THE NEWBERG REPORT — AUGUST 16, 2006

The best thing about last night’s playoff-intensity game, as far as I’m concerned, was not Michael Young’s greatness or Matt Stairs’s contribution or Victor Rojas’s calls on Young’s and Rod Barajas’s blasts, or the resilience that the club showed.

It was the effort turned in by Josh Rupe and even by Wes Littleton, who gave up a single, double, triple, and RBI groundout after getting four outs against the first three batters he faced.

Rupe was pressed into early action after Vicente Padilla was run in the fourth for drilling Juan Rivera. Inheriting a 6-3 deficit and a runner on first, Rupe retired seven straight Angels — every one of them on a ground ball. He then issued a walk to start the seventh, turning the ball over to Littleton, who promptly induced a 4-6-3 twin-killing and another groundout to end the frame. A comebacker to start the eighth was followed by the Angels rally, which ultimately cost Texas a game, but it isn’t supposed to be as easy at this level as it had been for Littleton the last six weeks. He will grow from this.

As will Rupe. Tremendous effort from a guy who has plus stuff and plus makeup, and who has now made five of his six big league appearances this year — and nine of his 10 career appearances — against American League West clubs. The one truly bad outing of Rupe’s big league career came 10 days ago against the Angels, when he surrendered five runs in an inning and two-thirds. To see him bounce back against that club the way he did last night, in a huge, huge, huge game, was very encouraging.

Meanwhile, since C.J. Wilson returned from the minor leagues on July 18, the lefthander has pitched 10 times, allowing one run (0.87 ERA) on eight hits (.216 opponents’ average) and four walks in 10.2 innings, punching out 10.

At the same time, the Rangers have won two of the last 26 games in which Joaquin Benoit has pitched. That’s not to suggest that Benoit is costing the Rangers that greatly (he’s been credited with just one loss in that stretch), but it’s very much indicative of the level of trust that Buck Showalter has in him. In the two Ranger wins Benoit has pitched in over those 26 appearances, he (1) allowed an inherited runner to score and issued a walk to load the bases on June 18 before getting out of trouble and (2) gave up four eighth-inning runs on Saturday while getting only two outs, turning a 5-0 lead into a 5-4 nail-biter. An overworked pen was the reason in both cases that Benoit was pressed into duty, and in neither case did he make a case for being used in more high-leverage situations.

Benoit, out of options, is teetering on the edge of his Rangers career, while rookies Littleton and Rupe inch closer to making themselves go-to guys, and Wilson continues to solidify his importance.

Scott Feldman is back up, though his stay could be brief. The Rangers placed righthander Kip Wells on the 15-day disabled list yesterday (retroactive to August 12) with a sprained left foot, recalling Feldman from Oklahoma. Wells will miss at least three weeks and possibly the rest of the season, but that means Texas will need another starter, and the most likely scenario is that one will be summoned from AAA on Saturday to make the start in Detroit that night, with Feldman possibly returning to the RedHawks.

Candidates for the Saturday start include John Koronka, who was dominant in his RedHawks start on Friday (two runs on three hits in seven innings, 12 strikeouts and one walk), and Robinson Tejeda, who has gone 3-0, 1.04 in three Oklahoma starts (eight hits and six walks in 17.1 innings, with six walks and an astonishing 26 punchouts) since being activated from the disabled list at the beginning of the month. John Rheinecker has also pitched very well lately (2-1, 0.81 in three August starts, 16 hits and seven walks in 22.1 innings, 16 strikeouts) but he threw 106 pitches last night, making it clear that the Rangers weren’t considering him for Saturday.

Don’t count on John Danks or R.A. Dickey, who are pitching well but aren’t on the 40-man roster. It’s probably more likely at this point that Jon Daniels makes a trade than it is that Danks or Dickey comes up — though with Wells out for a good while, I suppose it wouldn’t be out of the question to go get Danks, who will be added to the 40-man roster anyway in the winter and who wouldn’t be optioned before then.

But with the way Koronka and Tejeda have been throwing lately, a Danks callup has to be considered a major longshot at this point.

Koronka is slated to start for the RedHawks tonight. If he does make the start, certainly it wouldn’t last any more than two or three innings if Texas intends to start him on Saturday. Keep an eye on it.

Danks has a 2.13 ERA over his last three AAA starts (10 hits and two walks in 12.2 innings, 14 strikeouts), but he’s not the hottest of the organization’s top pitching prospects. Eric Hurley, who was in the midst of the worst stretch of his Bakersfield season when Texas promoted him to Frisco three weeks into July, is on fire with the RoughRiders. The righthander, who turns 21 tomorrow, failed to put together a quality start in his final five Blaze efforts, but in five Frisco appearances, he has four quality starts and was three outs short of a fifth. He’s 2-1, 2.32 in AA, scattering 18 hits (.171 opponents’ average) and seven walks in 31 innings, fanning 27.

Kameron Loe has pitched in eight Oklahoma games over the last month (three starts followed by five relief appearances), and he’s been scored on seven times (he also pitched once for Frisco in that stretch, giving up five runs [four earned] in 4.1 frames). Loe’s RedHawks ERA is 8.47 and the Pacific Coast League is hitting .333 off him, with righthanders (.366) having more success than lefties (.294).

Frankie Francisco has pitched twice since his rehab assignment with Spokane kicked off five days ago. He’s permitted one hit in two scoreless innings of work, fanning four and walking none.

If Oakland keeps winning just about every day and continues to lengthen its lead over Texas — the Rangers have gained no ground on the A’s in this stretch of five wins in six games — maybe we’ll see Francisco in September.

Another thought: In the event that Texas does lose significant ground in the next week or 10 days, might we see the Rangers run Carlos Lee through revocable waivers at that point? Two things to keep in mind: (1) revocable waivers are available just once per player beginning August 1, so if the Rangers have already invoked the process with Lee, they can’t do it again (at least not revocably); and (2) let’s say the Angels make the prevailing claim on Lee — forgetting the issue of trading within the division, recognize that (unless the CBA eliminates draft pick compensation this winter, which is possible) Texas wouldn’t deal Lee for anything less than value equivalent to a pair of June draft picks in the top 60 or so, which is what the club would recoup under the current system if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in the off-season. (Though, to complete the analysis, a trade wouldn’t force Texas to fork over $2 million in signing bonuses like the draft picks would.)

For now, though, the Rangers won’t give up on 2006, and they shouldn’t. Cleveland designated righthander Guillermo Mota for assignment a few days ago, and Baltimore righthander LaTroy Hawkins reportedly cleared trade waivers. Those are two potential set-up men for the stretch run, should the Rangers feel they need someone in that role with more experience than Rick Bauer, who has struggled lately.

Washington triggered the trade waivers process on Alfonso Soriano yesterday.

Mark DeRosa was named American League player of the week last week.

Ranger catchers are hitting .285/.321/.476 with 33 doubles, 17 home runs, and 55 RBI, gunning down 38.6 percent of would-be basestealers.

Eric Young is hitless in his first three Oklahoma contests (eight at-bats), walking twice. Randall Simon is 2 for his first 12 RedHawk at-bats.

The Rangers made room for Young and Simon on the AAA squad by releasing outfielder Adrian Brown and placing catcher Tom Gregorio on the disabled list with an ankle injury.

Frisco righthander Jeremy Ward, also sidelined with an ankle injury, was activated. Clinton lefthander Joe Kemp, converted to the mound from the outfield at the end of July, was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury after two mound appearances.

Spokane lefthander Kasey Kiker, the Rangers’ first-round pick in June, is 0-5, 3.57 in 12 appearances (11 starts), but don’t sweat the win-loss record. First, you should never care about a pitcher’s win-loss record in the minor leagues, but more to the point in Kiker’s case, Texas has only allowed him to pitch five innings twice, meaning he wasn’t eligible for a victory in any of his other nine starts.

Kiker is holding the Northwest League — made up mostly of college draftees — to a .214 batting average, and he’s been getting better. In three June appearances, the league hit .308 off the 18-year-old. In six July games, Kiker held the league to a .217 clip. In three August outings, he’s limiting hitters to a .182 average. His walk rates are also diminishing, while his strikeouts continue to mount at the rate of about one per inning.

The surprise of the Rangers’ 2006 draft haul has been lefthander Danny Ray Herrera, the club’s 45th-round pick. A Third-Team All-American from the University of New Mexico (and Odessa Permian before that), Herrera stands just 5’7″, 145 and gets by with an array of off-speed stuff, including a dying-breed screwball change that has been labeled the “waffle.” He has followed his 10-0, 2.24 college season with an even more impressive minor league campaign.

After going 0-1, 2.08 and recording two saves in three appearances in the rookie-level Arizona League (five hits and no walks in 8.2 innings, 11 strikeouts), Herrera was promoted three levels to Bakersfield, where he has been spectacular. In 27.2 innings, he has a 3-0, 0.65 record with one save, allowing 20 hits (.202 opponents’ average) and nine walks, punching out 31. After nine relief appearances, he was elevated into the Blaze rotation, debuting as a starter on Friday and firing six strong innings in which he gave up an unearned run on three hits and a walk, striking out seven.

Righthander Alexi Ogando, converted from the outfield to the mound this summer, is now 4-0, 0.34 with two saves in 13 appearances for the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League club. In 26.2 innings, Ogando has permitted two runs (one earned) on 21 hits (.221 opponents’ average) and just three walks while setting 39 down on strikes.

Righthander Omar Beltre, who like Ogando has been unable to get visa clearance to come stateside this summer, is 2-3, 1.41 with one save in 12 DSL appearances, scattering 40 hits (.170 opponents’ average) and seven walks in 64 frames while fanning 78. Interestingly, Texas moved him out of the rotation after nine starts, making him a reliever in the last week of July, and for some reason he hasn’t pitched at all since July 31.

The independent Fort Worth Cats signed catcher Justin Hatcher days after the Rangers released the TCU product, but days later the Cats released him as well.

Texas signed lefthander Tim Gudex and assigned the 23-year-old to the Arizona League. The former University of Iowa closer doesn’t throw hard but was extraordinarily successful in college, posting a 1.11 ERA for the Hawkeyes in 2005 (beginning the season as Iowa’s number one starter before returning to the bullpen) and a 1.15 ERA for the squad in 2006, when he scattered 19 hits (.144 opponents’ average) and 15 walks in 39 innings while fanning 47. He led the Big Ten in saves with 10, after leading the conference with six in 2005.

There were reports that Gudex, as a fifth-year senior, had signed with the Cubs days before this June’s draft, but he apparently never did come to terms.

Gudex has thrown three scoreless innings thus far for the AZL club, giving up one hit and one walk while setting five hitters down on strikes.

On Sunday, converted shortstop Julio Santana punched out seven AZL hitters in three hitless innings, walking one.

Righthander Bryan Corey, designated for assignment by Boston after just one appearance, cleared waivers and was assigned to AAA Pawtucket.

Cincinnati purchased the contract of lefthander Chris Michalak and plans to start him.

Cleveland traded catcher Einar Diaz, who was hitting .218/.267/.318 in AAA, to the Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash.

Catcher Craig Hurba is second in the independent Northern League with 17 home runs. He’s hitting .291/.353/.557 for the Kansas City T-Bones.

The Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League signed lefthander Nick Bierbrodt. The Windy City Thunderbolts signed lefthander Scott Nicholson, the Rangers’ unsigned 15th-rounder from the 2000 draft.

(Wow. I need a life.)

Two eyebrow-raising non-Ranger notes: Houston got Preston Wilson (.269/.309/.405) through waivers and released him. Tampa Bay released third baseman Sean Burroughs (.214/.268/.252) from its AAA Durham club.

Frisco first baseman Nate Gold and Bakersfield righthander Doug Mathis are the Newberg Report Player and Pitcher of the Month for July. Check Eric Carter’s and Rob Cook’s features on Gold and Mathis on Eleanor Czajka’s Minor Details page.

Thank you for the support you all have shown the Newberg Report through your donations this month.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers

%d bloggers like this: