THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 22, 2007

Some Tuesday scattershot…

(As if I ever write a report that isn’t scattershooting.)

The Rangers offense in April: .235/.303/.401.

The Rangers offense in May: .274/.338/.492.

Fourteen runs in each of the last two games, the fourth time in franchise history that the offense has managed that level of output in back-to-back games. It was the first time in five years.

From the May 18 Newberg Report: “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.”

Nice work by those two in Houston.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz has hits in seven straight games, going 9 for 29 (.310) and slugging .621 in that span.

Outfielder Victor Diaz is hitting .300/.317/.725 in 40 at-bats. Since going hitless against the Yankees in his first three games as a Ranger, he’s hit .364/.382/.879.

Harping again on one of the themes of the Newberg Report the past couple years: Load up on catching prospects, and you’ll never be disappointed. Exhibit 14: Mike Nickeas (.219/.277/.301 in AA for the Mets) for Diaz.

Bet it surprises you that Diaz, in his fourth big league season, is only 14 months older than Nickeas.

One prediction I wish I’d made before the season: Vicente Padilla will lead the league in unearned runs allowed. While run support seems to be fairly random, anyone who has played in the infield will tell you that there’s a correlation, fair or not, between a pitcher’s pace and the crispness of the defense behind him. The Rangers’ defensive lapses this year seem to have found Padilla more often than anyone else, and I’d argue that it’s no fluke. His time between pitches is maddening to hitters and to you and me. Bet it’s maddening to his own team.

The hard part to believe is that Padilla surrendered only eight unearned runs in 2006. He’s already at that total in 2007.

I could be wrong, but it sure looked like Padilla picked his tempo up after the first two innings last night. Seemed to have a positive effect on his defense, but maybe that’s just a coincidence.

He’s fine, by the way. The grounder he took off his pitching hand only bruised it. Nothing broken.

The first quarter of the season is history. Half of it was played without Frank Catalanotto, the other half played with a really ineffective Cat (.140/.234/.333). Write it off. If, from this point forward, he can be anywhere near the .297/.362/.454 hitter he was coming into the season — .315/.382/.486 at Rangers Ballpark — then this lineup executes much differently.

Catalanotto’s activation was accompanied by a return to Frisco of third baseman Travis Metcalf. Chances are Metcalf would have been added to the 40-man roster this winter (his first eligibility) anyway, so while this means he’ll have only two options when next season starts rather than three, there’s not much of an impact on the flexibility of the winter roster by virtue of his unexpected promotion last week. Same goes for outfielder Kevin Mahar, who like Metcalf entered the system in the summer of 2004.

Texas didn’t dare drop Ramon Vazquez from the roster, and it’s not just because of his Vlad-esque series in Houston. He’s out of options and would have to clear waivers for the Rangers to get him back to AAA. Given his defensive versatility and the fact that he’s swinging a hot left-handed bat, that’s a risk Texas didn’t want to take.

If you want to send “Get Well” wishes to Hank Blalock, who underwent successful surgery to remove a rib yesterday following his diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, you can sign cards for him at home games at the first base, third base, and home plate entrances to the ballpark, or you can e-mail your get well wishes to community@texasrangers.com.

More splits:

Righthander Brandon McCarthy in April: 1-4, 9.90, .356/.433/.522.

McCarthy in May: 3-0, 2.31, .202/.292/.381.

And it’s all about hittability. In both months the 23-year-old has walked about a batter every other inning and fanned a tick more.

Mark Teixeira in April: .231/.346/.341, two home runs, six RBI.

Teixeira in May: .392/.449/.747, six homers, 21 RBI — in just 20 games.

And just like that, Teixeira is up to .306/.393/.529 for the season.

Michael Young’s April: 107 at-bats, two walks.

Young’s May: 78 at-bats, seven walks.

And with as many rifled outs as he’s hit into the last couple weeks, he’s due for a couple 5-for-5’s where a handful of the hits are seeing-eye bleeders.

Gerald Laird in April: .176/.269/.250.

Laird in May: .316/.400/.456.

Oklahoma outfielder Jason Botts in April: .200/.295/.300, one home run, 14 RBI.

Botts in May: .365/.443/.568, three homers, 20 RBI.

Botts was named the Pacific League Player of the Week after batting .524 and slugging .762 in 21 at-bats last week, driving in nine runs in six games. He’s up to 34 RBI in 43 games, good for fifth most in the Pacific Coast League.

But the best news from the farm may be what righthander Edinson Volquez did on Sunday, in his second Frisco start of the season: seven scoreless innings, four hits, one walk, five strikeouts. Ten groundouts and six flyouts. One walk. One walk. One walk.

Lots of banter about what Texas could fetch for Teixeira. Think he has more value than Gary Sheffield, whom the Yankees traded to Detroit days before his 38th birthday? Sheffield fetched righthanders Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett. And what about those rumors that the Angels could offer third baseman Brandon Wood for Colorado’s Garrett Atkins? Think Atkins has as much value to a contender as Teixeira does?

Sammy Sosa is sixth in the American League in RBI. Considering the relative struggles of the hitters ahead of him in the lineup (with the exception of Teixeira over the last month), that’s a pretty staggering fact. I was wrong about what he was capable of. This is not Phil Nevin.

Lefthander Kasey Kiker in his Clinton debut on Monday: five scoreless innings, one hit (a groundball single by the first batter he faced), two walks, and a career-best nine strikeouts (including the side in his final inning of work). Five groundouts, one “flyout” — a pop-up hauled in by second baseman Jose Vallejo. That work for ya?

Kiker still doesn’t have a pro win, largely by virtue of pitch counts. He exited last night’s game with a scoreless tie.

Righthander Nick Masset made his first start for the White Sox on Sunday, beating the Cubs with 5.2 innings of three-hit, two-run ball.

Lefthander John Danks gets today’s Chicago start. Against Oakland righthander Colby Lewis, who has gone 5-1, 2.31 in eight starts for AAA Sacramento.

Oklahoma righthander Josh Rupe has landed on the AAA disabled list with elbow soreness. Disappointing. But the Rangers apparently don’t believe he’ll need surgery. Frisco righthander Armando Galarraga (part of the package Washington sent Texas for Alfonso Soriano) moved up to Oklahoma to replace Rupe in the rotation.

RedHawks lefthander Bruce Chen joins Rupe on the disabled list, also with a dinged elbow. Southpaw John Rheinecker has arrived in Oklahoma City on a rehab assignment. Catcher Miguel Ojeda broke his thumb on a tag play at the plate, and the Rangers brought in former RedHawk Nick Trzesniak to replace him on the roster.

There are a couple rumors floating that Texas is interested in Cincinnati third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, recently demoted to AAA. Don’t hold your breath. The Reds are trying to kickstart Encarnacion, but I doubt they’re in a mood to sell low.

Lefthander Ron Mahay and righthander Jamey Wright have been throwing in extended spring training in Surprise.

Oklahoma righthander Ezequiel Astacio was roughed up in two starts (0-2, 9.45), and as a result has been returned to the RedHawks bullpen, where his 0.00 ERA stands after 17.2 innings (23 strikeouts, two walks).

Baseball America notes that Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman has the third-highest slugging percentage in the minor leagues. He still leads the Midwest League in hitting (.373), reaching base (.463), slugging (.687), home runs (9), and walks (25).

LumberKings righthander Omar Poveda’s opponents’ batting average of .175 is tied for fourth-lowest in the minors. Bakersfield lefthander Glenn Swanson’s seven wins between High A and Low A are tied for the most in baseball (big leagues included). Oklahoma righthander Alfredo Simon has the minors’ fifth-highest ERA at 7.83.

Poveda’s first four starts: 12 strikeouts in 23 innings. His ensuing four: 32 punchouts in 26.2 frames.

Philadelphia returned lefthander Fabio Castro to AAA after an unsightly 12.27 ERA in five relief appearances.

Righthander Travis Hughes has an ERA of 0.38 in 24 innings for AAA Pawtucket in the Boston system. He’s scattered 15 hits and nine walks, punching out 23 while allowing just one earned run.

BA’s latest mock draft has Texas taking Scott Boras clients at both the number 17 slot and the number 24 slot: Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon and Connecticut high school righthander Matt Harvey.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas and Cleveland each sent a contingent to the Irving home of certain first-round righthander Blake Beavan last night. The Indians select 13th.

Rob Cook and Eleanor Czajka have written the Newberg Report’s April Pitcher and Player of the Month features. Check them out on Eleanor’s Minor Details page.

Clinton lefthander Mike Ballard is the reigning Midwest League Pitcher of the Week, after going 2-0, 1.42 in two LumberKing starts, scattering 12 hits and no walks in 12.2 innings while fanning eight. Ballard hasn’t issued a walk in his last six starts, after walking seven hitters in his first two outings, covering 10.1 frames.

Outfielder David Paisano, who came over from the White Sox in the Danks-Masset-McCarthy trade, has been assigned from extended to Clinton. He’ll switch places with outfielder Grant Gerrard, who will presumably remain in extended until the short-season leagues kick off in about three weeks.

Righthander Jake Rasner, who was sent to Chicago in the deal, is 2-5, 5.44 in nine starts for Low A Kannapolis.

Texas signed catcher Ty Bubalo, who spent four seasons in the low minors with Oakland before a stint in the independent Frontier League last year, to a minor league deal, according to Baseball America.

Righthander David Elder left the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League to head to Mexico, where he has joined the Laguna Vaqueros of the Mexican League. Lefthander Erick Burke joined the Atlantic League’s Camden Riversharks.

Cindy and Jeff Kuster are putting the Hello Win Column seats (and a parking pass) up for bid on eBay for the upcoming Boston series (Friday, May 25 through Sunday, May 27). Each game packages comes with four tickets (Section 223, Row 2, Seats 5-8, located just below Chuck Morgan’s window and the press box, Lexus Club Level waiter service at your seats, Cuervo Club access, extra wide aisle [more leg room], and a reserved parking space located off of Randol Mill Rd. near the First Base Entrance). You’ll also get four Hello Win Column Fund T-Shirts.

Any amount over $304 (which is the value of the tickets [$284] plus parking [$20]) is tax deductible as a donation to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. Cindy and Jeff are hoping to raise at least $1500 ($500 for each of the three games) through this fundraiser. Go to www.hellowincolumn.org for more details.

The Rangers and some other folks learn today whether Arlington will get the 2011 Super Bowl.

Speaking of which, I’m working on a report that will have more to do with the 2011 Rangers than this season’s club or next’s. Coming soon.

Don’t forget that Victor Rojas chats with the Newberg Report at 11 a.m. today.

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

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