April 2007

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — APRIL 7, 2007

Hank Blalock against lefthanders from his big league debut through 2006: .221/.273/.344.

Hank Blalock against lefthanders in three 2007 at-bats: 1.000/1.000/1.667.

On the spectrum of basesliders, you and I and everyone else who has ever played the game at any level sits between Dean Palmer and Michael Young.

Spectacular shot by the KDFI crew of Ron Washington pointing energetically from 150 feet away at Don Wakamatsu after Young had scored on the four-bagger, as if to say to Wak: “Sendin’ Ma-CHINE!” The crew got a shot of Wak calmly nodding acknowledgment. It was very cool.

Name a better right-handed defender at first base than Mark Teixeira. Ever. Garvey? Galarraga? Mientkiewicz?

The list is **** short.

Speaking of Galarraga, enjoy Scott Lucas’s report in the morning on Frisco’s game tonight.

I always forget from year to year how small Manny Ramirez is.

Gotta love Wash’s candor on the pregame show. What, did you think he was going to resort to BaseballSpeak and describe Ian Kinsler’s Saturday affliction as the “stomach flu”? Not Wash. Raw, unvarnished truth.

I thought Ron Mahay’s split was as filthy I can remember seeing it tonight. Eric Nadel and Steve Busby made a great point – how many players have converted from big league position player to big league pitcher with any degree of success? Imagine if Jeff Kunkel had pitched in the major leagues for 11 years, which is where Mahay sits right now.

Schilling, Padilla, and the Sopranos in fewer than 20 hours. Gonna be an entertaining Sunday.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 7, 2007

Most exciting play in yesterday’s 2-0 win, a game in which Robinson Tejeda, Joaquin Benoit, and Akinori Otsuka didn’t need many standout defensive plays:

4-3-37.

Wish I could have seen the look on Ron Washington’s face as Mark Teixeira handed him the ball seconds after squeezing the final out, but the look on Teixeira’s face was enough to fire up the goosebumps.

As for Tejeda, what more can you say about 77 pitches in seven innings? Two hits, one an infield single that clanked off his glove. No inning in which Boston had two baserunners. Sixteen flyouts and only four groundouts, but most of the flies were pop-ups or lazy flutters to the outfield. The vaunted Boston lineup squared up on very few balls.

Worried about the one Tejeda strikeout? Don’t be.

Sure, you’d generally want more from your starter, but let’s consider this pitcher in particular.

Last year, Tejeda went 1-3, 9.78 in his first five Rangers starts, prompting an uninterrupted two-month stint in Oklahoma City.

After returning to Texas in late June, he made nine more starts, going 4-2, 2.32, with seven quality starts.

In that first-half stretch, Tejeda struck out 15 hitters and walked 17 in 19.1 innings. Seven punchouts per nine innings, and eight walks.

In his late-season run, he fanned 25 and issued 15 walks in 54.1 frames. That’s only four whiffs per nine, two-and-a-half walks.

Tejeda is so much better when he’s not overthrowing and instead commanding his above-average stuff. His one strikeout yesterday (which came at a huge time, with Doug Mirabelli up after Coco Crisp’s one-out double in the fifth) may not be indicative of a dominant starter, but it sure appears to be indicative of the better brand of Robinson Tejeda.

Two Sammy Sosa-related observations:

How does a guy check-swing a knuckleball over the infielders’ heads? Think there was some torque in that Sosa cut before he held it up?

Why did Washington send Nelson Cruz up to hit for Sosa against lefthander Hideki Okajima with a man on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth? I fully understand getting Cruz out there defensively in the ninth, but what do we take out of Washington’s decision to take the bat out of Sosa’s hands in favor of Cruz beforehand? And regardless of what the reason was, why not put Cruz in defensively in the top of the eighth if he was going to hit for Sosa in the bottom of the frame? (Or did that happen and I missed the defensive replacement?)

Hank Blalock’s streak of home openers with home runs may have been snapped at four, but he hit three foul balls to right that may have been as deep as any of the balls he hit fair in the previous four openers.

But none of them were as close to fair ground as Ian Kinsler’s shot to left that nearly produced his — and the entire’s club’s — third bomb of the season.

Michael Irvin shouldn’t be called a hero until well after Everson Walls is.

Closer Eric Gagne touched 94 (in cold weather) in last night’s Frisco appearance, throwing only eight of 15 pitches for strikes and recording a strikeout, a flyout, and a walk. He’ll pitch again tonight and then on Tuesday before joining Texas on April 13.

Righthander Jamey Wright induced seven groundouts and three flyouts in his four-inning start for Frisco on Thursday night, allowing two runs on six hits, but said afterwards, “I couldn’t get loose. I was just trying to get through it. I was still sore from my bullpen session. We cut it short so I would be fresh for Tuesday.”

Not the most promising comment.

Righthander Frankie Francisco pitched the eighth for Oklahoma yesterday, striking out the side on 14 pitches, 11 for strikes. Wes Littleton retired the Memphis side in a perfect sixth, needing just 11 pitches (though only six were strikes).

Outfielder Marlon Byrd cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Oklahoma, even though procedurally he had the right to decline it and look elsewhere as a free agent. It’s a pretty clear indication that, while jobs are more difficult to find in early April than in mid-March, Byrd judged the potential for opportunity to crack the outfield to be as promising here as anywhere else.

Philadelphia signed righthander Rick Bauer to a minor league contract.

The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association re-signed lefthander Joel Kirsten.

Kevin Millwood struggled in last year’s home opener against the Red Sox but was better when Texas traveled to Boston in June, and lifetime he has an acceptable ERA of 4.12 in nine outings against the Sox. Julian Tavarez had a 7.36 ERA in 3.2 relief innings against Texas in 2006, and he sports a 5.86 ERA in 35.1 lifetime frames, with the Rangers putting up a line of .296/.367/.467 against him — which is exponentially healthier than the .149/.259/.231 numbers this lineup has scratched together through four games.

Tonight’s game is one we need to win.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 5, 2007

You’re probably like me. You’re the guy or the woman who, at your office, is the embodiment of the Texas Rangers as far as your co-workers are concerned. They not only sympathize with you after losses — they almost treat you as if you were the loser, the one who issued the walks, who failed to get the runner home from third, who couldn’t hang onto the ball at the fence or at the plate.

They engage in “What’s wrong with the team?” small talk with you as if you have the answers, as well as the ability to fix things. Sometimes it strikes me as sort of funny, other times it irritates me to no end. You’ve probably been there.

But you know what? These last few days I’ve felt like I did lose. Like I did struggle to capitalize with runners in scoring position, like my own rifle shots were getting caught while their bleeders were finding patches of grass. This opening series has been emotionally draining, and I’m happy to have a day off today. A day to let this slow burn dissipate.

While the Rangers and a lot of us will be idle today, the full-season minor league clubs will kick their seasons off. Here are the rosters for the Rangers’ four (lossless) minor league affiliates:

OKLAHOMA REDHAWKS (AAA)

STARTING PITCHERS: Francisco Cruceta, John Koronka, Doug Mathis, Josh Rupe, Alfredo Simon

RELIEVERS: Ezequiel Astacio, Willie Eyre, Frankie Francisco, Franklyn German, Wes Littleton, A.J. Murray, William White

CATCHERS: Guillermo Quiroz, Miguel Ojeda

INFIELDERS: Nate Gold, Tug Hulett, Dave Matranga, Drew Meyer, Jose Morban, Ramon Vazquez

OUTFIELDERS: Jason Botts, Victor Diaz, Freddy Guzman (and possibly Marlon Byrd)

DL: RHP Chris Baker, RHP Thomas Diamond, LHP Scott Rice, UTIL Desi Relaford

NOTES: Koronka gets the Opening Day start.

Mathis and Hulett are certainly the biggest surprises on the squad, but both had dazzling camps to earn AAA assignments. Mathis, the club’s 13th-round pick in 2005, went 10-7, 4.18 for Bakersfield last year, making two Frisco starts at the end of the season, but he came to camp stronger, sporting the increased velocity that began to show up last summer, complementing it with an improved array of secondary pitches. Like Murray, Mathis is someone who has put himself squarely on the radar.

Hulett also split his 2006 season between the Blaze and RoughRiders, and he’s a heady player (not surprising given his lineage) and solid defender, consistently collecting as many walks as strikeouts and owning a career on-base percentage of .416. Texas gave Hulett four spring training at-bats, and he hit safely in each of them, contributing three doubles and a single.

Astacio and Quiroz cleared waivers this week and were outrighted. Quiroz had the right to take immediate free agency but declined to do so. Byrd could be traded, but also remains a possibility to join the RedHawks should he clear waivers and accept an outright assignment.

Lefthander Bruce Chen, who agreed to renegotiate his deal late in camp, is now on a split contract that pays him $600,000 while in the big leagues and a much lower amount while on the farm. He’s also apparently agreed to accept an outright if Texas drops him from the roster when Eric Gagne and Jamey Wright join the big league staff and gets him through waivers.

FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS (AA)

STARTING PITCHERS: Armando Galarraga, Daniel Haigwood, Eric Hurley, Kea Kometani, Luis Mendoza (and Jamey Wright for now)

RELIEVERS: Michael Bumstead, Ken Chenard, Matt Farnum, Jesse Ingram, Brandon Puffer, Steven Rowe, Randy Williams

CATCHERS: Salomon Manriquez, Kevin Richardson

INFIELDERS: Casey Benjamin, German Duran, Adam Fox, Emerson Frostad, Travis Metcalf

OUTFIELDERS: Todd Donovan, Kevin Mahar, Steve Murphy, Kevin West

DL: RHP John Bannister, 1B Jim Fasano, OF Luke Grayson, OF Ben Harrison, LHP Matt Merricks, RHP Daniel Touchet

NOTES: Wright gets the Opening Day start (with Ron Washington on hand to watch), but he’ll depart for Texas before pitching a second time.

Lots of upside in the Riders rotation.

The Frostad experiment behind the plate is evidently over, as he is now being listed as a first baseman. Bannister has reportedly undergone Tommy John surgery.

Gagne pitched in simulated games in Surprise on Monday and Wednesday. After joining the big club for introductions at tomorrow’s Home Opener, Gagne will pitch for Frisco tomorrow night and Saturday, continuing his path toward an April 13 activation.

BAKERSFIELD BLAZE (HIGH A)

STARTING PITCHERS: Kendy Batista, Keith Ramsey, Michael Schlact, Edinson Volquez, Ace Walker

RELIEVERS: Kevin Altman, J.B. Diaz, Patrick Donovan, Josh Giles, Jose Marte, Tony Pluta, Jon Wilson

CATCHERS: Hunter Harrigan, Taylor Teagarden, Brian Valichka

INFIELDERS: Johany Abreu, Chris Davis (3b), Micah Furtado, Tony Roth, Matt Smith, Freddie Thon

OUTFIELDERS: Jake Blalock, Terry Blunt, Brandon Boggs, John Mayberry Jr.

DL: UTIL Nick Cadena

NOTES: Schlact, and not Volquez, gets the Opening Day start.

It’s a big year for Schlact, who returns to the Blaze after a 4-13, 5.99 campaign last season. He grew an inch to 6’8″ and added 15 pounds to his frame over the winter, and as sharp as that kid is, you expect him to get better every year simply by taking instruction and applying it.

Blalock returns to Class A after a full season in Frisco’s outfield.

The move of the power-hitting Davis to third base is intriguing; he makes the jump from Spokane, leapfrogging Johnny Whittleman, who goes back to Clinton for a second season.

But the big story in Bakersfield, without a doubt, will be how Volquez responds to his three-level demotion.

CLINTON LUMBERKINGS (LOW A)

STARTING PITCHERS: Michael Ballard, Broc Coffman, Omar Poveda, Zach Phillips, Glenn Swanson

RELIEVERS: Nate Fogle, Tim Gudex, Jeremiah Haar, Jon Hollis, Jared Locke, John Slusarz, Brett Zamzow

CATCHERS: Kevin Gossage, Manuel Pina

INFIELDERS: Thomas Berkery, Mauro Gomez, Marcus Lemon, David Peterson, Jose Vallejo, Johnny Whittleman

OUTFIELDERS: Chad Tracy, Craig Gentry, Grant Gerrard, K.C. Herren, Truan Mehl

DL: RHP Juan Jimenez, 1B Chris Kemp

NOTES: A bit surprising to see Poveda back in Clinton, though it should be pointed out that he’s still just 19 years old. The big righthander from Venezuela went 4-13, 4.88 for the LumberKings last year (and 0-1, 1.80 in a spot start for Frisco). He’ll get the Opening Day start.

Lemon makes a two-level jump from the Arizona League. Tracy, interestingly, is listed as a left fielder rather than as a catcher.

EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING

PITCHERS: Bear Bay, Jake Brigham, Fabio Castillo, Craig Crow, Miguel de los Santos, Wilmer Font, Brennan Garr, Geuris Grullon, Danny Ray Herrera, Dan Hoben, Ivan Izquierdo, Jose Jaimes, Kasey Kiker, Ryan Knippschild, Michael Kirkman, Yoon-Hee Nam, Carlos Pimentel, Jorge Quintero, Kyle Rogers, Julio Santana, Eleno Soto, Keisuke Ueno

CATCHERS: Reese Creswell, Luis de los Santos, Billy Killian, Steven Marquardt, Cristian Santana

INFIELDERS: Wally Backman, Ian Gac, Jay Heafner, Andres James, Renny Osuna, Jose Rodriguez, Emmanuel Solis, Johan Yan

OUTFIELDERS: R.J. Anderson, Victor Barrios, Josh Bradbury, David Paisano, Cody Podraza, Tim Rodriguez, Miguel Velasquez, Anthony Webster

DL: RHP Jesse Hall, RHP Luis Indriago, RHP Matt Nevarez, RHP Edwin Vera, RHP Michael Wagner, C Carlos Dominguez

NOTES: There are two groups of names that jump out: the high-end pitching talent that includes Castillo, Kiker, Brigham, Grullon, Font, de los Santos, and Pimentel, and the eye-opening inclusion of Herrera and Webster, who are listed as staying back at extended though not on the disabled list. There must be physical issues (or just a building up of game stamina, as the Rangers are doing with Gagne) that have prompted the organization to delay the opening of their seasons somewhat.

The idea with Castillo and Kiker in particular is not to push them too aggressively, as young and promising as those two are.

It appears that Texas will continue to look at Marquardt behind the plate, an experiment that started at fall instructs, and keep Santana, a converted middle infielder, on the mound.

Paisano is the Venezuelan outfielder who came to Texas from the White Sox in the McCarthy-Danks-Masset trade.

Knippschild was a teammate of Travis Metcalf’s at the University of Kansas, drafted by Cleveland in the 35th round of the 2004 draft. The lefthander posted a 3.78 ERA with tremendous control over three seasons in the Indians system, and was particularly tough on lefties last year, holding them to a .195/.233/.293 line and a 1.17 ERA while with High A Kinston.

Righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando remain quarantined in the Dominican Republic because of the marriage scandal two winters ago, and accordingly they are slated to pitch once again in the Dominican Summer League.

Texas released righthander Wandy Morla, catcher Brian Munhall, and outfielder Roberto Valiente. Morla spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and two undistinguished years stateside, splitting between the Arizona League, Spokane, and Bakersfield. Texas had acquired Munhall from San Francisco in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December. Valiente was the Rangers’ 44th-rounder in 2005, hitting .300/.361/.379 in his two pro seasons.

The Bay Area Toros of the independent Continental Baseball League signed righthander Greg Runser.

San Diego signed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a four-year contract worth $9.5 million. He gets a $500,000 signing bonus, $500,000 this season, $750,000 in 2008, $3 million in 2009 (his first arbitration-eligible season), and $4.75 million in 2010. The Padres have a $5.5 million option for 2011 with no attached buyout, meaning he’ll still be eligible for a final year of arbitration if the club declines the option.

Welcome back, Babe Laufenberg. You were missed.

You too, Vic Mackey.

Jeff and Cindy Kuster are auctioning off four Home Opener tickets to benefit the Hello Win Column Fund that was established in honor of Cindy’s late father, Mark Holtz. They initially auctioned the tickets off on Randy Galloway’s radio show yesterday afternoon, with a winning bid of $1500, but it turns out the winner — and the runner-up — are now unable to attend tomorrow’s game.

So the seats are still available. They are in Section 223, Row 2, Seats 5-8 on the Lexus Club Level, just below the press box. Also included is a reserved parking pass in a spot located very close to the First Base Entrance.

The first $500 bid wins the tickets and parking pass, which have a face value of $280. You can email Jeff at longhornjk@aol.com with your bid — but please note: the bidding closes at 10:00 a.m. this morning. A portion of the winning bid will entitle you to a tax-deductible donation to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

Jeff and Cindy want to thank you for your support of the Hello Win Column Fund and for helping make a difference in the lives of families dealing with cancer.

Did K-Rod doctor the baseball during the Angels-Rangers series that just concluded? Judge for yourself.

My weekly column for MLB.com kicks off today. Last year I featured one of baseball’s procedural rules each week; this year I’m taking a retrospective look at a Rangers trade that took place the same week during a previous Rangers season.

The initial installment, which will be published on the front page of www.texasrangers.com, focuses on one of the franchise’s ugliest deals, the April 1, 1982 trade of Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the Mets for Lee Mazzilli.

And Scott Lucas’s daily minor league recaps kick off tomorrow, as the RedHawks, RoughRiders, Blaze, and LumberKings get their seasons underway today while the parent club rests and gears up to get things turned around in tomorrow’s Home Opener.

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

Swapping Stories: The Lee Mazzilli Trade of 1982

This is the first in a weekly, season-long series, a Newberg Report exclusive to MLB.com, in which I’ll take a look back at a trade that took place during the same week in a previous season in Rangers club history. We kick the series off with one of the more notorious deals in the franchise’s 35 years.

April 1, 1982: Texas trades righthanders Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the New York Mets for outfielder Lee Mazzilli.

Rangers farm director Joe Klein was called out of the most important minor league meeting of the spring, a gathering of managers, coaches, and scouts during which farm rosters would be set. His boss, general manager Eddie Robinson, had phoned to tell him that he’d just traded minor league righthanders Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the Mets for 27-year-old outfielder Lee Mazzilli, who was coming off of an injury-marred, unproductive 1981 season. It was not an April Fool’s joke.

An irate Klein hung up, stormed back into the meeting, slammed his fist on a table, and pronounced: “This meeting is (expletive) over. We’re going to the bar.”

Klein’s anger turned out to be well placed.

After the Rangers had posted the second-highest winning percentage in franchise history in the strike-shortened 1981 season, Robinson decided to shake up the offense, including a complete renovation of the outfield. Rookie George Wright took advantage of Mickey Rivers’s knee injury a week into spring training play, and won the center field job. Robinson traded Al Oliver to Montreal on March 31 for rookie Dave Hostetler and third baseman Larry Parrish, whom Texas converted to right field. The following day Robinson made the deal for Mazzilli, a center fielder whom the Rangers intended to shift to left field.

The move was instantly unpopular with Mazzilli, the son of a Brooklyn welterweight who was a first-round pick of the Mets; with New York fans, who had thrust matinee idol status on the former All-Star; and with some in Rangers management.

Klein’s assistant Tom Grieve, who had been Mazzilli’s Mets teammate four years earlier, considered Mazzilli a friend but was skeptical about the trade. “Lee was a New York kid to the core,” says Grieve. “I thought he would be a productive player for us, but at the same time I knew right away he wasn’t going to like coming to Texas.”

That’s to say nothing of what Texas gave up to get Mazzilli, who had hit just .228 in a 1981 season in which he was limited by back and elbow injuries and was slated to be New York’s fourth outfielder after the club’s off-season trade for George Foster. Going to the Mets were Darling, the club’s first round pick (ninth overall) in 1981, and Terrell, the Rangers’ next-to-last pick (33rd round) in 1980. Both had pitched for AA Tulsa in 1981, Darling going 4-2, 4.44 after signing and Terrell putting together a standout 15-7, 3.10 season for the Drillers. They were considered the franchise’s top two prospects.

Mazzilli displayed flashes of the top-of-the-lineup skills the Rangers coveted as spring training came to an end, giving Texas hope that he could replace Rivers offensively. But he never got untracked in the regular season, hitting .241 with no power and looking lost in left field, which he was quick to label “an idiot’s position.”

Four months after he’d arrived, Texas traded Mazzilli, who had appeared in just over half of the club’s games, to the Yankees for Bucky Dent during an August series in New York.

Darling reached New York in 1983 and won in double digits for the Mets every year from 1984 through 1989, going 86-52, 3.40 over that stretch. Terrell debuted for the Mets late in 1982, had two solid seasons after that, and was then flipped to Detroit straight up for third baseman Howard Johnson, who would finish in the top 10 of the NL MVP vote three times in his nine years with the Mets.

Texas had losing records in six of the seven seasons following the Mazzilli trade, sending out a rotation in most of those years that featured Charlie Hough and an ever-changing supporting cast. To envision that Darling and Terrell might have made a difference as Rangers starters is no leap.

“People always refer to the Sosa trade as the worst in Rangers history,” notes Eric Nadel, the club’s longtime radio broadcaster whose 13-year run in the booth with Mark Holtz began in that ill-fated 1982 season. “But this one was definitely the second worst, given that Darling and Terrell both had long, productive careers during a time when our pitching probably cost us a division title or two.”

The Rangers would finish the season with 98 losses. Robinson and manager Don Zimmer both lost their jobs, with Klein taking over as general manager. Mazzilli bounced around until 1989, mostly as a bench player, and got out of baseball before returning later in a coaching capacity. He would serve on a Yankees staff that included Zimmer and was headed by skipper Joe Torre – who had managed Mazzilli in the young outfielder’s first five full seasons in the big leagues.

Even a short stint for Mazzilli as Orioles manager in 2004-05 was followed by a return to the Yankees bench in 2006. He’s a New York kid, and always has been.

Joe Klein and a whole generation of Rangers fans wish he’d have remained one in 1982.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 4, 2007

Hey, the Mavs started their season 0-4.

So watch out, 2001 Mariners and 1906 Cubs. That 116-win mark isn’t safe.

Ugh. That’s all I’ve got in me this morning. I really need a win this afternoon. (Because, you know, it’s all about me.)

There’s a lot to talk about, both at the top and on the farm, but you know that irritating, uncomfortable, tingling feeling you get when you’ve sat on your foot for half an hour or slept on your arm all night? That’s how my baseball brain feels after the last two nights.

So, you know, hold a good thought for me. I’m sure a victory today will cure everything.

The 1906 Cubs had four two-game losing streaks, the 2001 Mariners 11. Chicago even lost three straight one time. Seattle had a four-game skid.

But we’re not talking about Three-Finger Brown’s Cubs or Flip Boone’s M’s. Today it’s about Brandon McCarthy (whose walk total today can be four or five as long as three of them belong to Vladimir Guerrero — an impaling from Vlad would constitute a reprieve at this point), number nine hitter Ian Kinsler’s continued march to the 2007 All-Star Game, and the Rangers’ first hit of the season with runners in scoring position.

Help a guy out.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 3, 2007

Losses are particularly hard to take when they feature things like this:

* Eight runners left on base, including five stranded in scoring position (all in the first six innings)

* Hitlessness in eight trips with runners in scoring position

* A bunch of pitches hit right on the screws, but right into gloves

I don’t take losses very well, particularly in games I’ve been waiting six months for. The failure to capitalize last night was really frustrating, and it wasn’t always because of great Angels pitching — I thought Kevin Millwood (despite throwing strikes under 60 percent of the time) looked better than John Lackey — there were great Gary Matthews Jr. catches and line drive outs and failed bunt attempts responsible for the missed opportunities as well.

It all added up to Angels 4, Rangers 1, and I went to sleep grumbling. One more reason I hate playing in the AL West. When games start at a reasonable time locally, I at least have some time to let a loss wear off before going to sleep.

Here’s my knee-jerk overreaction after losing one of 162 (but also after a month of exhibition play): by time Kameron Loe works his way back into the Rangers rotation, Brad Wilkerson will have played himself out of the regular outfield rotation. He still doesn’t look right.

Fired up for tonight. Texas is going to open a can up on Kelvim Escobar (2-8, 4.52 lifetime against the Rangers, including 0-3, 7.16 last year), get solid pitching from Vicente Padilla (3-0, 3.77 lifetime against the Angels, including 2-0, 1.93 in Angels Stadium), and even up the record going into Wednesday’s rubber match.

And if we lose, I’m not going to bed right away. I’ll just head to the TiVo to watch tonight’s season premiere of “The Shield.”

But I’d much prefer to celebrate by watching it.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 2, 2007

Season’s Greetings.

— Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 1, 2007

The Opening Day roster is set, and while there are no particular surprises if you’ve been keeping tabs the last week or so, there are certainly some names on the 25 who, six weeks ago, would have seemed like longshots at best.

The roster:

Pitchers (12): Joaquin Benoit, Bruce Chen, Scott Feldman, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Ron Mahay, Kevin Millwood, Akinori Otsuka, Vicente Padilla, Robinson Tejeda, C.J. Wilson, Mike Wood

Catchers (2): Gerald Laird, Chris Stewart

Infielders (5): Hank Blalock, Matt Kata, Ian Kinsler, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young

Outfielders (6): Frank Catalanotto, Nelson Cruz, Jerry Hairston Jr., Kenny Lofton, Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson

Five members of the squad (Chen, Wood, Kata, Hairston, and Sosa) were non-roster invites, and in order to make room on the 40-man roster for them, the club designated righthander Ezequiel Astacio, catcher Guillermo Quiroz, and outfielder Marlon Byrd for assignment. Texas has 10 days to trade them, try to get them through waivers (though Quiroz and Byrd have been outrighted before so they can become free agents even if they clear waivers), or release them. Baltimore is among the teams rumored to have interest in Byrd, but don’t expect the Orioles, who will have high waiver priority, to offer much in trade for the 29-year-old unless they get nervous that another club is zeroing in on a deal.

Texas optioned Ojeda to Oklahoma, and made official a few moves that had been determined earlier: placing Gagne on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 28) and outrighting righthander Francisco Cruceta to the RedHawks and infielder Adam Fox to Frisco after getting those two through waivers.

Righthander Jamey Wright will remain off the roster until April 10, when he is slated to start in Tampa Bay, and Gagne is expected to be activated April 13 for the club’s series in Seattle. At that time, two pitchers will be trimmed from the active roster but at least one of them will have to be removed from the 40-man roster as well, and if Chen is dropped, it will be relatively expensive: the lefthander’s non-roster deal called for a $1.1 million salary if he made the club, and if he is released even just a week into the season, the Rangers would owe him 45 days’ worth of his salary, or about $275,000.

Interestingly, Chen has reportedly agreed to accept an outright assignment to Oklahoma if he is exposed to waivers and clears.

Kata’s versatility and his big camp offensively (plus Hairston’s solid showing in center field) enabled him to beat Byrd out for the final bench spot. Stewart, a tremendous catch-and-throw type behind the plate who was acquired from the White Sox for righthander Johnny Lujan in January, earned praise for his game-calling ability and handling of pitchers. The 24-year-old spent September with Chicago, getting eight at-bats and throwing out two of three would-be basestealers (Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore both times) in what was his first big league start. Still looking for his first big league hit, he was productive in camp, hitting .450/.455/.550 in 20 trips.

Wood was probably the biggest surprise on the staff, but the 26-year-old earned the spot with a sparkling camp, giving up two runs (1.29 ERA) on nine hits (.176/.208/.196) and two walks in 14 innings while fanning a dozen, and perhaps most importantly showing he could stretch out to two or three innings consistently. He’s certainly a candidate to be dropped when Wright and Gagne join the staff, but not a lock.

Gagne threw 15 pitches in a minor league game yesterday.

Sosa hit .408/.444/.816 in camp and will hit fifth in the lineup. It will be fascinating to see whether this productivity, or a level close to it, will carry over.

My weekly MLB.com column this year will change focus. Rather than zero in on the explanation of a procedural rule as we did last year, this season’s column will be a retrospective on Rangers trades from the past. Each week I’ll focus on a notable deal from the franchise’s history that took place the same week on the calendar, a “This Week in Rangers Trade History” type of thing.

The title will be “Swapping Stories,” with a subtitle such as “The Sosa Trade of 1989,” depending on what that week’s trade subject is. Look for it on Thursdays each week of the season, beginning this week, at texasrangers.com.

Scott Lucas has posted all Rangers minor league schedules on his blog page.

The Mets optioned righthander Chan Ho Park to AAA, but want to trade him (Seattle?). Baltimore released righthanders Rob Bell and Jon Leicester and outfielder Jason Dubois. The Dodgers released righthander Agustin Montero and signed lefthander Matt Riley and shortstop Juan Gonzalez. Boston released righthander Chris Jaile. San Diego released lefthander Erick Burke. Minnesota released catcher Brad King.

Oakland traded catcher John Baker to Florida for Coppell-raised first baseman Jason Stokes.

The Coastal Bend Aviators of the independent American Association signed lefthander Derrick Van Dusen.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has authorized me to distribute the “How the Rangers Can Win the World Series” article that I wrote for BP and that was published Thursday for BP subscribers. I will send that out to the mailing list later today.

And this is not an April Fool’s joke: Joe calls Texas the number four team in baseball in 2007 and predicts an 89-win division title.

Is he crazy? Only one way to find out. Do the same thing that most of the Rangers’ opening 25 will do tonight — grab a couch for Glavine-Carpenter, and gear up mentally for tomorrow.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers