June 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 16, 2006

Good grief, Dirk.

You, too, Josh Howard.

Oh, and not that it matters a whole lot, but just as sure as I was that White Sox would option reliever Sean Tracey to the farm yesterday, I’m equally sure that the stats that Marquis Daniels contributed last night in mop-up time — two air balls and an interception — will be his last as a Dallas Maverick.

How can you do anything but marvel at the phenomenal Dwyane Wade, and appreciate the fact that his career is going to unfold during your lifetime (and, for some of us, our kids’)? That’s a very special ballplayer.

The best sports news of the day, locally, came from three of the dirtiest arms in the Rangers system, two of whom are starting to pound on the door to get back to Arlington and the third of whom is undoubtedly part of the very top tier of the organization’s prospects, even if not everyone realizes it yet.

Make sure to read Mike Hindman’s farm report this morning. If you’re not only the mailing list, you should be . . . .

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

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 12, 2006

There are a bunch of reasons I wouldn’t make a very good manager or general manager (other than that nagging fact that I’m not qualified).

I’d take the losses too hard, feel too good about the wins for too long, and probably overreact. A lot.

I would have guessed after Thursday’s terrible loss and Friday’s gut-wrenching defeat that the Rangers might have been in some trouble behind John Rheinecker on Saturday, a bit shellshocked and facing blue-chip Boston prospect Jon Lester amped up for his big league debut. Not the case.

After yesterday’s demoralizing finish in Game One, I wouldn’t have given us much of a chance to put it to the Sox in Game Two, with John Wasdin taking the mound for his first 2006 start in the big leagues, a mound that has to be for Wasdin a tough reminder of some disappointing times. If felt like a bad combination: the possibility of a flat, demoralized club behind a pitcher entering a haunted house.

And then Texas busted out 22 hits to earn the split of both the doubleheader and the series, and there’s worse things you can come away with from a trip to Boston.

I came away thinking two things after yesterday’s twinbill: (1) there will be days when David Ortiz is simply going to beat you, no matter who you are; and (2) this team has character, and should never be counted out.

And a third thing: Gerald Laird is pretty good.

Are Gary Matthews Jr. and Mark DeRosa going to revert to what they were in their 20s? Hope not. And the longer this lasts, the less likely it seems that the clock is about to strike midnight for those two.

As for Mark Teixeira finding his 2005 form again, I still believe it happens — soon — but consider this: despite his drop in fence power, the guy is on pace to destroy his career high in doubles, and he’s reached base in every game this month.

How good is Ian Kinsler going to be in two years?

There I go overanalyzing again. All that I should be concerned about right now is Koronka-Contreras tonight, the first of four against the World Champs at home, which follows five straight series that the first-place Rangers have won or tied and precedes four straight three-game sets against the NL West and 19 of 25 at home.

But I’m not Buck Showalter or Jon Daniels. I’m a fan. So I get to overanalyze, overreact, fail to stay within myself. I’ll leave the even keel to the team who I get behind with everything I’ve got, meanwhile getting myself all fired up to kick Ozzie Guillen’s butt tonight and then the three after that, and feeling pretty good about Jason Botts’s two doubles and a walk in Game Two, Bryan Corey’s perfect two and two-thirds as a Ranger, and the roll that Edinson Volquez, Nick Masset, Anthony Webster, and Ben Harrison are on down on the farm.

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

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 8, 2006

Worst loss of the year, and it’s not even close.

It would have been the worst win, too, had the Rangers pulled it out, given what faces them over the next 10 days.

Lots of draft and rehab notes when I next feel like writing about baseball.

– Jamey

P.S. This afternoon, I told at least two people getting this that it was going to be Dallas 94, Miami 81 tonight. I almost nailed it. But I wouldn’t have come close to predicting how that Ranger game went. Brutal.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 7, 2006 GAME RECAP

Hissssss….

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 7, 2006 DRAFT SPECIAL

If you were to assess the Rangers’ farm system in a big-picture context, and if you’ve paid close attention to Jon Daniels the last few months, you would probably conclude that what the organization needs more than anything is a batch of impact bats, and that the system’s greatest depth, starting with the big league club and moving down, is at catcher and in the middle infield.

So what does Texas do with its first three picks in yesterday’s draft?

Leads off by taking a pitcher rather than a bat.

And then pops a catcher and a shortstop.

Forgetting the names for now — because you and I and, to an extent, the people paid to evaluate them don’t really know how they will turn out — you have to love how Day One of the draft went for Texas, philosophically.

Some teams won’t deal with certain agents.

Some teams won’t entertain the thought of paying above slot, and will pass over more talented players to avoid it. Some teams even champion the idea of paying less than slot, and get books written about them.

Some adhere to a scouting-based drafting philosophy, to the exclusion of measuring a player’s actual production. Some, on the other hand, are far more stats-based in their approach.

Some refuse to draft players who aren’t the right size.

And some succumb to the temptation to draft for need.

Fans of the Rangers are fortunate that Texas doesn’t pigeon-hole itself in any of those ways. The club has in the past. But not now.

The Rangers believe in drafting the best baseball player available every single time that their turn comes up. And while there’s a whole lot about the baseball draft that is wildly unpredictable, one thing is verifiable, no matter the sport: Draft for need and you’re going to screw the thing up. Take the best player available, and you give yourself a much better chance of making the draft pay off.

Do I know whether the Rangers’ board was well assembled? Nope, and neither do you. But I believe that Ron Hopkins and his team of scouts, who have proven themselves in years past, were faithful to the board, rather than some need-based plan, and that gives me confidence that this has a chance to be a very solid draft class.

The first 18 of the draft’s 50 rounds were conducted yesterday, the remainder to follow today. Having no second-round pick and no supplemental picks, the Rangers had 17 choices to make on Tuesday. Here’s what they did with them:

1. Kasey Kiker, LHP, Russell County High School (Ala.) (Ranger first-round picks since 1990 include Mark Teixeira, John Danks, Thomas Diamond, Drew Meyer, John Mayberry Jr., Rick Helling, Carlos Pena, Benji Gil, Scott Heard)

Despite his size, Kasey Kiker has a power arsenal that, at times, might remind you of Billy Wagner.

Despite his youth, he already has an athletic, sturdy build that might remind you of Mike Hampton.

He has a vigorous, rock-n-roll delivery — aggressive but contained and repeatable — that might remind you of Dontrelle Willis, half a foot shorter.

But ask him what he thinks about the comparisons to Scott Kazmir, and you can hear the smile in Kiker’s voice. “That guy dominates. He’s nasty. That’s what I want to be.”

In John Hart and Grady Fuson’s first draft with the Rangers, the club had the chance to draft Kazmir out of Houston’s Cypress Falls High School but opted instead for Drew Meyer. Four years later, the 22-year-old Kazmir is poised to pitch in the All-Star Game.

In Jon Daniels’s first draft as Rangers GM, he made the ultimate determination that the pitcher who patterns himself after Kazmir wasn’t going to get by the Rangers.

Rumors began to gather steam Tuesday morning that the top player on the Rangers’ board was University of Washington righthander Tim Lincecum, thought not long ago to be in the mix to go first overall to Kansas City. But if that was the plan for Texas, San Francisco foiled it by choosing Lincecum at number 10, and as a result it seemed most likely that the Rangers would draft The Woodlands High School righthander Kyle Drabek, Wake Forest infielder Matt Antonelli, or Kiker.

Among the pre-draft knocks on Drabek and Kiker in the sports pages and baseball publications — in fact, basically the only knocks — were unspecified concerns about their makeup. On Tuesday morning we learned that (according to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein, for one) Kiker “moved way up on boards in the last 48 hours [leading up to the draft] when some concerns about his makeup proved to be unfounded.” Maybe the Drabek questions weren’t similarly put to rest; maybe they were. Regardless, both pitchers were available when the Rangers’ turn came up, and Texas chose Kiker.

The Rangers had apparently worked Kiker out twice at Ameriquest Field in the past couple weeks, and as Daniels explained, they saw mid-90s velocity and a hammer curve and an advanced change but had seen those before; saw the competitiveness but had seen that before; saw the solid build and strong legs and quick arm action but had seen those things before, too. What impressed the club most in those Arlington workouts (which involved more than a dozen draft-eligibles) was that Kiker, who turned 18 in November, “did not blink.” There wasn’t a hint of intimidation as he pitched in a big league ballpark, not an ounce of anxiety as he auditioned for what conceivably could have been an extra million dollars.

Daniels, based on firsthand observations and the trust he places in Hopkins and area scout Jeff Wood, not to mention other scouts and coaches who watched Kiker pitch, had convinced himself that the southpaw was the best player available at number 12. He has made a commitment to pitch collegiately for South Alabama, but he’s as likely to be a Jaguar next year as you or me. Kiker is going to sign, probably quickly, and get his pro career underway.

For his Warriors career, the allegedly 5’11”, unquestionably 185-pound southpaw went 31-6, 0.91, striking out 474 batters in 256.2 innings. He threw two no-hitters as a freshman. The summer after his freshman year, he won a game and saved another in the World Youth Championship in Taiwan, at age 15, helping Team USA win a gold medal. Kiker went 3-0 as a sophomore, missing most of the season with a broken collarbone.

Coming into his senior season, Kiker was ranked by Baseball America as the 12th-best high school prospect in the country on the strength of the 12-1, 0.52 record he posted as a junior on the Russell County High squad that was named the 2005 High School Team of the Year by BA. In 94 innings, he scattered 41 hits and 24 walks while punching out 173 hitters. He fired three more no-hitters that season, including a perfect game in which he struck out 20 of 21 hitters. Among his teammates was outfielder Colby Rasmus, who would be the Cardinals’ first pick in last summer’s draft, 28th overall. Rasmus was the first high school player out of Alabama to go in the first round since 1994.

It wouldn’t be 11 more years before another Alabama high schooler went in the first round; in fact, it wouldn’t be long before Russell County High repeated. Colby’s father Tony Rasmus helped produce two first-rounders yesterday, Kiker and Atlanta supplemental first-rounder Cory Rasmus.

Speaking of Atlanta, as late as yesterday morning, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo noted that Kiker had “wowed the Braves,” perhaps the organization most renowned for its tendency to draft (and ability to develop) high school arms. If Kiker was there at number 24, it looks like Atlanta might have popped him — if Milwaukee didn’t do so first at 16.

Kiker went 7-4, 0.92 as a senior, allowing 29 hits and 25 walks in 68.1 innings, fanning 140. He was a Louisville Slugger All-American, Aflac All-American, and Baseball America Second-Team All-American.

The last two high school pitchers that Texas took in the first round, John Danks and Eric Hurley, kicked things off in the Arizona League, where the Rangers stage extended spring training. Reportedly, however, the organization plans to assign Kiker to Spokane, which is typically reserved for college draftees and second-year pros who debuted in Surprise a year earlier. Kiker’s experience in international competition, not to mention as the ace for the top high school program in the country, gives the Rangers confidence that he can handle the Northwest League right away.

When the Mets drafted Kazmir with the 15th pick in the 2002 draft, negotiations dragged into August, and after signing him the club allowed him to pitch only 18 innings before turning him loose the following year. Chances are that the Rangers are going to have a deal with Kiker well before August; how much they pitch him this summer is hard to predict.

2. No selection (Johnny Whittleman, Vincent Sinisi, Nick Regilio, K.C. Herren, Jason Bourgeois, Jason Grabowski)

Cleveland drafted University of Hawaii righthander Steve Wright with the pick that Texas forfeited when it signed Kevin Millwood this winter.

Later in the second round, Atlanta chose Daytona Beach Community College shortstop Chase Fontaine, whom Texas tried to sign last week as a draft-and-follow. Fontaine was the Rangers’ 18th-round pick last summer.

3. Chad Tracy, C, Pepperdine University (Hank Blalock, John Hudgins, Michael Schlact, Taylor Teagarden, Barry Zito, Ryan Dempster)

The catcher position has undergone the greatest overhaul in the Rangers system the last couple years. Texas had used premium draft picks on Mike Nickeas and Taylor Teagarden, signed Latin American prospects Cristian Santana, Manuel Pina, and Alberto Martinez, and traded for Billy Killian.

And so when Daniels and Hopkins referred yesterday afternoon to third-rounder Chad Tracy first as a “hitter,” the predraft suggestions in some places that Tracy might end up at a position other than catcher seemed like it might have some legs.

Not the case, said Daniels. At least not yet. While Texas believes Tracy’s bat will play at third base or in the outfield, the club is going to give the Pepperdine product every chance to develop behind the plate.

But while Teagarden, whom the Rangers drafted in the same round a year earlier, was considered a major league-ready defender whose bat would need work, Tracy is just the opposite. The Rangers love his potential at the plate.

A pre-season All-American according to Collegiate Baseball Magazine (first team), the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (second team), and Baseball America (third team), Tracy hit .315 and slugged .496 in 2006, after posting West Coast Conference-leading .367 and .609 percentages in 2005. He has a smooth swing (finishing on an upward plane that reminds scouts of Mike Piazza) and generates plus bat speed, hits to all fields, and is a tough strikeout.

The son of Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy, the 20-year-old predictably gets rave reviews for his baseball IQ, his work ethic, and his character.

On defense, Tracy is said to be a good receiver with solid quickness behind the plate, but his arm strength is a question. Elbow soreness at one stretch this summer caused Tracy to spend some time at DH.

Tracy caught Frisco righthander Kea Kometani while the two were at Pepperdine together. Whether Tracy will remain at catcher long enough to team up with Kometani again is tough to predict, but clearly he’s going to be in shin guards once his pro career kicks off.

Oakland took Dallas high school product Matt Sulentic later in the third round. If this baseball thing doesn’t work out for Sulentic, he can always join the lineage of left-handed-hitting shortstop-outfielder-right-handed-pitchers from Hillcrest High School and start up a Rangers newsletter in 11 years.

4. Marcus Lemon, SS, Eustis High School (Fla.) (Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Wes Littleton, Brandon Boggs, Shane Funk, Ryan Glynn)

Jim Tracy has already managed in the big leagues for more years than he played in the majors. He was an outfielder who played sparingly for the Cubs in 1980 and 1981.

In those two seasons, Chet Lemon was across town, playing center field for the White Sox in the prime years of a big league career that would span from 1975 until 1990.

Their sons were drafted back-to-back by the Rangers on Tuesday.

There are some differences between the two prospects. Marcus Lemon, a shortstop, is considered a tremendous defensive player (Baseball America ranked him as the second-best defensive player at any position among high school draft-eligibles), but while he’s a solid contact hitter, there are questions about his potential to develop power.

But there are similarities as well. Like Chad Tracy, Lemon is said to have off-the-charts makeup and exemplary work ethic. What he lacks in tools he makes up for with an all-out, hard-nosed style of play that the best offensive catalysts in the game boast. His aptitude on the field is matched by his aptitude in the classroom: Lemon graduated high school with a 4.2 grade-point average last month.

Lemon is very young –- he just turned 18 last week — and has an awaiting scholarship at the University of Texas, so he could be a tough sign. Stories out of Florida indicate that Chet was very clear with every team that contacted the Lemon family about what Marcus’s number was. That suggests the Rangers knew going in how much money it would take to sign Lemon, and maybe the absence of a second-round pick was enough for Tom Hicks to authorize Daniels to allocate above-slot money to get Lemon signed.

As a senior at Eustis High, where Chet is the baseball coach, Lemon hit .451 with six home runs and 24 RBI in 31 games, drawing 33 walks while fanning just five times, and stealing 23 bases in 24 tries. While not a burner on the basepaths, Lemon is considered an extremely good baserunner.

The left-handed hitter was the starting shortstop last summer for the USA Junior National squad that competed in the Junior Pan-Am Games in Mexico, hitting .560 and getting on base at a .611 clip in 25 at-bats.

Chet Lemon, Oakland’s first-round choice in 1972, chose to sign a pro deal right out of high school. Texas hopes that his son is similarly inclined.

5. Chris Davis, 1B, Navarro College (Tex.) (C.J. Wilson, Mike Nickeas, Michael Kirkman, Matt Lorenzo, Warren Morris, Ryan Dittfurth)

Davis was the third-to-last pick in the 2004 draft, chosen out of Longview High School by the Yankees in the 50th round. He didn’t sign, enrolling instead at the University of Texas. He then transferred to Navarro College in Corsicana and was drafted in the 35th round by the Angels last summer. Declining to sign, he returned to Navarro but committed to the University of Arkansas (instead of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or Ole Miss) for the 2007 season.

The Rangers would prefer that the next few stops on Davis’s baseball path be Spokane, Clinton, and Bakersfield.

Davis was a two-way star in high school and at Navarro. He was among the nation’s junior college leaders with 17 home runs this year and was also the Bulldogs’ closer.

Davis throws in the low 90s, but the Rangers prefer his potential as a left-handed power hitter. Having played on both infield corners for Navarro, the 6’3”, 210-pounder is apparently going to break in as a first baseman should he sign with the Rangers.

6. Jacob Brigham, RHP, Central Florida Christian Academy (German Duran, Billy Susdorf, John Connally Barnett, Adam Bourassa, Aaron Harang, Danny Kolb)

Interesting pick. Before his senior season, the big high school righthander was on Baseball America’s Third-Team Pre-Season All-America squad, coming off a junior year in which he’d gone 9-2, 0.51 with 141 strikeouts in 68 innings, allowing just 20 hits and 21 walks. But Brigham struggled at the beginning of the 2006 season — BA suggested that “[f]ew players in the high school class took a bigger step back from last fall to this spring” — and he fell from top-three-round consideration.

Brigham’s numbers wouldn’t suggest that he struggled at any point during the season — he went 10-3, 0.75, punching out 146 hitters in 75 frames, scattering 19 hits and walking 32, firing three no-hitters. But he lost a few ticks off what had been a mid-90s fastball, and his control and mechanics were a bit out of whack. When he’s right, he has some bite on his breaking ball and a developing change.

Brigham, whom BA ranked before the 2006 season as the number 20 high school prospect in the country (Kiker was 12th and Lemon was 21st), has committed to the University of Central Florida.

7. Grant Gerrard, OF, Southern Illinois University (Jake Rasner, Ben Harrison, Matt Farnum, Mike Lamb, Patrick Boyd)

One thing you might notice about the list of players that Texas has chosen recently in the seventh round is that, with the exception of Rasner, all were college seniors. The Rangers once again went after a senior with their seventh-round pick yesterday, calling Gerrard’s name.

The left-handed-hitting corner fielder was drafted by Seattle in the 16th round last summer, despite playing in only 27 games as a junior due to a broken wrist. He didn’t sign, returning to the Salukis in 2006 and earning first-team recognition on the All-Missouri Valley Conference Team after hitting .344/.434/.496 with five home runs and 55 RBI in 58 games. He drew 38 walks while fanning 37 times in 224 at-bats, and stole 15 bases in 16 attempts. Scouts think his 6’4” frame and short, quick swing promise additional power.

Gerrard, a Colorado native, played for the University of Washington in 2003 before transferring to SIU.

8. Josh Bradbury, 3B-OF, Orange Coast College (Calif.) (Nick Masset, Jeremy Cleveland, Chris O’Riordan, Mark Roberts, Craig Monroe, Mark Little)

Bradbury was a first-team selection to the All-Orange Empire Conference Team this year, hitting an impressive .364/.443/.662 with a conference-best 12 homers and 35 RBI in 42 games. He’s had labrum surgery in the past, and some scouts have questioned his ability to handle plus velocity.

9. Brennan Garr, RHP, University of Northern Colorado (Jim Fasano, R.J. Anderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Scott Eyre, Andy Pratt)

Garr has starred for Northern Colorado on the mound and at the plate, leading the team in batting average as well as saves in both his sophomore and junior seasons. In his three years with the Bears, he has hit .345/.400/.527 with 30 doubles, 19 homers, and 95 RBI in 490 at-bats, striking out only 43 times. As a pitcher, he has gone 4-4, 5.45 with 12 saves, holding opponents to a .246 batting average and fanning 43 while issuing 27 walks in 34.2 innings.

Though his numbers as a hitter have been more dominant than as a pitcher (and despite the fact that it was his bat that earned him recognition as a first-teamer on the Division I All-Independent Baseball Team), it’s Garr’s 93-mph fastball (which has reportedly touched 100 at least once) that prompted Texas to used its ninth-round pick on him.

After high school, Garr enrolled at Central Arizona Junior College (where Ian Kinsler began his collegiate career) but transferred to Northern Colorado before ever playing in a game.

10. Craig Gentry, OF, University of Arkansas (Nate Gold, Adam Fox, Matt Nevarez, Rusty Greer, Doug Davis, Justin Maxwell)

One of the fastest baseball players in the college ranks, Gentry went undrafted as a junior in 2005 because he needed Tommy John surgery. He returned to Arkansas for his senior season, hitting .326/.429/.494 with 20 walks and 16 strikeouts in 178 at-bats.

Gentry missed some time in the spring with an infected right knee, and stole 16 bases in 22 tries. He’s considered a sensational defender in center field.

11. Craig Crow, RHP, Rice University (Travis Metcalf, Nate Fogle, Justin Echols, Kiki Bengochea, John Dettmer, Tom Sergio)

Crow rebounded from a 2005 season lost to injury by going 8-1, 3.08 for Rice in 2006, permitting 80 hits and 31 walks in 79 innings while fanning 85. He’d gone 16-3 in two seasons at Grayson County College before transferring to Rice.

Crow, who features a decent fastball to go along with a big curve, earned Second-Team All-Conference honors this year.

12. Matthew Jaimes, 3B, Chino High School (Calif.) (Erik Thompson, Andrew Wishy, Kevin Ardoin)

I watched some scouting video on Jaimes and saw him take an inordinate amount of pitches, crushing two others over the fence, one to straightaway left and the other to straightaway right. There’s unquestionably a good amount of raw power there.

A University of Hawaii commit, Jamies hit .500 with 15 home runs this season, and was also 10-1 on the mound.

13. Kevin Angelle, LHP, Bridge City High School (Tex.) (Emerson Frostad, Kyle Rogers, Doug Mathis, Jason Jones, Marc Sagmoen, Cliff Brumbaugh, David Hulse)

Angelle was throwing in the mid-80s as a junior in 2005, but his velocity hopped up to 92 this year and, based on his frame, scouts think there’s more there. He and Highland Park lefthander Clayton Kershaw both committed to Texas A&M originally but neither will go to College Station. Kershaw was drafted seventh overall by the Dodgers and is sure to go pro, while Angelle changed his mind and will attend San Jacinto Junior College if he doesn’t sign with the Rangers.

The 6’3” southpaw, who mixes in a late-breaking curve and a developing change, went 12-1, 1.74 for Bridge City this year, punching out 162 batters in 76.1 innings while walking 36. He also hit .440. He will pitch today in the state Class 3A semifinals.

As a sophomore, Angelle fanned 117 hitters in 59 frames. After pitching for the USA Junior National Team that won the gold medal at the 2004 Junior Olympics, he then struck out 177 hitters in 89 innings as a Bridge City junior.

Connie Angelle, who says Texas was the first of 28 teams to contact her son, admitted to reporters that some teams suggested that his asking price was too high, even if he were to be picked around the fifth round. This one sounds a lot like a probable draft-and-follow situation.

14. Michael Ballard, LHP, University of Virginia (Steve Murphy, Tug Hulett, Brandon Knight)

Ballard went 9-3, 4.09 for Virginia this year, with 69 strikeouts and 25 walks in 92.1 innings. He’d gone 8-3, 3.54 for the Cavaliers in 2005, fanning 53 and walking 19 in 89 frames, and was drafted by Minnesota in the 47th round as a draft-eligible sophomore but didn’t sign.

Ballard missed the 2004 season due to Tommy John surgery, after posting a 2-2, 1.93 record as a freshman in 2003.

Despite having a year of eligibility remaining, Ballard has completed his undergraduate degree and thus is likely to sign.

15. Cody Himes, SS, College of San Mateo (Calif.) (Kea Kometani, Johnny Lujan, Kerry Lacy, Sam Narron)

Himes hit .368/.441/.593 in 182 at-bats for San Mateo, the alma mater of Rangers righthander Scott Feldman, adding 36 stolen bases in 43 games. He was named the Coast Conference Player of the Year and a Community College All-American.

16. Cody Podraza, CF, Tomball High School (Tex.) (Kevin Altman, Jesse Hall, Domingo Valdez)

Standing just 5’8”, Podraza’s primary tool is game-changing speed. The switch-hitter worked out for the Rangers at Ameriquest Field last week.

17. John Maschino, RHP, Seminole State College (Okla.) (Ian Kinsler, Dave Meliah, Reid Ryan, Nic Crosta)

Tampa Bay drafted Maschino in the 36th round last summer but failed to sign him then and then couldn’t come to terms with him last week. His velocity jumped this spring from the upper 80s to the low 90s, with good sink.

At one point, the 6’5” righthander was set to transfer to Oklahoma, but it’s more likely that he’ll remain at Seminole State as a draft-and-follow, giving the Rangers the opportunity to watch his progress in 2007 before deciding whether to try to sign him.

18. Michael Wagner, RHP, Washington State University (Freddie Thon, Cain Byrd, Keith Stamler, Chase Fontaine, Cameron Coughlan)

Wagner went 5-6, 5.67 with one save this season. He allowed 111 hits (.323 opponents’ average) and 23 walks in 85.2 innings while fanning 59. He pitched two seasons for Vanderbilt before transferring to Washington State.

Rounds 19 through 50 will take place today. Expect Texas to add a lot of high school and junior college picks that they’ll be able to monitor for a year as draft-and-follows.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 6, 2006

The due diligence has been done. And there’s no question that the Rangers are as prepared as any organization in baseball. But that doesn’t mean Texas knows this morning whose name it will call when the draft reaches the number 12 slot near lunchtime.

Two things stand out as far as the top of the 2006 draft class is concerned, and they are interrelated: it’s as weak a crop as there’s been since 2000, and there is so much uncertainty in the first round that it’s nearly impossible to know until the draft actually unfolds who the first half a dozen picks will be, much less the 12th.

Over the last few days, the names that have surfaced most frequently in connection with the Rangers’ pick are University of Washington righthander Tim Lincecum, The Woodlands High School righthander Kyle Drabek, Wake Forest infielder Matt Antonelli, Alabama high school lefthander Kasey Kiker, Missouri righthander Max Scherzer, and University of Texas center fielder Drew Stubbs. Not all of them will remain unchosen after the first 11 picks, but most projections suggest most of them will be there at 12.

Every one of them has questions (not that any draft pick is ever free of questions), and the decision you have to make if you are Jon Daniels or part of his crew is how to view what will likely be a $2 million investment: do you take the safest player — because of how expensive he will be to sign, or do you take the player, as risky as he might be, who has the highest ceiling — again, because of how expensive he will be to sign?

Daniels has demonstrated over and over again that he is willing to gamble. The gamble is always educated. Safety is rarely the priority.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis predicts this morning that Lincecum, the small fireballer who many project as a dominating closer but who some insist will be able to start in the big leagues, will be the Texas pick. MLB’s Jonathan Mayo speculates that it will be Drabek, who is the most talented pitcher in the draft by most accounts — and yet every story about him this spring hasn’t gotten to paragraph two without mention of his makeup issues. CNN/SI’s Bryan Smith thinks the Rangers will end up with Scherzer, whose stock has dropped, possibly because of shoulder concerns.

Meanwhile, the Rangers signed another draft-and-follow last night, coming to terms with Mississippi State shortstop Thomas Berkery, their 46th-round draft choice last summer, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. This follows the signing of Yavapai Community College catcher Kevin Gossage, as you know from last night’s news flash. One thing I failed to note last night is that Gossage had the season — and the sensational post-season — that he had in a league that uses wood bats.

Texas was permitted to negotiate with Berkery, who started at second base as a redshirt freshman, third base as a sophomore, catcher and third as a junior, and shortstop this season, because was a fifth-year senior. If the Bulldogs weren’t eliminated from the NCAA Regionals on Sunday, Berkery would have gone back into the draft (Baseball America suggested he could have gone in the top 10 rounds today), as the Rangers could only negotiate with him once his season was over — but wouldn’t have been able to negotiate at all after last night. They had one day to get a deal done, and they did it.

Berkery hit .384/.464/.571 for the Bulldogs this season, winning the Southeastern Conference batting title. Past winners of the SEC hitting crown include Rafael Palmeiro, and Buck Showalter.

As a 46th-round pick, you might choose to dismiss the Berkery signing.

But Jason Botts was a 46th-round draft-and-follow.

And in 2003, the Rangers used their 28th-round choice on Brazoswood High School righthander Brad Lincoln, hoping to sway him from a commitment to the University of Houston.

Lincoln could be the top pick in today’s draft.

So you never know. How baseball players will develop is as hard to predict as in any sport.

The Rangers’ first decision today on who is most likely to develop and meet his expectations has about $2 million riding on it.

Mike Hindman will send a news flash out to the mailing list as soon as the pick has been made, and he’ll follow up with flashes on most if not all of the Rangers’ remaining Day One picks. Stay by the Newberg Report message board all day for draft discussion, and tomorrow morning you’ll get from me what is generally the longest Newberg Report of the year.

I’m pumped.

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

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 3, 2006 ADDENDUM

Bye, Timmy.

Tim_thomas

Oh.  Hey, Timmy.

Duncan6522_1

– Jamey

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