THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 18, 2007
Season finales last night: CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Scrubs, ER. Supply your own baseball punch line.
Mounting injuries forced the Rangers to bring both infielder Ramon Vazquez and righthander Wes Littleton to Disney yesterday, and it was Vazquez who was activated. Hank Blalock (knot behind right shoulder, sore forearm) and Jerry Hairston (pinched nerve in neck area) were both flown back to Texas, leaving Texas with a short bench, and reportedly if the news on Hairston had been worse, both Littleton and Vazquez would have been activated. But Hairston got a cortisone injection and could be ready to return as soon as Monday, and so he didn’t land on the disabled list and Littleton wasn’t recalled. Lefthander A.J. Murray was optioned to Oklahoma, and Vazquez was purchased, giving Ron Washington a three-man bench of Kenny Lofton, Chris Stewart, and Vazquez for last night’s game.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Vazquez, who was hitting .258/.375/.409 (24 walks, 27 strikeouts) for the RedHawks, the Rangers shifted infielder Joaquin Arias from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL.
As far as Blalock is concerned, doctors ruled out any circulatory problem. He could be available for the series that starts tonight in Houston.
Righthander Willie Eyre threw only 12 pitches in last night’s loss but that still surely takes him out of tomorrow’s start, which could now go to righthander Mike Wood or lefthander John Koronka. For those of you thinking righthander Josh Rupe’s exit from last night’s AAA game after two scoreless innings meant he was headed to Houston, think again. He was lifted from the game with elbow soreness.
Righthander Jamey Wright threw approximately 30 pitches in two simulated innings Thursday and will now report to Oklahoma for a rehab assignment.
Quick improvements: Oklahoma outfielder Marlon Byrd, whose hamstring pull on Tuesday night prevented his call-up, returned to action for the RedHawks last night, playing defensively and hitting his fifth home run (.362/.430/.567). And Ron Washington shrugged off his own Wednesday night hamstring tweak, though he said if he needed to confront an umpire last night he would have had to engage in a brisk walk.
When Byrd momentarily lost his chance to join the big club, Texas purchased the contract of Kevin Mahar from Oklahoma to replace Brad Wilkerson on the active roster. To make room for Mahar on the 40-man roster, lefthander John Rheinecker was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
Mahar was hitting .349/.429/.512 in 43 Oklahoma at-bats after a .242/.361/.385 run in 91 Frisco at-bats that preceded his promotion to AAA.
Texas signed Mahar out of Indiana University before the 2004 draft, taking advantage of a loophole that opens a brief window (between the end of the player’s college season and the draft, which is often a matter of days) to negotiate with undrafted fifth-year seniors as free agents. Coming off a big year for the Hoosiers (.359/.399/.652 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI in just 184 at-bats, leading the Big Ten in homers and slugging percentage), Mahar was targeted by Rangers scout Derek Lee, signing three days before the draft.
After a solid debut summer, Mahar starred in his first full pro season, hitting .315/.396/.508 with 17 homers, 63 RBI, and 17 stolen bases for Bakersfield in 2005, leading the Rangers farm system in batting average and making the California League Post-Season All-Star Team. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League following the season, fighting a knee injury and hitting just .194/.247/.313 in 67 at-bats. Although not invited to big league camp in 2006, he was summoned from the minor league fields a handful of times and appeared in seven exhibition games for Texas, going 3 for 7 with two doubles and a walk.
Assigned to Frisco that spring, Mahar hit .267/.319/.469 for the RoughRiders, leading the club with 38 doubles (sixth-most in the Texas League) and contributing 20 homers, 82 RBI, and 13 stolen bases.
Mahar is capable of playing all three outfield spots well. Prior to the 2006 season, Baseball America judged him to be the best defensive outfielder in the Rangers system.
Great story. Kudos to Derek Lee and the Rangers player development crew.
Lefthander Kasey Kiker, the Rangers’ first-round draft pick last June, has been assigned to Clinton after starting the season in extended spring training.
Lefthander Danny Ray Herrera was promoted to Frisco. Lefthander Randy Williams moved up from Frisco to Oklahoma. Righthanders Danny Touchet and Mike Wagner returned to extended spring training after brief stays with the RedHawks. Oklahoma infielder Dave Matranga was activated from the DL.
Cleveland sold the contract of righthander Brian Sikorski to Japan’s Yakult Swallows.
You can read the seventh installment of my weekly column for MLB.com, “Swapping Stories,” on the official Rangers website. This week’s edition focuses on the Rangers’ 1978 trade for Bobby Bonds, one of baseball’s most dynamic players at the time.
Looking forward to Robinson Tejeda tonight and Brandon McCarthy on Sunday afternoon. I said before the season that they were the two keys to this team’s chances in 2007. That may no longer be the case, but they’re still huge factors in the outlook for this club in the big picture.