THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 15, 2007
From Little League through high school, I stood in against a handful of pitchers that were simply different, the kind you went into the game knowing you didn’t have much of a chance
against unless he was remarkably off of his game, the kind you’d end up telling your friends
you got to play against because one day he was going to be playing at a much higher level.
Juan Corea. Jerry Owen. Lee Jones. Rodney Jenks. Morris Moss. Mike Moscrey. My BBI
teammate Chris Hill.
I thought of those monsters yesterday when I saw Fabio Castillo climb the hill for his one
inning of work against San Francisco’s Low A squad. His dazzling, adrenalizing, inspiring
inning of work. Castillo just turned 18 three weeks ago, but age aside, he was clearly the
man on that back field yesterday afternoon.
I watched his side for 10 minutes before he entered the game, and it was impressive if for
no other reason than he was keeping the ball down with a smooth, easy delivery that
suggested a power repertoire even if it didn’t look quite like a Frankie Francisco or Omar
Beltre or David Elder side.
What I didn’t realize was that Castillo, at least on this day, had another gear that he
saved for the guys in the other uniform. I wish I’d kept a full, accurate ledger of his
pitches, but what I saw was command of what had to be mid-90s velocity, in and out with late
run and mostly at the knees; a nasty, sharp breaking ball that had Giants swinging and
missing and blushing; and a dirty change that the third batter swung through twice to end
the inning, and probably coming closer to contact with his backswing than with his offer at
the pitch both times.
The arm speed and the size and the command and the relatively effortless actions – and of
course the age – were enough together that, even if you were just a fan like me, you didn’t
need to know who the pitcher was to know that he was different. The fact that
Castillo didn’t come out for a second inning of work was pretty disappointing, sorta like
when “Wonderland” was canceled after just two episodes. I wanted more.
Texas thought enough of Castillo as a 17-year-old to give him a start for the Arizona League
squad in June, maybe significant less so from the standpoint of it being a stateside
affiliate than what it represented as a reflection on the organization’s determination to
put him, at that age, in a stateside environment. The 6’3” righthander is obviously a
player that the Rangers are going to handle carefully, which made their decision to return
him to the Dominican Summer League after that one start – in which he limited the Mariners’
AL squad to one hit and two walks in three innings, punching out four – a less confusing one
than it might have been with another player.
Does that mean Castillo could return this season to the DSL, where he went 1-4, 3.46 in
seven games last year, yielding just 21 hits (.216 opponents’ average) and 12 walks in 26
innings with 37 strikeouts, held lefthanders to a .125 clip with that filthy change, and
coaxed more than three times as many groundouts as flyouts? Highly doubtful. But will the
organization be able to resist assigning Castillo to a full-season affiliate, sending him to
Low A Clinton in three weeks rather than keeping him in extended until a June assignment to
Spokane or the AZL? Tougher question.
My guess is, largely because of the cultural issues involved with sending such a young kid
from another country to that virtual island in Iowa, that Castillo won’t show up in box
scores until the short-season leagues roll out. But it won’t be because anyone thinks the
talent isn’t there for Castillo to compete in the Midwest League.
I’m not sure, if I were another team’s general manager, that Castillo wouldn’t be on my list
if the first five Rangers prospects I’d ask for in trade.
Erica and Max are big fans of watching the Luke Air Force Base flyover exercises and of
blowing bubbles while the Class A games go on.
Don Welke is a big fan of Erica and Max.
Max slept an unprecedented 15 hours last night, after that great day at the minor league
fields. Bet he had spectacular dreams.
John Mayberry Jr. surprised me in only one way: He’s no bigger than he was last year at this
time. He’s almost skinny. It’s frightening to imagine how much power he’s going to
be capable of, once he starts to fill into the Dave Winfield/Jermaine Dye frame that he has.
He already has light tower power that stands out from his peers.
Chris Davis played on the same squad as Mayberry, Taylor Teagarden, and German Duran
yesterday. Is it possible that Davis, who might be undertaking a position change if the
instructional league work at third base was a sign, could break camp with High A
Bakersfield, in his first full pro season? Sure looks that way. His power is staggering.
Even his groundouts sound different.
(Incidentally, Davis DH’d in the game, so I’m not sure about the defensive plan.)
Teagarden threw a Giants runner out at second, on a hit-and-run attempt, by what I roughly
estimated to be a thousand feet.
Max has Kevin Gossage hair.
But I bet Gossage hasn’t walked up to the goateed Jason Botts and asked, “What’s that on
San Diego general manager Kevin Towers on outfielder Terrmel Sledge, whom Texas got from
Washington in the Alfonso Soriano deal last winter and three weeks later tacked onto the
trade that sent Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres for Adam Eaton, Akinori
Otsuka, and Billy Killian and who came into camp this year as a candidate to start in left
for the Padres and perhaps lead off: “It’s almost scary. He’s swinging the bat so good, we
might want to have him hit in the middle of the order. . . . I would say that so far,
he’s been our best hitter, and one of the better hitters in the Cactus League.”
On my drive to NYPD Pizza to pick up dinner last night, I caught about 15 minutes of the
Phoenix Suns’ radio call of the Mavs game and came to the extremely easy conclusion that
there cannot be a worse big league broadcast team. In any sport. Unbelievable. (And I
made up my mind well before the half dozen times that the play-by-play man got on his pulpit
and complained that Dallas gets every call because Mark Cuban has pressured the league’s
referees to favor the Mavs. Ha.)
But what a game.
NYPD Pizza, incidentally, needs to find its way to the Metroplex. We could use a Red Robin,
too, for the kids.
The Dodgers released Fernando Tatis, whose baseball career got started when Texas found him
in San Pedro de Macoris, just like Sammy Sosa.
Today is the day that, contractually, Texas must add Sosa and Jerry Hairston Jr. to the
40-man roster to prevent them from taking free agency, if they so choose. But the players
might agree to extend the deadline.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News predicts that Texas will trade a reliever,
possibly Rick Bauer, for a backup catcher by the end of camp.
Michael Young will be sidelined for about a week following surgery to repair torn cartilage
in his left ear, the result of a Gavin Floyd changeup to the head on Tuesday. Young’s ear
was lacerated, exposing tissue and cartilage; doctors told him the trauma was similar to
someone taking a pair of scissors to his ear. Getting a helmet back on is now the main
Nelson Cruz is still experiencing dizziness after he was drilled in the helmet on Monday.
Former Rangers general manager John Hart, who was once said to question Young’s ability to
produce enough offensively to play every day at second base, told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan
this week that Young is the best clutch hitter he has ever seen. Only Barry Bonds has a
better average with runners in scoring position over the last four years than Young’s .373
I believe in Jose Vallejo more and more every time I see him. Still not sure he’s
going to hit enough to be a starting major league second baseman, but he’s such a good
defender and has enough speed to leg out a routine ground ball right at the second baseman.
(Saw it with my own eyes again yesterday.)
All the reports that Chad Tracy may not be a catcher by time he gets to the big leagues but
will have enough bat to get there at a different position are believable. Especially given
the outstanding depth the Rangers have built behind the plate, from the top of the system to
I bet the number of those Rangers catchers who would put Fabio Castillo in the top two or
three pitchers in the system – in terms of upside and stuff – equals the number of Rangers
catchers who have had the chance to catch Castillo.