THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 25, 2007
For Texas to have gone ahead yesterday and anointed Jamey Wright as the number five starter, over Kameron Loe and Bruce Chen, four days (including another Loe start and another Wright start) before they needed to, at least one of the following must be true:
1. The club believes Wright’s mechanical issues the last time out, symptomatic of a career of inconsistency, are immediately correctable, if not fluky.
2. The club, despite Loe’s spotless spring ERA, has doubts about his ability to hold things down in a role that will be sporadically used, relatively speaking, in April.
3. Chen, who had likely fallen to third in the three-man race for the job, pitched himself out of contention on Friday. The choice between Wright and Loe — regardless of how they pitch today and tomorrow — was so close that, in essence, the choice was simple. This was the decision that allows Texas to keep both righthanders: Wright in the rotation, and Loe either in relief or in AAA. Had Loe gotten the number five nod, Wright would be lost to another organization. Stated another way, this theory suggests Loe was in fact penalized in a way for having an option.
Number three is the one that seems most likely to me. Should Wright falter — for that matter, should Brandon McCarthy or Robinson Tejeda falter — Loe is there as the first reinforcement, whereas choosing Loe would have left Texas with no clear “number six” since Wright and Chen would be gone.
But it still seemed a bit strange to make this decision on Saturday, rather than waiting a couple days for Loe and Wright to each pitch again. (Plus, I was really pulling for Loe.)
McCarthy in his 10.1 spring innings: 12 runs (10.45 ERA) on 19 hits (.396/.491/.771, five home runs) and seven walks, 11 strikeouts.
John Danks, who has won the number five starter spot with the White Sox, in his 16.2 camp frames: nine runs (eight earned: 4.32 ERA) on 17 hits (.266/.309/.453, two home runs) and four walks, 12 strikeouts.
Yesterday was my first time to really study a McCarthy outing since he two-hit Texas over 7.2 scoreless innings in what was Edinson Volquez’s big league debut on August 30, 2005, and as dazzling as that effort was, yesterday’s was equally deflating. He had no command at all, and seemed to throw an overwhelming preponderance of curves and changeups. I found myself hoping that he went into the start with a game plan to work on the yakker and the change, exhibition results be damned. Not that it would have been all that much more acceptable.
Yes, I understand that the strike zone was tight (Ron Washington: “If the umpire misses some pitches, make another one”). But that doesn’t excuse the hanging hooks or the wildness in the zone. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot better from McCarthy.
Know what? Let’s add one more possibility to the list that started this report:
4. Maybe the club needs both Wright and Loe on the staff for another reason. Maybe there’s some concern about McCarthy’s readiness (mechanics? sharpness?) for April 4 in Anaheim. Maybe the club wants Loe ready to go long on the 4th. After neck spasms sidelined Loe on Thursday, as mentioned earlier, he will go today. That puts Loe on a five-day schedule to be ready to throw again on April 4.
This is a longshot theory, I think, but let’s pay attention to who goes for Texas this Friday against the Brewers in Frisco. If we get a heavy dose of both McCarthy and Loe that night, it could tell us that the club is setting things up to have Loe ready to rescue McCarthy if needed the following Wednesday afternoon.
Congrats to Danks and to Nick Masset, who are going to be Chicago White Sox rather than Charlotte Knights in about a week.
Danks dealing for another team. Volquez not only optioned, but badonkadonk-optioned, all the way down to Class A on a program designed to get him back to Texas systematically. Thomas Diamond out for the year due to Tommy John.
You never have enough pitching prospects.
The final big league relief spot, assuming Loe joins the pen, appears to be down to Frankie Francisco or Scott Feldman. Wes Littleton is evidently headed for Oklahoma to get things straightened out, and Rick Bauer just hasn’t done anything this spring to stay in the mix. Mike Wood is probably ahead of Bauer on the depth chart.
The Rangers have lost Spokane manager Andy Fox to Florida. The Marlins, reacting to the sudden retirement of former Rangers coach Perry Hill (to be with his ailing wife Olivia), hired Fox to fill Hill’s role as the club’s first base coach and infield instructor. No immediate word on whom Texas will hire to replace Spokane, whose Northwest League season doesn’t begin until June.
Texas has sold righthander Jose Vargas back to Yucatan of the Mexican League.
Journeyman righthander Brandon Puffer was a “just in case” for the Rangers yesterday. I had no idea we’d signed him.
Oakland signed righthander Colby Lewis. The Mets signed third baseman Fernando Tatis. Houston released Richard Hidalgo.
The Grand Opening of Mooyah Burgers & Fries, my brother Barry’s new project, is slated for April 7 (though the restaurant should be open to the public on March 30). The first 100 customers at the April 7 opening (on Plano Parkway just west of the Tollway) win one year of free burgers — if you’re on my mailing list, you received an attached flyer with more details.
Invite Kam Loe if you’d like. Hopefully he won’t be too far away.