THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 4, 2006
Eight straight series finale wins, and 10 of 11. Beats me.
If Kevin Millwood can tote that curve out to the hill every time, it won’t matter what ballpark he’s pitching in. His 10 strikeouts yesterday were a season high. Granted, the Indians lead the American League in fanning, but they’re also fourth in walks, and they managed only one free pass (though Travis Hafner was out of the lineup) against their former teammate.
As it stands, Millwood is two wins off the major league lead. Only six American League pitchers have logged more innings. And of those six, only one (Chien-Ming Wang) has allowed fewer home runs. Millwood (14-9, 4.49) isn’t going to show up in any Cy Young vote this year, but as long as he stays healthy, he’s capable of having at least one very big year during the life of this contract.
As a reminder, the fifth year of Millwood’s deal becomes guaranteed if any of the following happen:
• He pitches at least 540 innings in 2007-2009;
• He pitches at least 360 innings in 2008-2009;
• He pitches at least 180 innings in 2009; or
• Texas chooses to keep him for $12 million even if none of the above occur.
As you can see, the 184.1 innings he’s thrown in 2006 don’t factor into the formula, but you can also see that the fifth year is likely to vest if he pitches healthy. He’s on pace to finish at around 215 frames, right in line with his typical workload in injury-free seasons.
Millwood has averaged 6.1 innings per start this year, and if the Rangers are able to continue using him in that manner, part of which depends on bullpen depth and dependability, then the 31-year-old has a chance to do some really good things here. Texas would obviously like to lean on some of that playoff success (3-3, 3.92, 38 strikeouts and six walks in 41.1 innings, .212/.239/.385 opponents’ line) over the next four years.
Michael Young has 181 hits, which puts him on pace to collect 212 for the year. That total would be the third-highest in franchise history, behind his own 2005 and 2004 totals, and it would be his fourth consecutive 200-hit season, a mark of consistency that only Hall of Famers Wade Boggs (seven) and Kirby Puckett (four) and eventual Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki (five, about to be six) have accomplished since 1940.
Young is on pace to finish with eight more doubles, which would give him a franchise-best 54 for the season (Juan Gonzalez has the current record with 50 two-baggers in 1998). Gary Matthews Jr. is on pace for 49, Mark Teixeira is on pace for 46, and Mark DeRosa is on pace for 45.
I’ll be very happy if the Rangers and Young are able to sit down and hammer out a significant contract extension this winter. As it stands now, Young’s contract guarantees him $3.5 million in 2007 and the club has a $4-5 million option in 2008. Rip it up, and make Young a guaranteed Texas Ranger longer than anyone else in the organization. It will draw fans, and maybe it will draw players. And more than anything, Young deserves it.
Chris Young in 2004. Kameron Loe in 2005. Can Robinson Tejeda be this year’s young starter who finishes the season trending up?
Roster expansion is underway. Righthander Scott Feldman was recalled from Oklahoma on Friday, and he’ll have the appeal of his six-game suspension heard on September 15, which ensures that, regardless of the result, he’ll serve the penalty before the season ends, getting it out of the way before 2007.
Lefthander John Rheinecker was recalled from the RedHawks yesterday and catcher Miguel Ojeda was purchased from the same club. Outfielder Brad Wilkerson was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Ojeda.
Righthander Nick Masset is eligible today to be recalled, though reports indicate that he’ll rejoin the Rangers tomorrow. (Oklahoma’s season ends this afternoon.) Having been optioned to AAA on August 25, Masset had to spend the requisite 10 days on the farm before returning. My weekly rules column for MLB.com focuses on the provisions of, and exceptions to, that rule.
Shortstop Joaquin Arias will reportedly be recalled for his first taste of the big leagues as well, which is interesting from the standpoint that Ian Kinsler was not given the same head start last September. One difference is that Arias is on the 40-man roster while Kinsler wasn’t at this time last year, but it’s not a major difference since neither call-up would have burned an option.
Don’t expect to see Arias get much playing time. If he gets significantly more than the two at-bats that Young got in September 2000, I’ll be mildly surprised.
Feldman, Rheinecker, Ojeda, Masset, and Arias makes five. Jon Daniels suggested on the radio pregame show Friday that he expects to expand with five or six players. If there is to be a sixth, the top candidates would seem to be Loe, John Koronka, Jason Botts, Freddy Guzman, Frankie Francisco, and Victor Diaz.
Texas sold journeyman first baseman Randall Simon to Philadelphia. Simon hit .317/.389/.444 in 19 games for Oklahoma.
I can’t find any box scores or overall statistics, but catcher Emerson Frostad keeps showing up in game stories with big hits as Team Canada competes in the Americas Olympic qualifier in Havana, Cuba.
The Rangers will reportedly send a Clinton trio — outfielder John Mayberry Jr., third baseman Johnny Whittleman, and shortstop Jose Vallejo — to the new Hawaiian Fall League, the Class A equivalent to the Arizona Fall League.
Texas named Mayberry (.330/.454/.619, nine doubles, five homers, 20 RBI, 19 walks, 21 strikeouts) and Bakersfield lefthander Danny Ray Herrera (3-1, 1.53, one save, 22 hits [.175 opponents’ average], six walks, and 43 strikeouts in 35.1 innings) its organizational player and pitcher of the month for August.
The Dodgers purchased the contract of AAA catcher Einar Diaz. Milwaukee recalled righthander Dennis Sarfate from AAA Nashville. Washington outrighted righthander Kevin Gryboski to AAA New Orleans.
Go to my MLBlog page to find (on the left side menu) video clips of the last 10 prospect packages I’ve recorded for the Jumbotron at Ameriquest Field.
Oakland has won a silly 28 out of 36 games, and sends Barry Zito, Kirk Saarloos, and Joe Blanton out against Tejeda, Adam Eaton, and Vicente Padilla today, tomorrow night, and Wednesday afternoon. For now, I want to see our guys fired up to slow the A’s down. For next year, I want to see which of those three starters make a case to be back.
I want to see C.J. Wilson and Josh Rupe and Wes Littleton keep doing what they’re doing, and I want to see Masset challenged with a tough spot or two.
I want to see Gerald Laird out there more often than not, and I want to see Nelson Cruz most days, too.
Kinsler is hitting .293, and the kid baseball fan that’s in me and has never left wants to see him get on a tear and finish at .300. He’s on pace to get 77 more at-bats. Hitting .338 in that stretch would do it.
Still plenty to hold my interest.