THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 30, 2006

I’m on record. The fact that Fabio Castro is no longer Ranger property disappoints me. But I’ve also said that I was eager to see what Jon Daniels would be able to get for Castro, after having designated the Rule 5 pick for assignment on Saturday.

My initial, gut reactions to the news yesterday that Daniels had traded Castro to Philadelphia for AA lefthander Daniel Haigwood and cash:

1. You’d parlay a 28-year-old utility infielder like Esteban German for a pitching prospect like Haigwood every chance you got. (There were days when Texas would more likely be on the other end of a deal like that, e.g., Scott Eyre for Esteban Beltre.)

2. You’d trade a solid relief prospect for a solid starter prospect every time.

3. Haigwood seems to profile a little like John Koronka and John Rheinecker, lefthanders who will never be expected to be a number 1 or number 2 but who have a chance to be serviceable, and successful in Arlington.

In November, the White Sox traded Haigwood, their 16th-round pick in 2002, to the Phillies, along with center fielder Aaron Rowand and southpaw Gio Gonzalez, for Jim Thome.

(Which raises this question for the folks at Elias, Jayson Stark, and Jeff Evans: Has there ever been another pair of players traded for each other who, the year before, were teammates in a different organization altogether? Haigwood and Castro played together in the Chicago system in 2004 [with Low A Kannapolis] and in 2005 [with High A Winston-Salem].)

I’ll admit that I’ve never seen Haigwood pitch and can only, for now, go by what I read, but consider this: both he and Castro were Rule 5-eligible for the first time after the 2005 season. As we all know, Chicago chose not to add Castro to its 40-man roster, exposing him to the draft. The Sox, on the other hand, did add Haigwood to the roster (one week before trading him to the Phillies in the Thome deal).

And Philadelphia conceivably could have asked for Castro in the Thome trade, but opted for Haigwood — though it should be pointed out that, unless the Thome trade could have been made about a week earlier than it was, the Phillies would not have been able to add Castro to their 40-man roster upon obtaining him and thus would have lost him in the draft.

Haigwood, whose hometown of Pleasant Plains, Arkansas has a population that wouldn’t fill the Legends of the Game Museum auditorium, where we’ll kick off Newberg Report Night on Sunday, didn’t lose a high school game until his final appearance, having gone 43-0 beforehand (and not allowing an earned run as a senior until that final game). Baseball America projected him to go between the second and fifth round in 2002, but he lasted until the 16th round (due in part to what clubs thought was a firm commitment to the University of Arkansas), where the White Sox took him, 13 rounds after selecting Josh Rupe and one round before they chose Brandon McCarthy.

The 6’2″ southpaw was nearly as successful in the Chicago chain as he’d been in high school. In four seasons, he went 32-11, 3.36 with 333 strikeouts and 146 walks in 332 innings, all as a starter. He led the Arizona League in wins with eight in his first summer, and was second in ERA (2.28) and strikeouts (74 in 75 innings). He missed the 2003 season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.

In 2004, as Castro’s teammate, Haigwood went 10-4, 4.76 for Kannapolis, and in 2005, teamed up with Castro again, he went 8-2, 3.77 in 15 Winston-Salem starts before earning a promotion to AA Birmingham, where he was utterly dominant (but beware: the Barons play in an extreme pitchers’ park in what is essentially a pitchers’ league). In 11 Baron starts, Haigwood went 6-1, 1.74, scattering 39 hits (.170 opponents’ average) and 31 walks in 67.1 innings while punching out 76, which was the best strikeout rate of his career. No Southern League hitter took him deep. A plus changeup helped Haigwood, who also features a low-90s fastball and a two-seamer to go along with a sharp curve, handle right-handed hitters (.141 average) even better than lefties (.250).

Chicago placed Haigwood on its 40-man roster in November, a week before sending him to the Phillies in the Thome deal. Despite his brilliant two months of AA work in 2005 — only twice in his 11 starts did he give up more than one earned run — Philadelphia returned him to AA this season, assigning him to Reading in the Eastern League. He posted a 2.61 ERA in four April starts, saw it balloon to 5.28 in six May starts, and followed it with a 2.48 June, over five starts. Overall, Haigwood has gone 2-5, 3.54 this season, and once again, he had the unusual distinction while with Reading of being tougher on righties, who hit just .209 off him while lefthanders hit .283. He’ll likely remain in AA for now, sliding into the rotation at Frisco.

A little disturbing is the fact that Haigwood appears statistically to be a flyball pitcher, though, again, he’s done a relatively good job of keeping the ball in the yard. He’s also issued a walk for every two innings pitched this year, which will need to change.

Having been added to Chicago’s 40-man roster last winter and kept on the Phillies’ 40, Haigwood is on his first option this season — which of course is what most distinguishes his value to Texas from Castro’s: he can be sent to the farm. Haigwood will have two remaining options when the 2007 season begins.

Does Haigwood factor into the top echelon of Rangers pitching prospects, which includes John Danks, Edinson Volquez, Thomas Diamond, Eric Hurley, and Rupe? Probably not. But neither did Castro, who, though he’s 14 months younger than Haigwood, was handicapped from the standpoint that he had to be kept in the big leagues and thus wasn’t getting regular work. Castro will likely see more opportunities to get on the mound in Philadelphia, who likes his upside as an effective set-up man from the left side.

With Daniels in attendance, Volquez one-hit Round Rock over five scoreless innings on Tuesday, fanning six though he issued five walks. He’s been named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star Team.

Last night, Danks needed only 89 pitches to get through seven innings of his second AAA start, limiting the Express to two runs on three hits and three walks, fanning five. Both runs came in the fifth, on a two-run homer by Alan Zinter, the reigning real-life Crash Davis. In his two RedHawk starts, Danks is holding opponents to a .150 average.

Diamond fanned 12 in six innings for Frisco on Wednesday night, permitting one run on six hits and two walks.

Outfielder Anthony Webster still hasn’t been held hitless since his promotion to Oklahoma. The 23-year-old (.393/.433/.464) singled and doubled last night, extending his AAA hit streak to eight games.

Frankie Francisco has been placed on the Frisco disabled list with soreness in his pitching elbow.

Texas activated Rupe from the 60-day disabled list (necessary because his rehab work in Surprise reduced the maximum days on his rehab assignment by 10 days) and optioned him to Oklahoma. He had been working out of the Frisco bullpen.

Righthander Adam Eaton threw cut fastballs off a mound on Tuesday without pain. He’ll pitch a simulated game at Ameriquest Field on Sunday and, assuming no setbacks, he could start a rehab assignment with Frisco on Thursday.

To make room on the 40-man roster for both Haigwood and Rupe, the Rangers released infielder Marshall McDougall, who had managed only 14 AAA at-bats this season (his fourth as a Ranger) due primarily to a wrist injury.

First baseman Freddie Thon (.280/.308/.402) goes up from Clinton to Bakersfield, with first baseman Ian Gac (.188/.242/.346) making the opposite move. Gac homered in his first game back with the LumberKings last night.

San Diego has promoted righthander John Hudgins from AA Mobile (4-3, 2.79, 55 strikeouts and 16 walks in 51.2 innings) to AAA Portland.

The White Sox released outfielder Rob Sasser.

The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League released outfielder Willy Espinal, who I suppose is the same guy who pitched in the Rangers farm system recently.

Looking forward to seeing more than 300 of you on Sunday.

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

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