northern League on Tuesday. Rivard, who got the Cracker-Cat start, hit two Vipers after Calgary drilled Edmonton first baseman Greg Morrison — a former Viper — for the fifth time in six games. After the second Rivard plunking, a player from the Calgary dugout fired a ball toward the mound, and the benches cleared, and engaged.

Following the nasty fight, which involved the managers, Edmonton was forced to forfeit the game due to a depleted roster.

A few new additions to the prize list for the toy drive raffle on Newberg Report Night, courtesy of Allen Cordrey and Kevin McBrayer: A Josh Rupe game-used autographed baseball, a Thomas Diamond autographed baseball, a Mike Nickeas game-used autographed bat, an Ace Walker game-used autographed ball, and an autographed, matted Dennis Quaid “The Rookie” photo and movie prop.

The prize list is currently as follows:

1.) Mark Teixeira game-used wrist bands
2.) Kameron Loe game-used spring training hat
3.) Mike Nickeas signed, game-used catcher’s mask
4.) Mike Nickeas signed, game-used bat
5.) Marshall McDougall signed, game-used bat
6.) Baseballs signed by:
* Ian Kinsler
* C.J. Wilson
* Josh Rupe
* Thomas Diamond
* Joaquin Arias
* Michael Schlact
* Ace Walker
* Jace Brewer
* Nick Trzesniak
* Joselo Diaz
7.) Signed Stockton Ports jerseys:
* Nick Masset (game-used)
* Joaquin Arias (batting practice)
* Matt Farnum (game-used)
8.) Game-used Clinton jersey signed by Thomas Diamond, John Danks, Anthony Webster, Kea Kometani, Casey Benjamin, Jim Fasano, Nate Gold, Luke Grayson, Kevin Richardson, and Andy Walker
9.) May 13, 2005 manager’s card signed by Buck Showalter, Kevin Mench, Kameron Loe, David Dellucci, Laynce Nix, Brian Shouse, and Don Wakamatsu
10.) Photos:
* Jim Sundberg (four B&W; one is signed)
* Kameron Loe, signed 8×10
* Gerald Laird, signed 8×10
11.) Signed, matted Dennis Quaid “The Rookie” photo and movie prop
12.) Two one-year subscriptions to Baseball Prospectus Online
13.) A 2006 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report signed by Thomas Diamond, Johnny Whittleman, Michael Schlact, Steven Rowe, and Jamey Newberg
14.) A near-complete set of the Newberg Report Bound Edition (1999 through present, with the exception of 2003, which is currently out of stock)

The person who brings the most toys will have his or her pick of any one prize. Judge Brady Tinker will award the second prize to the “coolest” donation (for instance, last year someone brought a new bicycle).

The remaining prizes will be raffled off, with everyone who brought toys eligible.

For all the ill will that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen harbors towards the Rangers, he said this to reporters about Michael Young on Thursday: “They’ve got one player over there that’s everyone’s wish, the shortstop. That’s everybody’s dream. A lot of people talk about Derek Jeter. A lot of people talk about Miguel Tejada. A lot of people talk about other players at that position, but he’s a manager’s dream. He’s the best. This kid can do anything in baseball that he wants to.”

Guillen added: “I’d take that kid everywhere with me.” Which I suspect will include the All-Star Game in three weeks in Pittsburgh.

Happy Father’s Day.

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

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