THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 19, 2006
It obviously doesn’t have the same importance, but this road trip was starting to
feel like October 1996, 1998, and 1999.
The 15-run explosion to kick off the second half in Baltimore was the 6-2 win in
Yankee Stadium on October 1, 1996. The Rangers had won a huge game against Johan
Santana to finish the first half, rested for a few days, and picked things right back
up with the big win against the Orioles and then a hard-fought 2-1 victory after
that, creating a vibe that they might have been poised to go on a pretty good run.
It wasn’t unlike 1996, when the club finished strong, winning six of eight, took a
day off, and then downed the Yankees in New York, 6-2. Texas had stolen the home
field advantage in its first-ever playoff series, and things looked pretty good.
But then a Dean Palmer throwing error set off a chain of events that began with a
12-inning loss in Game Two in 1996, followed by two straight losses to end the
series, a three-game sweep in 1998 in which the Yankees held Texas to a total of one
run, and another disaster in 1999, when the Rangers again managed just one run in a
The final two games in Baltimore this weekend, Monday’s blowout loss in Toronto, and
the first seven innings of last night’s Blue Jays tilt felt like those playoff series
all over again. The lineup wasn’t hitting, the pitching wasn’t sharp, the team was
erratic catching the ball and throwing it and running the bases.
But the distinction between the past six days of baseball and the Rangers’
demoralizing playoff history doesn’t end with the magnitude of the games. An
improbable, out-of-nowhere eighth last night stopped this stunning skid, and Texas
has actually knotted up the series as well as the road trip with what Michael Young
called the “biggest win of the year.” The club has a chance to build on that with
Kevin Millwood on the mound tonight, against rookie Casey Janssen.
The Rangers name starting to pop up more than any other as far as potential July
trades are concerned is Kevin Mench, and it could be that Mench figures in whether
Texas is buying or selling, so to speak. After his unconscious stretch in late
April, his production has dropped off precipitously. In fact, these are his numbers
by month this season (going into last night’s game):
You might think that Mench’s severe down trends have emasculated any trade value he
has, but evidently not, according to media reports. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com notes
that the Yankees scouted Mench over the weekend, and that Pittsburgh, Kansas City,
and the Dodgers have had interest in him in the recent past. Sullivan also suggests
that Washington could kick the Mench tires once they trade Alfonso Soriano (though
the Nationals did just add Austin Kearns) and are intrigued by Joaquin Benoit as
well. Houston has shown interest in Mench in the past, too.
Sullivan identifies Livan Hernandez, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Miguel Batista, and
Matt Clement as potentially available starting pitchers in whom Texas could have an
interest. The Rangers also like groundball machine Jake Westbrook, but Cleveland is
reluctant to move him.
Let’s say that Texas is five games out in 10 days. (Hey, the way I’ve jinxed this
team the last couple weeks every time I get fired up, I don’t mind working a
reverse-jinx here.) If Vicente Padilla really has made it clear that he’ll work in
2007 for whoever offers to pay him the most, and the Rangers aren’t inclined to get
into a bidding war with him, would they make him available in trade? If so, and if
he keeps this current run up (that’s five straight quality starts, and seven of
eight), he might be as valuable as any pitcher on the trade market at the end of the
month. He’s a safer bet than Victor Zambrano was two July’s ago, when Tampa Bay
shipped him to the Mets for Scott Kazmir in a four-player deal.
Don’t get your hopes up. Even if the Rangers fall out of it before the month is up
– which they won’t — there’s not going to be another Kazmir out there for the
And there’s this to consider as well: Padilla could very well be a Type A free agent
this winter. If so, the trade offers would have to be more attractive than two of
the first 60 or so draft picks next June would be — though, of course, those two
picks could cost $2 million to sign.
I’d say the chances that Padilla gets moved are extremely remote.
Whether Mench goes or not, I’m still in the camp that thinks adding a hitter is
probably the way to go right now, considering the Rangers recent struggle to score
runs, the supply of major league arms that could be close to a return to Arlington,
and the relative cost that it would take to add a position player as opposed to a
Another look at the Cincinnati-Washington trade proves the point, on both sides: the
price for a couple decent middle relievers right now is steep, as in Kearns and
Felipe Lopez; the price for a couple young hitters with some upside is more modest,
as in Bill Bray and Gary Majewski. Aubrey Huff for Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist:
same point, basically.
According to a report out of Detroit, Texas is interested in Cubs second baseman Todd
Walker. He’d be a left-handed bat off the bench, or at DH, here. I’d rather have
David Dellucci back.
Texas recalled lefthander C.J. Wilson before yesterday’s game and optioned
righthander Scott Feldman to Oklahoma. Feldman’s ERA had gone from 4.76 in April to
5.40 in May to 6.75 in June, and while it had fallen to 2.84 this month, batters were
hitting .393 off him in July, by far the highest mark of any month in his big league
career. Wes Littleton (4.2 scoreless innings, .133/.235/.133) has been very good
since rejoining the team two weeks ago, and he survived the move while Feldman
returns to AAA.
Wilson’s been on a solid run at Oklahoma lately, throwing six straight scoreless
outings in relief. In seven innings over that span, Wilson has allowed five hits and
two walks while fanning 11. Overall, he’s got a 2.45 ERA as a RedHawk, coaxing 11
groundouts and five flyouts, though right-handed hitters (.321) have given him more
trouble than lefties (.067).
Righthander Frankie Francisco threw from flat ground on Sunday, but the chances of
him helping at the big league level this season are apparently slimming.
The Rangers have promoted Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison to Frisco, after the
third-year pro laid waste to California League pitching for three months. The
24-year-old out of the University of Florida hit .293/.397/.520 for the Blaze,
hitting 18 home runs (third in the league) and 19 doubles and drawing 49 walks (fifth
in the league). His slugging percentage was eighth in the circuit, and his OPS was
Harrison pinch-hit in his AA debut last night, singling the other way in the eighth
inning of Frisco’s 5-4 win over San Antonio. Jake Blalock was cut down trying to
score from second on the play.
To make room for Harrison on the RoughRiders roster, 25-year-old outfielder Jayce
Tingler was released. After hitting .330/.432/.375 for Bakersfield in the first
half, his third straight season in High A, the minor league Rule 5 pick from Toronto
hit just .227/.306/.227 (no extra-base hits) in 97 Frisco at-bats. A phenomenally
disciplined hitter, Tingler drew 177 walks while fanning just 70 times in the Blue
Jays system in 2003-05, and compiled a similar ratio with the Blaze, walking 36 times
with only 16 strikeouts. Texas League pitchers walked Tingler eight times and set
him down on strikes nine times.
This is getting absurd (even if not out of character): Tug Hulett is now hitting
.550/.667/.700 in his first 20 RoughRider at-bats, with seven walks and just three
Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman didn’t homer yesterday.
He didn’t play.
Righthander Armando Galarraga, out since late May, started a rehab assignment on
Monday in Surprise, pitching one inning against the Giants’ Arizona League squad.
Galarraga struck out the leadoff hitter swinging, issued a walk to the next hitter
(who was promptly cut down stealing), and induced a fly to right.
After I discussed Dominican Summer League outfielder-turned-pitcher Alexi Ogando’s
arm strength on Monday, it was reported locally that he’s been clocked several times
recently at 100 miles per hour. Ogando is now up to 9.2 scoreless innings,
scattering eight hits and punching out 14 without issuing any walks.
The results of the study conducted by the Toronto engineering firm RWDI & Co.
regarding the effects of the Gold Club on wind currents at Ameriquest Field were
inconclusive. The Rangers have requested further testing and expect a more
definitive conclusion by season’s end.
San Diego designated righthander Brian Sikorski for assignment and then traded him to
Cleveland for righthander Mike Adams.
Cincinnati released lefthander Mike Venafro.
Lefthander Clint Brannon, whom Texas traded to the Cubs for Jon Leicester this
spring, has retired. He’d undergone rotator cuff surgery since the trade and was
also suffering from back problems.
You can sign an oversized All-Star MVP card congratulating Michael Young at one of
four times and places, starting today: at Shady Oak Barbeque on Copeland Road in
Arlington from lunch through dinner today; at the RaceTrac store on Jupiter Road in
Plano tomorrow from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; at the Starbucks location in Sundance
Square in downtown Fort Worth all day on Friday; or on the concourse of Ameriquest
Field during the Monday, July 24 game against the Yankees. The cards will be
presented to Young during a special ceremony the next night, Tuesday, July 25, prior
to the second game of the Texas-New York series, which stands to be Adam Eaton’s
debut as a Ranger.
Here’s what lies ahead, between now and then:
Millwood vs. Janssen
John Rheinecker vs. Curt Schilling
John Wasdin vs. Mark Buehrle
John Koronka vs. Freddy Garcia
Vicente Padilla vs. Jon Garland
Millwood vs. Randy Johnson
I desperately want to go into next week’s Yankee series not feeling like I did during
the three Yankee playoff series, when I was worried not about the pitching but
instead about the lineup’s ability to pressure New York.
It would be a good thing, in that regard, for the offense to get busy tonight.
Janssen, the only opposing starter in that bunch who hasn’t been an All-Star since
2002, has two quality starts in the last two months. This is no time to allow him a
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