THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 17, 2006

The Rangers bust out for a season-high 15 runs on a season-second-best 19 hits in Baltimore to open the second half on Thursday. The next three games? Against Kris Benson, Erik Bedard, and Rodrigo Lopez, who came into those starts permitting opponents to hit .282 this season, Texas hit .205 with one extra-base hit.

Thanks to Kevin Millwood, the Rangers took one of those three to manage a series split, but Oakland took care of business and now has a one-game division lead over Texas, with the Angels just a half-game behind the Rangers.

The A’s now replace Texas in the visitors’ clubhouse in Baltimore, as the Rangers move into Toronto. The Angels, who have won 11 of 12, host Cleveland for three. After three with the Blue Jays, the Rangers have a Thursday matinee in Boston, followed by three in Chicago and three at home against the Yankees.

There will be five days left before the trade deadline when the New York series concludes. These next 10 games are obviously very big. One way or another, they could be help shape what the short-term and long-term look of this club will be. And yet, there’s a significant chance that Jon Daniels will have a specific Plan A and Plan B in place and yet won’t be able to execute what he wants to because of a grossly undersupplied trade market.

Let’s say Plan A is to be a buyer, which is the most likely scenario for Texas. Do you prioritize the lineup, despite Thursday’s hint of what this offense is theoretically capable of?

Or the rotation, despite Adam Eaton’s progress on rehab (one run on seven hits and one walk in 8.1 innings, seven strikeouts)?

Or the bullpen, which seems pretty stable in the eighth and ninth and has Rick Bauer and Bryan Corey going pretty well, with C.J. Wilson rolling at AAA (six scoreless innings in his last five appearances, five hits, two walks, 10 punchouts), Kameron Loe rounding back into form, Josh Rupe dealing right now, Nick Masset becoming a candidate as he moves into a relief role at Oklahoma, and Frankie Francisco evidently throwing again?

Yes, yes, and yes. All three could stand an impact upgrade.

Me? Give me the hitter first.

A starting pitcher would undoubtedly help — John Rheinecker has held his own but that .333/.376/.465 line is going to catch up with him, John Wasdin should probably be the long man, and Eaton can only replace one of them — but given the supply shortage, it’s going to cost something crazy to get a pitcher dependable enough to help you get to October and then fit in a playoff rotation.

A reliever makes sense, but there aren’t going to be many key bullpen guys available. Looking at in another way, maybe the possibility exists to go get a Joe Borowski/Jeremy Affeldt (.184/.289/.250 as a reliever)/Mike MacDougal type without such a high cost in prospects that it would prevent making a larger deal for a run producer.

If there’s a way to improve a corner outfield spot with a big bat, that’s what I’d make my primary objective. Seeing what the returns for Aubrey Huff and Austin Kearns were last week gives me hope that it wouldn’t come at a stupid cost. The thing to realize is that, given the state of the Rangers farm system on the position player side of the ledger, Texas will almost certainly have to part with young pitching to get an impact hitter.

Texas hasn’t scored an earned run in its last 23 innings. In the last 14 seasons, the Rangers offense has had only one longer such streak (25 innings on September 1-4, 2004).

Eaton will start Thursday afternoon for Oklahoma and then, assuming no setbacks, the righthander will make his Rangers debut on July 25 against the Yankees. He’ll be limited to six innings that night, unless he reaches 90 pitches before that.

Texas received cash considerations from Milwaukee, in lieu of a player to be named later, to complete the May 13 trade that sent lefthander Brian Shouse to the Brewers for minor league infielder Enrique Cruz.

Frisco first baseman Nate Gold is fourth in the Texas League with 17 home runs. He’s fifth in slugging (.542) and seventh in OPS (.912). He’s gotten better every month of the season.

So has his Gonzaga teammate Kevin Richardson, who has settled in as the RoughRiders’ primary catcher and is hitting a silly .321/.548/.857 in July. Richardson, who racked up 21 strikeouts and just two walks in May, has more walks (14) than strikeouts (11) this month.

Oklahoma’s Robinson Tejeda (ankle), Nick Trzesniak (groin), and Jace Brewer (finger), Frisco’s Ryan Jensen, and Bakersfield’s John Bannister have landed on the disabled list. RedHawks Kelvin Jimenez and Adrian Brown were activated, as were Clinton’s Josh Giles and J.C. Garcia.

Adam Morrissey moves up from Frisco to Oklahoma. Tug Hulett and Lou Pote head to Frisco from Bakersfield. Wandy Morla and Johnny Washington depart Spokane for Bakersfield. Julio Santana, Brian Nelson, Joey Hooft, and Joe Napoli head from the Arizona League to Spokane, the latter two on rehab assignments.

Sure wish righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando weren’t quarantined in the Dominican with visa issues. The 24-year-old Beltre has a microscopic 0.90 ERA in six DSL starts, permitting only 24 hits and five walks in 40 innings while punching out 45. The 22-year-old Ogando, obtained from Oakland in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December and converted from outfielder to pitcher, has pitched out of the bullpen five times, throwing 7.2 scoreless frames, striking out 10 while scattering six hits and not walking anyone. Considering he was advertised to have one of the strongest right field arms around while developing in the A’s system, you can safely guess that he lights up the radar gun off the mound.

According to a Baseball America story, the Rangers have signed more players from Latin America — 18 — than any other organization this summer.

The Newberg Report Player and Pitcher of the Month for June were Oklahoma righthander Edinson Volquez and Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison. Check EMC’s Minor Details page for Rob Cook and Eric Carter’s features.

San Diego activated righthander Doug Brocail, who had angioplasties in March and April. Amazing.

Minnesota signed Erubiel Durazo to a contract with AAA Rochester.

Washington purchased the contract of righthander Kevin Gryboski.

Tampa Bay released Jason Romano from AAA Durham.

Oakland will give righthander Jason Windsor his debut against the Orioles tonight. The Rangers drafted him in the 43rd round in 2001 out of West Valley Junior College, but didn’t sign him. Windsor went on to Cal State Fullerton and was Oakland’s third-round pick in 2004, when he was MVP of the College World Series.

Hopefully the Orioles give Windsor and the A’s as much trouble as they gave Texas this weekend.

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

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