THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 24, 2007

As much as Texas has benefited from injuries to Felix Hernandez, Rich Harden, and Bartolo Colon and the scheduling that allowed them to sidestep Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, and Dan Haren, the overthinker in me wonders if some Rangers hitters have put added pressure on themselves to capitalize on what is arguably good fortune and get off to an extra-good start, seeking the equivalent of a bunch of five-run homers.

Actually, it’s not just the overthinker in me. It’s the part of me that craves answers. The Rangers are hitting .230/.302/.385, and while the lineup has issues, it’s simply not as bad as that line.

On top of that, it’s April, the month of the season — along with September but with far less justification — in which I let every win and every loss and every development seem so much more important. (If my April emotional swings irritate you, you might as well unsubscribe the day we next clinch a playoff spot.)

And maybe that’s the answer right there. Maybe I’m not the only one building April up more than I should. Maybe half a dozen guys in the Texas lineup, along with Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield and Paul Konerko and Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado and Lance Berkman and Andruw Jones and Frank Thomas and Mike Cameron and Jermaine Dye and Adam LaRoche, who seemingly have produced less collectively than Alex Rodriguez so far, have been trying too hard to get out of the gate quickly and win for a new manager and capitalize on what would seem to be a run of really good pitching matchups, and the result has been an epidemic slump.

Or not. I’m just grasping at this point.

By the way, Michael Young busts out today. The lifetime .306/.327/.551 hitter against Jarrod Washburn (three homers in 49 at-bats) detonates the floodgates this afternoon.

Update on Cha Seung Clemens’s career: The righthander fell to 3-0, 2.08 in four starts against Texas with last night’s no-decision. Against everyone else: 3-5, 6.39 in eight starts and two relief appearances.

Scott Lucas points out that Gerald Laird is hitless in seven at-bats against lefthanders this year, after tuning southpaws up at a rate of .355/.384/.520 in 2006.

Of course, if you were to give Laird four hits in those trips against lefties to square up with last year’s production, he’s still just a .176 hitter.

Ichiro Suzuki is a lifetime .358/.399/.468 hitter against lefthanders. C.J. Wilson is the only one of five southpaws he’s faced this year against whom he doesn’t have a hit. That was some nastiness Wilson dished up last night.

Seattle rookie reliever Brandon Morrow is impressive.

Brad Wilkerson will evidently return to the lineup today, after missing the last five games with soreness in his left knee.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Ron Washington uses Frankie Francisco in the early going. As freaky-dominant as he’s been this month in AAA — 14 strikeouts in six hitless innings — he not only has yet to pitch on consecutive days, but hasn’t even taken the ball yet on one day of rest.

Expect lefthander Bruce Chen to be traded in the next few days, probably for a prospect. But don’t expect a blue-chipper.

The Yankees would seem to be a candidate for a conversation there. Starters Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, and Kei Igawa got spanked the last three games, and phehom Philip Hughes is about to be rushed, slated to get his big league debut on Thursday. Maybe New York would consider giving Chen an 11th big league address.

Chen has reportedly agreed to accept an outright assignment to Oklahoma, but Texas wouldn’t have that opportunity unless Chen clears waivers, which is unlikely.

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, when Texas signed Sammy Sosa, the decision had come down to Sosa or Craig Wilson, who has done nothing in 37 trips for Atlanta. I’m a Wilson fan and under different circumstances would have applauded that addition, but he’s pretty much limited to first base defensively. If the club was going to add a player this winter that would be counted on only to DH from the right side, then unless that player was going be Thomas or Mike Piazza — both of whom Texas reportedly pursued — then that’s a job Jason Botts deserved a shot at. As it stands, one of the pleasant surprises this month has been Sosa’s agility in right field in the limited opportunities he’s had defensively.

This is not good news. Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden has been placed on the disabled list after experiencing soreness in his right elbow, which he had Tommy John surgery on a year and a half ago. Teagarden, a defensively advanced catcher, was off to a spectacular .324/.511/.588 start at the plate.

Blaze righthander Edinson Volquez was exponentially better in his third start (six shutout innings, two hits, one walk, eight strikeouts) than he was in his first two (14 runs on 10 hits and eight walks in eight frames, eight strikeouts), and somewhere in between last night, allowing just one hit in five-plus innings and coaxing eight groundouts with just three flyouts, but permitting three runs as he issued five walks and uncorked two wild pitches while fanning four.

And he was ejected. According to the Modesto Bee, Volquez began arguing with the home plate umpire about the strike zone in the second inning and finally got tossed on his way back to the dugout after a scoreless fifth in which he issued his walk number five sandwiched between a groundout, a foul pop, and another groundout.

If there was any wiggle room in the organization’s plan to promote Volquez out of Class A after one more start, you’ve got to think he didn’t do himself any favors with how he handled himself last night.

The Rangers released Bakersfield lefthander Keith Ramsey, whom they’d signed in March out of the independent leagues. Blaze lefthander Patrick Donovan, last June’s 50th-round pick, retired.

Frisco outfielder Todd Donovan was knocked unconscious when he ran into the wall chasing a fly ball on Sunday, requiring helicopter transport to Baylor University Medical Center. He was discharged yesterday, diagnosed with a concussion but no broken bones. Donovan has swelling in an eye and it’s unknown for now whether there will be any long-term effects on his vision. Scary stuff.

Kansas City third baseman Esteban German — whom Texas turned into Fabio Castro and then Daniel Haigwood and then Scott Shoemaker — busted up Mark Buehrle’s bid for a second straight no-hitter last night when he doubled with two outs in the second inning.

I don’t know who came up with this new fad of calling a slider a “slide-piece,” but I’ve had all I can take.

Remember when Baseball America accurately pegged the first 18 picks of the 2005 draft, only to have Texas ruin BA’s mock first round by taking Stanford’s John Mayberry Jr. at number 19? The publication had predicted that the Rangers would select Arizona State outfielder Travis Buck, who instead fell to Oakland at number 36. While I’m still optimistic that Mayberry is going to turn out to be a solid pick, the fact is he’s hitting .208/.260/.389 in High A right now, while Buck sits at .244/.414/.489 in the major leagues. Granted, Buck is not a very good defender and Mayberry has the chance to be an above-average right fielder, but that’s not why the Rangers made Mayberry their pick.

Good stuff from Clinton righthander Omar Poveda last night. Check Scott Lucas’s farm report this morning.

I want Ben Shpigel or Kat O’Brien to ask Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz if A-Rod was this dominant when the two were teammates at Miami Westminster Christian High. Bet not.

Kansas City designated righthander Jason Standridge for assignment. Cincinnati did the same with infielder Enrique Cruz, whom the club had brought up for a few days while shortstop Alex Gonzalez was on bereavement leave.

Milwaukee signed outfielder Ruben Mateo to a Class AA contract.

Links to my Jumbotron prospect features can be found on the left-side menu of my MLBlog.

Don’t forget that if you click the Amazon.com link at the bottom of Eleanor Czajka’s “Minor Details” page, then any Amazon purchases you make will generate small referral fees for the Newberg Report, which we use to upgrade our chat software and other website features.

Visit the Newberg Report e-Store if you’re interested in copies of any of the Bound Editions. I have copies of all years of the book, from 1999 to 2007. There are several specials going on, all of which are detailed on the e-Store page.

On page 260 of the 2007 Bound Edition, you’ll see a .314 next to Michael Young’s name and a .282 by Mark Teixeira and a .296 by Gerald Laird and a handful of other numbers that look a lot more appropriate than the numbers the players are sporting now.

The good news is that if those guys are going to get their numbers back in the neighborhood that they were in last year, the Rangers are going to win a heck of a lot of games in the process.

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

1 Comment

C.J. Wilson has been nearly flawless this season. I’m glad he’s in our bullpen.

That’s so sad about Teagarden. I hope he’s better soon.

I didn’t realize Poveda was that young. I will be going to watch the Lumberkings about four times this year, so hopefully I’ll get to watch him pitch again.

Check out my blog, if you feel so inclined: http://diamondgirl.mlblogs.com

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