September 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 16, 2006

The Rangers’ last seven starts:

PITCHER                IP    H    R    ER    BB    K
Kevin Millwood      6.0   4    3     3      1     7
Robinson Tejeda    6.2   4    2     1      2     7
Adam Eaton           6.0   8    2     2      0    5
Vicente Padilla       7.0   5    2     2     1     3
Kevin Millwood      7.0   7    3     3      2     6
Edinson Volquez     5.0   6    2     2      0     2
Robinson Tejeda    7.0   5    0     0      2     4

Tejeda, in his last six starts, has an ERA of 1.91. It’s 0.44 in his last three.

Jon Daniels said he has “no plans to change managers” for the 2007 season. Parse.

At the end of day, says Tom Hicks, as for whether Buck Showalter is back in 2007, it’s going to depend on Daniels’s recommendation.

It’s official: Gerry Fraley took a buyout from the Dallas Morning News. I wasn’t reading his material nearly as often as I used to, but he said something in an online chat last week that was probably as meaningful to me as anything he’s written: “[Mark] Teixeira wants to win as much as any player I have ever been around.”

There’s a faction of you who probably read that and decided that’s exactly why Teixeira will leave for a perennial contender when he can be a free agent after the 2008 season. There’s another group that, I’m guessing, considered it yet another reason that the Rangers, when that time comes, will do whatever it takes to keep Teixeira here.

I don’t know what Teixeira’s plans are, and I don’t know what the Rangers’ plans are. But I know this: I want him to be a Texas Ranger for life.

It’s going to be painful if I ever have to see Teixeira or Michael Young wearing another team’s uniform. Worse than Pudge. For several reasons.

By the way, that note I had last week about Don Mattingly being not only Young’s favorite player growing up, but also Buck Showalter’s favorite player ever? Mattingly was also the favorite player of a young Teixeira, who grew up in Baltimore as an Orioles fan in the heyday of Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray but wears number 23 to honor Mattingly.

Teixeira has a share of the fifth-highest home run total in baseball history (134) for a player in his first four big league seasons. He leads the American League in home runs since the All-Star Break this year and is tied for the league lead in walks in that span.

It’s been a breakthrough year full of storybook moments for Gary Matthews Jr., but let’s be honest: which was a better game, Matthews’s natural cycle on Wednesday, or Gerald Laird’s two-homer, two-double effort against Mark Buehrle and the White Sox on June 4? You’ll remember the Matthews cycle years from now. Did you even remember Laird’s day, just three and a half months later?

Detroit claimed Matt Stairs off waivers from Texas. Classy move on the Rangers’ part, giving Stairs (whom they acquired in July for reliever Joselo Diaz) an opportunity to help the Tigers in their attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1987 (two years before the 38-year-old started his pro career). The Rangers couldn’t trade Stairs because he’d already been placed on trade waivers and claimed in August.

Apparently, there’s talk that Jason Botts could rejoin the team at some point in the next couple weeks as a result of Stairs’s departure. I’d like to see that. I’d like to see that very much.

Francisco Cordero has given up just one run in 19.2 innings since joining Milwaukee. And 11 hits.

Righthander Nick Masset is expected to pitch in the Mexican League this winter for Mazatlan, whose catcher will be Miguel Ojeda.

Texas has promoted Midwest area scout Mike Grouse to Central Crosschecker, a position that had been held by Dave Klipstein. Grouse is responsible for the Rangers’ draft selections of Travis Hafner, Ian Kinsler, Travis Hughes, Kea Kometani, Steve Murphy, Travis Metcalf, and Doug Mathis, among many others.

Michael Young, sitting three hits short of a fourth straight 200-hit season, is a lifetime .353/.411/.569 hitter against tonight’s Angels starter John Lackey.

I’m going.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 14, 2006

We witnessed Rangers history last night, a stunning, nearly impossible achievement that defied baseball odds.

We’ll all remember where we were when we saw Joaquin Arias draw a walk in his first big league plate appearance.

Sure, the Gary Matthews Jr. natural cycle — only the 13th in major league history and the first since Brad Wilkerson turned the trick for Montreal in 2003 — was pretty spectacular. But the probability of that feat couldn’t have been much smaller than Arias, who has drawn exactly 100 unintentional walks in five pro seasons, coaxing number 101 the first time he stepped up to the plate in the bigs.

Seriously, what a game for Matthews, and what an incredible year. He’s more important to keep in Texas than Carlos Lee. The Rangers may very well make an effort to keep both, but if you have to choose one, considering the dollars it will take, the years it will take, the positions they play, and how well they defend, give me Matthews.

Each is playing for his first opportunity to shop himself on the open market (unless you count the years that Matthews was hunting for non-roster invites), but I have no concerns about contract year syndrome with Matthews. Whether he’ll be the same center fielder at age 34 and 35 as he is now? Sure, that’s something to think about. But I don’t worry about him losing any intensity or appetite (sincerity, I think the manager calls it) just because he has financial and professional security.

And on that age thing? He’s certainly playable on an outfield corner if he loses a couple steps, which should also alleviate your concerns if you think locking Matthews up would mean we’d automatically be out of next winter’s market for Vernon Wells.

How great would it be to have three center field-capable defenders roaming the outfield here? I crave the thought of Wells, Matthews, and Nelson Cruz turning doubles into outs. Crave it.

I wonder if there’s ever been a faster cycle in baseball history. Matthews completed the feat with no outs in the sixth.

Even in a two-game series, the streak rolls on: That’s 12 of the last 14 series in which Texas has lost the opener and won the finale. Weird.

Listen, I want to apologize for something. For the report I wrote on Friday.

To those who thought I came on too strong in that report: Sorry.

To those who thought I didn’t come on strong enough: My bad.

To those who misinterpreted parts of it, that’s all on me. My fault for not being more clear.

It wasn’t driven by any agenda. It was a report I didn’t want to write in the first place because, as a fan, I was cheesed off that the top story when it came to the Rangers was not Michael Young’s steadiness or Mark Teixeira’s sensational second half or Mark DeRosa or Matthews coming into their own, but instead, for the third summer in a row, an off-the-field situation. The only thing calculated about what I wrote was an effort to express how frustrating it was to be talking about comments rather than results.

I’ll be at several games during this final homestand of the season, enjoying the Great Game and starting to miss it in a way, like those last couple weeks of summer vacation when we were in grade school.

I’d like to be there when Young gets his 200th hit of the season, but if not I know I’ll be there when he’s past it. I’d like to see Teixeira turn another pitch or two around and get to those 30-homer, 100-RBI marks that seemed unreachable at the Break. It’s good knowing that, as long as the Rangers don’t decide otherwise, Young and Teixeira will be around at least two more years (and hopefully many, many more). Kevin Millwood and Akinori Otsuka and Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird are sure to be around longer than that.

Will Matthews? DeRosa? Lee? Adam Eaton or Vicente Padilla?

What a huge winter for Jon Daniels. Can’t wait to see what steps he takes to make this club better. Might as well heat the burners up now.

Those are the things that I want to read about, and write about. Young and Teixeira. Kinsler and Laird. Josh Rupe and C.J. Wilson, Cruz and John Danks. Eric Hurley and John Mayberry Jr., Chris Davis and Alexi Ogando, Kasey Kiker and Fabio Castillo and Joaquin Arias’s first big league plate appearance. Not mental toughness.

Nobody asked me to apologize for what I wrote on Friday, or to write about it again. Maybe that would have been a good thing for me to have thought about in the first place. Venting can be therapeutic, but it usually doesn’t do any good when it’s dumped on others.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 13, 2006

Eric Hurley was a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school, thought to be a possible top 10 pick in the 2004 draft. Texas, who used the 10th pick in that draft on Thomas Diamond, was thrilled when Hurley fell to the final spot of the first round, where the club grabbed him with a choice it had received as compensation for Atlanta’s winter signing of free agent righthander John Thomson.

Nate Gold was eligible to be drafted out of high school in 1998, out of Treasure Valley Community College in 1999 and in 2000, and out of Gonzaga University as a junior in 2001. He wasn’t drafted in any of those four years. He then led the NCAA in home runs as a senior in 2002, was chosen to compete in the Home Run Challenge at the College World Series, and yet wasn’t drafted until the Rangers used the 292nd pick on him (10th round) that June.

Hurley and Gold come from completely different backgrounds, but they’ll share the stage this off-season as they accept the Rangers’ 2006 Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year and 2006 Tom Grieve Player of the Year awards from the organization.

When the 2006 season began, Hurley was not considered to be on the level of the “DVD” triumvirate of Texas pitching prospects, but he wasn’t far from it. Baseball America ranked Edinson Volquez, John Danks, and Thomas Diamond as the Rangers’ top three prospects, with Hurley number five (behind Joaquin Arias and ahead of Ian Kinsler). I ranked Hurley behind the trio, but I had him sixth overall, putting Kinsler at number five.

John Sickels (“The Baseball Prospect Book”) was the one writer who had Hurley as the Rangers’ top pitching prospect coming into the 2006 season, ranking him as the 27th best pitching prospect in baseball (ahead of not only Volquez, Danks, and Diamond, but also pitchers like Homer Bailey, Matt Garza, Bobby Jenks, Chris Ray, and Cole Hamels).

Was Sickels onto something? Maybe. Chances are Hurley will be the fourth of the four pitchers to reach the big leagues, but his 2006 undoubtedly served to put him on the same plane as the other three as far as his ceiling is concerned.

Pitching at age 20 in the California League, Hurley’s season got off to a fantastic start. After a mediocre Bakersfield debut, the righty reeled off six straight starts in which he allowed three earned runs or fewer, culminating in a May 15 start in which he struck out 15 High Desert hitters without a walk, permitting one run on four hits in eight frames.

A sprained wrist late in the month stamped out any talk of a quick promotion to AA, and after Hurley made four solid starts on his return to action (2-1, 1.90), including a June 15 effort in which he took a no-hitter into the eighth, he struggled in his next five starts (0-3, 9.53), with an appearance in the Futures Game mixed in.

But despite the slump, Texas decided Hurley was ready for AA competition and promoted him in mid-July to Frisco. He made the curiously timed move look genius.

After having failed to throw a quality start in those final five Blaze appearances, Hurley pitched six times in AA, falling three outs short of firing a quality start in every one of them. He went 3-1, 1.95 for the RoughRiders, holding the Texas League to a skimpy .168 batting average (including .133 with runners on base and .122 by righthanders) and setting 31 down on strikes while walking only 11 in 37 frames.

Hurley turned 21 on August 17, making his final start of the season two days later, resting the final two and a half weeks due to a strained oblique muscle. The injury was not considered significant, but with 137.1 innings already under his belt, Hurley had shown the Rangers more than enough in a league in which he was among the youngest players.

The 6’4″ horse commands a mid-90s fastball that’s more refined than his slider or change, and so there’s work to be done as his maturation into a candidate for big league starts continues. But considering the progress he made in 2006, there will be plenty of anticipation in the spring to see if he can take the next step, just as Danks did this year. Hurley is a year behind Danks professionally, and developmentally, too.

Hurley won’t be added to the 40-man roster this winter, because he’s still a year away from being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Whether Gold is added to the roster is no certainty, either.

There’s no question that Gold had a monster season, and that there is exactly one first baseman on the 40-man roster (unless you count Jason Botts, who hasn’t played there since April). But Gold is 26 years old — the same age as Mark Teixeira and Botts — and he’s essentially had about a year and a half at every level in the minor leagues, without reaching AAA yet.

That isn’t to say Gold doesn’t have a chance to hit in the big leagues, but it could mean he’s a player that the Rangers might leave off the roster (as they’ve done the last two winters) and feel relatively safe that they won’t lose him in the Rule 5 Draft — at least not for good.

Or they may look at the freaky .292/.376/.582 season Gold put up, the 34 homers (second in minor league baseball this year) and 103 RBI and 27 doubles and tolerable 85 strikeouts, and decide he’s worth protecting.

After hitting a homerless .228/.274/.266 in 79 Frisco at-bats at the end of the season last year, Gold returned to the RoughRiders to start the 2006 season. His monthly average went up through July (.250, .295, .298, .325), and in that fourth month he hit a dozen bombs and drove in 32 runs in 28 games, with an OPS of 1.094.

For the year, Gold was second in the Texas League in slugging and OPS (trailing only baseball’s best prospect, Royals 3B Alex Gordon, in both categories), and in RBI.

There’s little question that Gold will man first base in Oklahoma City when the 2007 season begins. The only other possibility would seem to be if some team thinks he has a chance to hit like Jay Gibbons or Chris Shelton (Dan Uggla isn’t a good comparison because he’s an adequate defender in the middle infield, while Gold is strictly a first baseman or DH if he makes it), in which case he’ll be a big leaguer right away.

But the far more likely scenario is that Gold, 26, will be challenged in 2007 to produce the way he did in 2006, and the same goes for Hurley, 21. If they both do that, there’s a chance that at this time next year, we’re talking about both making their big league debuts as the 2007 regular season draws to a close.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 10, 2006

I don’t how much better Robinson Tejeda and Colt McCoy are going to get — they’re both pretty impressive right now — but if nothing else, I bet they’ll eventually make fewer bad decisions.

Love a low-scoring baseball game like that. (A really crummy 13th notwithstanding.)

There’s nothing more frustrating to me about this team that the inability of several relievers to throw strike one.

Tejeda is 3-0, 2.35 in his five starts since rejoining the big club in mid-August, with four of them qualifying as quality starts.

Something to chew on:

Michael Young wasn’t a Yankees fan growing up — the Mets were his team — but his favorite ballplayer was Don Mattingly.

There’s no player I’ve ever heard Buck Showalter speak more highly of than Mattingly, his Nashville Sounds teammate in 1981 and the first baseman on all four Yankees teams he managed. Mattingly remains the only captain Showalter had on any of his 11 big league clubs (unless you count the three winter weeks when Alex Rodriguez had the title before Texas traded him in February 2004).

Mattingly, as far as I’m concerned, is the paradigm for the quiet leader. And Young reminds me of him.

No matter what you’ve read, I’d find it hard to believe that there’s really anyone in the Rangers organization who questions whether Young is the leader of this team.

Great to see Frankie Francisco back.

Righthander Scott Feldman began his six-game suspension on Friday, forgoing his appeal.

No Rangers farm club reached the playoffs.

Oklahoma shortstop Joaquin Arias had hits in seven straight at-bats before grounding into a force out in his final minor league at-bat of the season on Monday. He has yet to make his big league debut since joining Texas on Tuesday.

RedHawks outfielder-first baseman Jason Botts will play in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Frisco first baseman Nate Gold’s 34 home runs were the second-most in the minor leagues this year, trailing only 30-year-old journeyman Kevin Witt, who knocked 36 out for AAA Durham before Tampa Bay called him up the last week of August.

Bakersfield catcher Emerson Frostad is hitting .421/.500/.737 in 19 at-bats for Team Canada in the America’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Havana, Cuba. He shares the club lead with two homers. The former third baseman hit .320/.389/.553 in 291 Blaze at-bats this season, his first behind the plate as a pro.

According to Baseball America, the Rangers paid the highest bonuses from this year’s draft in the fourth round ($1 million to shortstop Marcus Lemon) and the sixth round ($200,000 to righthander Jake Brigham).

The lowest on-base percentage of any National Leaguer with at least 100 at-bats is Kevin Mench, who has a .241 mark in 102 at-bats as a Brewer.

Laynce Nix will have season-ending surgery to address a combination of a bone spur, turf toe, and a bunion, all on his left big toe. I still think he’s going to have a solid career, but he’s got to get healthy first.

Righthander Joselo Diaz made his big league debut on Wednesday, pitching in relief for Kansas City and surrendering three runs on three hits and two walks in an inning of work, fanning one.

Colorado purchased the contract of 33-year-old lefthander Mike Venafro, who earned a win last night with a scoreless two-thirds, his first big league action since 2004.

Former Rangers farmhand Joel Kirsten fired a no-hitter for the Fort Worth Cats on August 21, walking one, drilling another, and punching out 11 El Paso Diablos.

This weekend’s “Going Deep” column is our monthly Q&A on baseball’s procedural rules. It will be posted on TexasRangers.com by tomorrow morning.

Thank you to Mike Hindman for another outstanding year covering the Rangers farm system better than anyone covers any farm system, anywhere in the country.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 8, 2006

It’s frustrating. The Rangers, despite failing to keep up with Oakland in August and all but falling out of the race, haven’t quit, playing .600 ball over the last month. But suddenly that’s not the story.

I’m sure Tom Hicks was frustrated like we all were by the way the club dropped three of four in Tampa after taking three of four in Detroit, and I’m sure he didn’t mean for his words to come across the way they did on Norm Hitzges’s show on Tuesday, and especially the way they were evidently conveyed by the press to the players to elicit a reaction. I believe him when he said afterwards that he considers Michael Young “the heart and soul” of the team and hopes he’ll be a Ranger for life. I’m sure it wasn’t Young he meant to call out when he said the team needs to be mentally tougher — not the best choice of words regardless of who he had in mind — and I’m going to chalk it up to frustration.

I’m sure Michael Young is frustrated, because Michael Young will never be satisfied with anything less than a World Series title. Love that about him. He’s a leader, by any definition. (And there’s no definition of leadership that I know of that measures it in decibels.)

(Unless there’s one that says Rusty Greer and Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly and Troy Aikman and Wayne Gretzky weren’t leaders.)

If there’s one player — anywhere in the league — or one manager who questions Michael Young’s leadership, or toughness, I’d like to know who it is.

I’m sure the reporter who wrote the story that got all this rolling is frustrated that his editors have moved his game stories to page 12 and decimated his space to the point where the game story and the daily notes now get crunched together under one headline. Maybe there was more context to the story that just never got into the paper. Maybe not.

I’m sure Jon Daniels is frustrated that he had to confront the issue at all. But as he always does, he handled it perfectly.

(Another quiet leader.)

You have no idea how much I’d rather be writing about Frankie Francisco or John Mayberry Jr. or Mark Teixeira and the Roberto Clemente Award than about this.

Michael said it best, reacting to the comments that have regrettably triggered stories locally and nationally, in print and online and on the air: “I’m not interested in making side notes the focus of the rest of our season.”

There he goes again. Leading by example.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 6, 2006

The A’s had won 10 of their last 11 series coming into this three-game set, tying the other one. This series loss to Texas is Oakland’s first since July 24-26. The Rangers go for the sweep this afternoon, which comes too late to mean a whole lot but would feel **** good.

Mark Teixeira already has a career high in a walks with 82 (in fact, he exceeded his previous best on August 16, when the season was three-fourths complete — think about that), good for sixth in the American League. His next double will equal his career high of 41. He leads the Rangers with a .374 on-base percentage. His home runs are down due to an uncharacteristic first half, but look at what he’s done in the second half. He’s one homer and one walk short of the league lead in those categories. It’s not hard to imagine that Teixeira is going to have a huge 2007.

While Teixeira leads Texas in reaching base, Gerald Laird has the club’s highest batting average (.337) and highest slugging percentage (.558). On top of that, plenty of catchers don’t throw as well as Laird does, and almost none run as well or bunt as well.

Michael Young plays every game like it’s Opening Day, or October 10th. Vocal or not, he’s a pure leader, and tough as ****.

Adam Eaton was dangerously close to recording his first no-decision of the season last night. For the most part, he’s been really bad or really good every time out. In Eaton’s five wins, he has an ERA of 2.73 (it was 1.88 before last night) and an opponents’ batting average of .202. In his four losses, he has an ERA of 10.22 and an opponents’ batting average of .370.

Robinson Tejeda has three Quality Starts in his last four outings, including at Detroit and at Oakland. In his three worst outings this year (five runs or more), he has 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings (and a .426 opponents’ average, with four home runs in 9.1 frames). In his five really good ones (two runs or less), it’s 3.8 strikeouts per nine (and a .226 opponents’ average, with two home runs in 31 frames). Trust the stuff.

I like Nick Swisher almost as much as I hate him.

Only three pitchers in the American League have more Quality Starts than Kevin Millwood’s and Vicente Padilla’s 18.

Padilla goes for number 19 this afternoon, not to mention win number 14, which would equal Millwood’s team lead and draw to within three of the league lead.

I refuse to jinx today’s outcome by referring to the Rangers’ series finale streak.

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

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.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 1, 2006

I want to expand on one point from yesterday’s report, by sharing a variation of a few emails and message board posts I made in response to the two percent of you (among those I heard from) who were outraged by what I wrote.

Five seasons ago I called for Johnny Oates to be let go. I thought the team needed a new leader. And then three weeks ago I heard Dave Valle tell a story from the 1996 season that may be the greatest Rangers story I’ve ever heard. It gave me a different understanding, and appreciation, of Oates, even though it was a 10-year-old story, and five years after his last game as Rangers manager.

Hearing Valle’s story is what made me start thinking about Buck Showalter’s term in Texas. I thought about Oates asking Valle, who’d requested permission to hold a team meeting, when he and his coaching staff should leave the locker room, and about Valle telling him that he and the coaches needed to be there. I thought about Valle getting in the face of every man in the room — starting with Oates — and challenging each of them: “Are you willing to do what it takes to win?” I thought about Oates responding to the player who was basically his 25th man: “Yes, sir.”

I thought about Oates and his philosophy that sometimes you just have to “try easier.”

I thought about all of that and tried to imagine a similar scene in this team’s clubhouse. I can’t envision Showalter doing what his mentor Oates did, and I can’t envision any player doing what Valle did.

But I also thought about the fact that I didn’t know that full story when it happened 10 years ago. And that’s basically what I meant when I said, in as many ways as I knew how yesterday, that I don’t know what goes on before the game and after it, and so for me to suggest I have all the answers as to whether a manager should stay or go would be crazy, and arrogant. While Oates was still here, I’m not sure I could have envisioned him doing what he did that day. I know now that I didn’t really know then what he was like with his team. And I don’t really know what Showalter is like with his.

I can argue that Fabio Castro should still be here. Or that Rusty Greer should have switched to a lighter bat in May rather than August. Or that C.J. Wilson had something, even when his numbers, for a while, might have suggested otherwise. That’s because I can see all those things and judge them (whether I’m really qualified to or not) with my own eyes.

But I think a manager’s greatest value to his team occurs exactly when none of us can see it. His effect on 25 guys before the game and after the game, to me, is more critical over the long haul of a baseball season than the pitching changes or the hit-and-run calls. I’d submit that there are at least 1,000 times more men qualified to manage a baseball game than there are qualified to manage a baseball team, at least one made up of players who average $2-3 million salaries.

To reiterate: I don’t have a clue what goes on before the game and after it. Beat writers have daily insight into the temperature of a team but even they are ushered out 45 minutes before gametime, and kept out the first 10 minutes after the final out. Columnists have access to the room, and it’s up to them whether they make use of it. But I can only offer guesses as to what goes on (which is not a complaint: I’m just a fan). And that’s what I tried to make clear in yesterday’s report. It’s one big guess.

Texas traded Frisco catcher Mike Nickeas to the Mets for AAA outfielder Victor Diaz on Wednesday. It’s easy to see why each team made the deal.

In the last couple years, the Rangers have spent third-round picks on Taylor Teagarden and Chad Tracy. They invested a reported $325,000 to sign 16-year Dominican catcher Cristian Santana. Emerson Frostad has emerged and Kevin Richardson looks ready for AAA. The added depth that Texas has built behind the plate has — predictably — created an opportunity to address another weakness.

Drafted in the fifth round in 2004, Nickeas had a strong rookie season (.288/.384/.494 with 10 homers and 55 RBI in 62 games for Spokane), prompting Texas to aggressively promote the defensively advanced backstop all the way to Frisco in 2005. He struggled at the plate, hitting .202/.263/.302 and losing six weeks to a broken finger. Demoted to Bakersfield to begin the 2006 season, Nickeas hit a punchless .297/.395/.359 over seven weeks and, after a promotion back to Frisco, he hit .248/.382/.363 in 39 games. Richardson was getting the bulk of the time behind the plate for the RoughRiders.

Diaz is an interesting case. Although they’re very different players, he and Laynce Nix have had sort of similar paths. Both were drafted in 2000 — Diaz out of Grayson Community College in Denison — and both were in the big leagues by age 22. Diaz was traded by the Dodgers to the Mets in July of 2003 (along with Kole Strayhorn and recent Rangers farmhand Joselo Diaz) for Jeromy Burnitz, and he proceeded to hit .354/.382/.520 for AA Binghamton, the third time in five minor league stops that he hit .350.

Going into the 2004 season, Diaz had 33 home runs in 1187 pro at-bats. But in that 2004 season, his first in AAA, he blasted 24 bombs in 528 at-bats, hitting .292/.332/.491 and earning a September look with the Mets, clearing the fence three more times in 15 games. Like Nix’s 2003 time in the big leagues, Diaz’s 2004 debut had New York thinking he was on his way to becoming a fixture.

But given an opportunity the following year, Diaz (like Nix) didn’t progress like the club had hoped, hitting .257/.329/.468 with 12 homers in 280 at-bats and spending a couple months back in AAA. He actually began the season by setting a Mets rookie record for RBI (10) and runs scored (16) in a month, but by mid-May he was back in Norfolk. He had an excellent season for the Tides, hitting .300/.353/.541 with 10 homers and 34 RBI in just 42 games, but he came into the 2006 season fighting not for a regular role but a spot on the Mets bench. He made the team out of camp but went just 2 for 10 over the season’s first two weeks before being optioned once again to Norfolk. He came back up for three days at the end of April, getting one more at-bat before returning to the Tides for what would be the rest of the season, until Wednesday’s trade.

An aggressive hitter, Diaz has had his worst pro season to date, hitting .224/.276/.330 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 103 AAA games. Having hit below .200 in three of five months, and with Lastings Milledge securely ahead of him on the depth chart, Diaz was designated for assignment by New York on August 22, to make room on the 40-man roster for newly acquired outfielder Shawn Green. The move gave the Mets 10 days to find a trade partner or try to run Diaz through waivers, and eight days in they moved him to Texas for Nickeas.

Diaz has earned the nickname “Mini-Manny,” partly due to his legitimate power but also because of his body type and his defensive abilities: he’s a guy who was drafted as a second baseman, broke in at second, third, and first, eventually migrated to the outfield corners, and by all indications is probably best suited at this point to DH.

I’ve seen very little of Diaz myself, but from what I’ve read, he sounds like a talented hitter who needed a change in scenery if not a change in attitude. Maybe a trade (especially to an American League team) will help kick him into gear.

This is an example of two teams, while not expecting a guaranteed payoff, making a deal to help balance things developmentally. From the Rangers’ standpoint, Diaz is a 24-year-old with parts of three years in the big leagues, while Nickeas — who is just 14 months younger — had become a backup AA catcher.

Don’t put huge expectations on this deal, but it’s one that could end up working out a little bit.

The Rangers assigned Diaz to Oklahoma, and early indications are that he probably won’t come up to Texas this month even though he’s on the 40-man roster. The plan is to send him to instructs and then winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Nickeas moves on to AA Binghamton.

Texas slid outfielder Adam Hyzdu off the 40 to make room for Diaz, and outrighted him to Oklahoma.

Mark Teixeira has played 47 games since the All-Star Break. In that span he has 15 home runs and 34 RBI (which extrapolates to 52 bombs and 117 RBI over a full season), hitting .292/.416/.601 and amassing more walks (36) than strikeouts (35).

Teixeira has 12 lifetime plate appearances against Baltimore lefty Bruce Chen. He has six home runs, a double, and a walk, giving him a slugging percentage of 2.364. It’s the all-time “Loves to Face.”

Not sure which fired me up more — Teixeira beating out the right-side hopper to the pitcher last night or Gerald Laird’s bunt hit (after homering earlier in the game) the night before.

If the Rangers were in the National League, they’d be in a virtual tie with (though a fraction of a percentage point behind) San Diego for the league’s Wild Card spot. Crazy.

Righthander Kip Wells is having season-ending surgery to repair a ligament in his left foot today.

Pitchers Nick Masset, John Koronka, and Kameron Loe are among those being considered for September roster expansion. The Rangers plan to activate at least one pitcher today but could stagger their call-ups over the next few days, to allow Oklahoma and Frisco to finish their schedules.

T.R. Sullivan suggests in his MLB.com blog that Texas is prepared to tender Brad Wilkerson in December. More on that when we get into the off-season.

Sullivan adds the Rangers will likely offer arbitration to at least six of their 10 free agents: Vicente Padilla, Adam Eaton, Mark DeRosa, Gary Matthews Jr., Carlos Lee, and Rod Barajas. Barajas would be the riskiest offer. More on that when we get into the off-season, too.

The Rangers have reached player development contract extensions with Oklahoma, Frisco, and Bakersfield through 2010 and with Spokane through 2008.

Jason Botts has taken his rehab to Frisco.

RoughRider righthander Kea Kometani posted an 0-5, 9.97 record in five starts in June, his first month in AA. In July, he went 2-0, 3.14 in five starts. In six August starts, the Pepperdine product went 5-0, 2.73.

Bakersfield lefthander Danny Ray Herrera, just three months after being drafted in the 45th round, is now 4-1, 1.49 in four starts and nine relief appearances for the Blaze, scattering 33 hits (.190 opponents’ average) and 11 walks in 48.1 innings while punching out 55 with a dizzying array of offspeed stuff. His groundout-to-flyout rate is a phenomenal 3.94.

Why not consider Herrera for one of the Rangers’ two remaining pitching spots in the Arizona Fall League?

After hitting .236 through the season’s first three months, Clinton outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is hitting .314 in July and August, with 10 homers and 42 RBI in 56 games. Through July, Mayberry had fanned 92 times and drawn 38 walks. In August, he has 21 strikeouts and 19 walks. His 20 homers are third-most in the Midwest League, and he’s hitting .274/.361/.486 for the year.

RoughRider righthander Thomas Diamond (12-5, 3.96, 143 strikeouts in 127.1 innings) and first baseman Nate Gold (.285/.370/.567, 32 homers and 98 RBI) were named Texas League Post-Season All-Stars. Diamond has already set Frisco records for wins and strikeouts in a season, leading the Texas League in both categories, and Gold has established franchise records for homers and RBI. His 32 bombs are the most in all of Class AA.

Spokane outfielder-first baseman Chris Davis (.274/.341/.526, 13 homers and 37 RBI in 63 games) and catcher Chad Tracy (.263/.342/.456, 10 homers and 31 RBI in 60 games) were named to the Northwest League All-Star Team.

Minnesota traded a player to be named later to the Cubs for Phil Nevin and cash yesterday, at the deadline to acquire a player and have him eligible for the playoffs.

Oakland recalled first baseman Dan Johnson and outrighted second baseman D’Angelo Jimenez to AAA yesterday, apparently a move to restore Johnson’s eligibility — and eliminate Jimenez’s — for the playoff roster.

San Diego signed righthander Rudy Seanez. For his fourth stint as a Padre.

Atlanta released righthander Carlos Almanzar.

Boston purchased the contract of first baseman Carlos Pena.

The Southern League named Jacksonville Suns righthander Spike Lundberg the circuit’s “Most Outstanding Pitcher” in 2006. The former Rangers farmhand went 14-2, 2.36 in 23 starts for the Dodgers’ AA affiliate.

Friend of the Newberg Report Scott Lucas has generated an “Organizational Tree” for the Rangers’ 40-man roster. Very cool. Check it out.

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

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