THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 11, 2007

If things work out this season like you and I hope they do, this is one we’ll look back upon with favor. Righthander Jamey Wright didn’t get his job done, snapping a string of five straight Quality Starts by the Rangers rotation, but the bullpen came on and turned in what was effectively a Quality Relief Effort (6.1 innings, one earned run) while the offense did to Tampa Bay starter Jae Seo what a good offense should.

Texas evens its record at 4-4, after series with two of the league’s best teams and the first two games of a take-care-of-business series at home. It’s nothing to be satisfied with, but it’s workable.

The immediate question is whether sending Wright back to the mound is workable. His stuff definitely moved a lot, but too often it moved off the plate, inside to righthanders, and far too often when it stayed in the zone it was up, and exceedingly sluggable. Not pretty.

Can Texas really drop another arm from the bullpen to make room for Eric Gagne, just to ensure that Wright is around for his next start, which won’t be for another 10 days? It wouldn’t be stunning to see Wright be the roster casualty when Gagne is activated for Friday’s series in Seattle — and possibly sooner if the club wants to get a reliever with options (Wes Littleton? Frankie Francisco?) up here for tonight’s homestand finale in the meantime — especially since Wright appeared to do nothing last night to earn the April 21 start against Oakland.

I suppose the club could find that Wright, who complained of arm fatigue after his Thursday start in Frisco, needs a stay on the disabled list, but if so he wouldn’t be eligible to pitch on the 21st. But it would be fine with me if Wright doesn’t get the four starts that journeymen Alan Benes and Robert Ellis once got as Rangers. Not sure he’s earned a second outing.

Add the fact that lefthander Bruce Chen has been pretty good in his three relief appearances (no earned runs [three unearned] on four hits and no walks in four frames, three strikeouts, 72 percent strikes), and the idea of exposing him to waivers to make room for Gagne seems a lot less palatable than sending Wright packing.

Loved seeing Kenny Lofton and Frank Catalanotto breaking out last night. That duo isn’t going to reach base eight times every night, but when they’re setting the table like they can, this lineup looks dramatically better.

The offensive explosion on Monday night may have had an effect on last night’s third-inning barrage. C.J. Wilson noted in his MLB.com blog, after Monday’s 8-4 win that was highlighted by a six-run sixth: "Last night, we busted out the bats in a big way, we had a great rally against the Devil Rays bullpen, which is always a great way to start a series. The main benefit of wearing out the bullpen in the first day is that if we get to the starter early again today, they might have to leave him in a bit longer, hopefully giving us some more runs to play with in the bullpen."

Prophetic. Rays righthander Jae Seo was left in to absorb every bit of the third-inning damage last night, ending up with a line of 10 runs in three frames of work.

Wilson told reporters that he threw a gyroball to Kevin Youkilis on Sunday night, getting a called strike.

To make room on the active and 40-man rosters for Wright, the Rangers optioned righthander Mike Wood to Oklahoma before the game, and designated Frisco lefthander Daniel Haigwood for assignment. The Haigwood move was surprising, as Texas now has 10 days to trade him, try to get him through waivers, or release him. Certainly the ideal result would be to slide him through waivers unclaimed, but if that move fails, the Rangers will have nothing to show for the June 29 deal in which they traded interesting lefthander Fabio Castro to Philadelphia for the 23-year-old Haigwood, who went 1-2, 3.63 for the RoughRiders in 12 starts last summer after going 2-5, 3.54 in 15 starts for the Phillies’ AA affiliate in Reading.

Haigwood hadn’t yet appeared for Frisco this season. He was slated to replace Wright in the RoughRiders’ rotation after the veteran made the club’s Opening Day start last Thursday, but when the Rangers made the procedural move yesterday afternoon, Haigwood was necessarily scratched from making his first start last night.

Frisco manager Dave Anderson instead went with a bullpen effort, sending six relievers to the mound, the final one of which was Gagne, who fanned one Springfield hitter in a perfect ninth, sandwiched between a groundout and an infield pop-up. He needed only eight pitches, firing seven for strikes. Half were fastballs, topping out at 93 mph.

It’s apparently the final tune-up effort for the veteran closer, who should be activated on Friday. Ron Washington initially suggested he may pitch Gagne a few times in non-save situations before asking him to get the job done with the game on the line in the ninth, but he’s apparently changed his mind, and Gagne will assume the closer’s role immediately.

Tampa Bay third baseman Akinori Iwamura is a dazzling defender. Wow.

Fascinating look under the surface of Brad Wilkerson’s 2006 numbers by the Newberg Report’s own Scott Lucas, in an entry he posted on his blog yesterday.

Two Bakersfield lines worth keeping an eye on: catcher Taylor Teagarden, whose defense is his calling card, is hitting .455/.684/.818 through four games. He’s 5 for 11 with a double and a homer, drawing eight walks while fanning three times. Righthander Michael Schlact gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in five innings in his first Blaze start, fanning two and allowing only one of the final 13 batters he faced to get the ball out of the infield, and last night he fired five scoreless innings, scattering four singles and no walks while setting four hitters down on strikes. He may not be in California for long.

A week after signing first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a four-year contract worth $9.5 million (with a club option for $5.5 million in 2011), San Diego inked righthander Chris Young to a four-year contract of his own, a $14.5 million deal with an $8.5 million club option in 2011. Although Young didn’t get the no-trade clause he sought — having been traded three times, he wanted that added stability — he did get escalators in his contract that will trigger salary increases if the Padres were to trade him.

Don’t count on that.

Gonzalez celebrated his former and current teammate’s extension by going 3 for 5 with two home runs and four RBI last night.

St. Louis righthander Kip Wells in his first two Cardinals starts: 1-1, 1.38, six hits and five walks in 13 innings, 14 strikeouts, no home runs, 1.3 groundout-to-flyout ratio.

In independent league news, Fargo-Moorhead designated hitter Harry Berrios retired and was promptly named hitting instructor for the Schaumburg Flyers, a fellow Northern League affiliate.

Robinson Tejeda-James Shields tonight. Like Jae Seo last night, Shields is a guy that the Rangers offense, when going well, should treat badly.

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

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