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 email@example.com.
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.
Robinson Tejeda clearly lacked his best stuff and still no-hit a big league club for five innings. That’s encouraging.
And here’s hoping that the injury bug doesn’t claim Eric Gagné over the next two months. Because if you don’t think a guy brought in on a one-year deal can fetch a significant return from a contender, consider that on July 11, 2003, Texas made what was undoubtedly one of its top ten trades of this decade, when the club traded closer Ugueth Urbina, three-and-a-half months into his one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Rangers, to Florida for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, lefthander Ryan Snare, and outfielder Will Smith.
Wouldn’t mind moving Gagné in July to a team like Cleveland (Trevor Crowe plus? Chuck Lofgren?) or Atlanta (Tommy Hanson plus?) to get a head start on restocking the upper tier of this farm system.
Lefthander John Koronka comes up to make tomorrow’s spot start. Hank Blalock was placed on the 60-day version of the disabled list, meaning no other move was needed to clear space on the roster for Travis Metcalf.
Another big night for Eric Hurley and Johnny Whittleman, and a special High A debut for Glenn Swanson. Enjoy Scott Lucas’s farm report in the morning.
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.
Mark Teixeira is now hitting .403/.457/.758 in May, and .301/.390/.510 for the season.
He’s such a skilled hitter from both sides, explosive and patient and versatile.
He’s such a great defender, despite playing a position that he didn’t take on until he was in the big leagues.
He and Leigh are such a credit to this community, committing as much time and effort and money to charitable causes as any young athlete in the Metroplex.
He’s a real good bet to be honored in Cooperstown one day. If he does so having worn just one big league uniform, I will never be happier to have been dead wrong about something.
But I’ll be surprised.
May 16, 1978: Texas trades outfielder Claudell Washington and outfielder Rusty Torres to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Bobby Bonds.
Long before he was known as Barry Bonds’s Father, Bobby Bonds was a household name himself, baseball’s Jose Canseco a decade before Canseco arrived on the scene. In his prime there was no more complete player, no comparable combination of power and speed and defense in the game.
Also not unlike Canseco, Bonds was a player who went from being a seemingly untouchable core player on a contending team to a baseball vagabond, bouncing around the league on a number of one- and two-year stints before trying to hang on at the end in minor league uniforms, auditioning for one last shot in the big leagues.
The embarking of Canseco’s trek around the league began in Texas, after eight seasons in Oakland. Bonds spent seven seasons on the other side of the Bay, starring for San Francisco before the start of his baseball odyssey, which made a brief stop in Texas.
In 1969, the 23-year-old Bonds spent his first full season in the Major Leagues, hitting 32 home runs, driving in 90 runs, scoring a league-leading 120 times, and stealing 45 bases in 49 tries on a 90-win Giants club. His season was overshadowed by teammate Willie McCovey’s MVP campaign and a solid year from 38-year-old Willie Mays, whose decline had not yet begun.
From 1969 to 1974, Bonds averaged 34 homers and 41 steals, very nearly achieving the first 40-40 season in baseball history in 1973, when he went into September with 34 home runs, but hit only five more in the season’s final month. He was MVP of the All-Star Game that year, won his second of three Gold Gloves, and led the National League in total bases.
Bonds suffered a statistical dropoff in 1974 and, after the season, the Giants traded him to the Yankees for outfielder Bobby Murcer, who like Bonds finished in the top ten of his league’s MVP vote in 1973 but regressed in 1974. After a solid season for New York, Bonds was traded to the Angels for outfielder Mickey Rivers and righthander Ed Figueroa.
Bonds played two years for California before being shipped to the White Sox in December 1977, ostensibly because the Angels knew he would have left via free agency after one more season. Chicago figured the same thing out a month into the 1978 season and called Texas.
The Rangers were coming off of a 94-win season in 1977, easily the franchise’s best, when they got off to a mediocre start in 1978, sitting at 15-14 on May 15. When the White Sox offered Bonds to Texas for young outfielder Claudell Washington (who had come over from Oakland in 1977 and had a very good season at age 23, but was hitting just .167 in part-time duty over the first month in 1978) and journeyman outfielder Rusty Torres, co-general managers Dan O’Brien, Sr. and Eddie Robinson jumped. Bonds was 32 but still productive, and the Rangers thought they had a chance to win.
Bonds did his part. In 130 games, alternating primarily between the leadoff and number five slots in the order and settling into a right field/left field/DH rotation that included Richie Zisk and Al Oliver, he hit .265 with 29 home runs, 82 RBI, and 37 steals, stepping up in July with a standout .312/.403/.569 month (eight homers, 24 RBI, 10 steals). But that month was also the club’s undoing, as Texas went 10-20 and slipped from a tie atop the AL West to fourth place, 10 games back. Bonds finished the season in the AL top ten in home runs, total bases, runs, walks, stolen bases, and (as usual) strikeouts.
Immediately after the 1978 season ended, Rangers owner Brad Corbett decided he couldn’t afford to keep Bonds another year and commissioned O’Brien and Robinson to trade the slugger, less than five months after the club had acquired him. Texas traded Bonds to Cleveland on October 3, 1978, packaging him with young righthander Len Barker in exchange for closer Jim Kern and infielder Larvell Blanks.
After the Indians, Bonds would go on to play for St. Louis and the Cubs, actually spending a couple months back in the Rangers organization in 1981 and with the Yankees in 1982 but not appearing in the big leagues in either of those stints. His final Major League appearance was on October 4, 1981, a game in which he led off for the Cubs and drew the club’s only two walks in a 2-1 loss to the Phillies.
Bonds’s son Barry was a high school senior at the time, eight months away from turning his hometown Giants down as the club’s second-round pick in the amateur draft. Barry would instead take his game to Arizona State, where he raised his stock to the point that he was taken sixth overall in the 1985 draft by Pittsburgh. The Giants, drafting second, chose Will Clark. Texas, choosing third, selected Bobby Witt.
Bobby Bonds joined the Giants’ coaching staff in 1993, the same season that his son signed with the club as a free agent. Four years later, Barry would join his father as the only two players in Major League history to have five seasons of at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. The father and son duo are also two of only six players with 300 lifetime homers and 300 steals. Bobby Bonds was the second-youngest to achieve the milestone, next to his former teammate and close friend Mays, who is Barry’s godfather.
Bobby Bonds, who passed away in 2003, spent less than a full season with Texas, and for that reason he is almost never mentioned among the great players to play for the franchise, unlike Canseco, who appeared in only 63 more games as a Ranger than Bonds did. But among the sad parts of Bonds’s legacy is that there are half a dozen teams he played for so briefly that he’s not part of those organization’s legacies either, even though he was undoubtedly one of the most unique players of his generation.
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.
I’ve come to what feels like an inescapable conclusion, after years of heavy, blind, wishful denial, that Mark Teixeira won’t be a Texas Ranger a year from today.
It is with a great deal of sadness and reluctance that I now admit that to myself.
Too many of you have asked in the last 20 minutes for me to be able to respond to everyone, so here’s the explanation for my conclusion that a year from now, Mark Teixeira will no longer be a Texas Ranger:
1. He’s not going to sign long-term during the 2007 season. Why would he?
2. He’s not going to sign long-term this winter, a year short of free agency. Scott Boras clients don’t do that. Now, if this club plays .600 ball the rest of the way (which would still result in only 88 wins), maybe the Rangers can get Teixeira to sign if they offer him an above-market contract. But I don’t think Texas will do that this winter, and we all know the Union will pressure Teixeira to hang tight until the following winter, when he can shop himself to the big market clubs and reestablish a new level of slugger compensation.
3. So Texas would then go into the 2008 season with Teixeira in his contract year. Can the club afford to do that?
4. No. Because if he plays out the year as a Ranger, he probably signs with New York or Baltimore or Atlanta or Los Angeles or Los Angeles the next winter, and Texas only gets a late first-round draft pick and a selection between rounds one and two in return.
5. So just trade him during the 2008 season, you say? Can’t plan on that. Think about it: If Texas is 58-45 in the last week of July, a game back of the Angels, can you imagine the message it would send to the clubhouse and the fans if the club decided it needed to trade its most productive hitter? Would never happen. And to go into the 2008 season assuming that it would be impossible to be in a contending position in July is just not something Jon Daniels would ever do.
6. So unless the determination is made that you have to play spectacular baseball the rest of the way in 2007 and hope that it convinces Teixeira to want to negotiate this winter (unlikely), or else accept that you will have to overpay Teixeira for life to re-sign or else lose him for two late first-round picks, you have to move him before the 2008 season begins.
7. Does that mean this summer? Or this winter? Beats me. Teams may be more willing to give up a lot in July in order to have Teixeira for the stretch run this year plus a full season in 2008. On the other hand, in the winter clubs are in a better position to give up the pieces it would take to get a player like that, assuming at least one of the players coming back is a key big league contributor right now.
And I didn’t say I knew when this would happen. I just think it happens before the 2008 season gets underway.
Nine months ago, Texas was making its second trip of the 2006 season to Tampa. Coming off a four-game sweep of the A’s, a two-game split with the Angels, and three of four from the Tigers, baseball’s best team, in Detroit (with interim manager Don Wakamatsu filling in for the suspended Buck Showalter), there was a sense that the Rangers, having pulled back to within 5.5 games of the division lead with six weeks left, might have resuscitated their season and were poised to make things very interesting.
And then the Devil Rays promptly took three straight, before Texas salvaged a win in the final game of the series. Everyone willing to answer the question said in retrospect that it was the decisive moment of the season, a four-tire blowout.
The winner of the first game of that series was anonymous 24-year-old righthander James Shields.
Shields, anything but anonymous at this point (he leads the American League in batting average against at .199), was excellent again last night, and Brandon McCarthy was plenty effective for the third straight start. But Texas once again failed to see many pitches, allowing Shields to go eight innings in under 100 deliveries (including just four in the seventh and eight in the eighth), and a bad tenth inning from Scott Feldman ended the game and got a series this team just can’t afford to lose off to a crummy start.
This time coming in 6.5 games back, Texas is visiting Tampa Bay for the first time since that fateful August set, and it feels just as pivotal, though with a diametrically opposite air. You hate to say a season hangs in the balance in May, but Texas is struggling in all facets, has dropped six of seven to the frontrunning Angels, and now has its ace on the shelf for a second time. McCarthy certainly did his job (especially as he got deeper into the game, as he seemed to be elevating early and working down in the zone more consistently late), but alas, it wasn’t enough.
You probably can’t imagine how hard this is on me. Because it’s not possible for there to be anyone, anywhere, outside of the Texas Rangers organization itself, who cares as much about this team as I do.
There were a handful of notable pitching promotions in the system yesterday, starting with the elevation of lefthander A.J. Murray to Texas to replace the injured Ron Mahay in the bullpen. The 25-year-old Murray, who missed the 2004 and 2006 seasons due to shoulder injuries, was outstanding in the Arizona Fall League in the off-season (1.56 ERA if you ignore one brutal 1.1-inning appearance), earned a November addition to the 40-man roster, had an impressive spring training (4.2 scoreless innings, six strikeouts and one walk), and was dealing thus far in Oklahoma.
Murray has kept the opposition scoreless in 11 of 13 appearances out of the RedHawks bullpen. In 14 innings, he’s allowed six runs (3.86 ERA) on only eight hits (.163 opponents’ average) and six walks while fanning a dozen. After an impressive 1.53 groundout-to-flyout ratio in the AFL (including 13-to-1 against left-handed hitters), he’s been even stronger in that respect in 2007, coaxing 2.10 as many groundouts as flyouts. Murray is a strike-thrower who features a plus change, making him as tough on right-handed hitters (.167) as lefties (.158). He’s capable of going through a full lineup rather than spotting up against a targeted lefty or two.
A draft-and-follow sign in 2001, Murray was in AA by age 21, going 10-4, 3.63 for Frisco before posting an 0.77 ERA in two playoff starts and earning a spot on the Texas League Post-Season All-Star Team. After missing the 2004 season, he split 2005 season between Bakersfield, Frisco, and Oklahoma (7-9, 4.43 combined, with 30 walks and 124 strikeouts in 128 innings), combining with Steve Karsay and Scott Feldman on a RoughRiders perfect game on July 28, fanning eight in six innings of work.
Along with Murray, Feldman returned from Oklahoma to the big league bullpen, as Texas placed Kevin Millwood back on the disabled list with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. A reliever will likely go back to AAA when Millwood’s spot comes back up Saturday in Houston, though if the club opts to give Willie Eyre the start rather than a RedHawk reinforcement (Mike Wood, John Koronka, Bruce Chen, and Josh Rupe would likely be the prime candidates), it may be that no pitching move is made the rest of the week.
Texas decided not to activate Frank Catalanotto for the road trip after all, but with Brad Wilkerson pulling up lame with an apparent hamstring injury in the fifth inning last night, maybe the club reconsiders the Catalanotto decision. If Wilkerson needs to go on the disabled list, we’ll probably see Marlon Byrd (who notably was lifted from Oklahoma’s game in the fifth inning last night) recalled.
Righthanders Danny Touchet and Mike Wagner were sent from extended to Oklahoma, but more notable were the promotions of righthander Edinson Volquez from Bakersfield to Frisco, and lefthander Glenn Swanson from Clinton to Bakersfield. Volquez went 0-4, 7.13 in seven Blaze starts, holding Cal League hitters to a .211 average but issuing an unacceptable 20 walks in 35.1 innings. He won his first game of 2007 last night in his season debut for Frisco, but his line wasn’t especially pretty: two runs on three hits (one home run) and five walks in five innings, four strikeouts, three groundouts, eight flyouts.
Righthander Kea Kometani, who struggled in six Frisco starts (1-2, 5.64) after faring reasonably well in his first taste of AA last year (8-5, 4.69), worked in relief last night, suggesting it was his spot in the RoughRiders rotation that Volquez claimed.
Swanson, who pitched 21 times in his debut season last year, all in relief, has been sensational in his conversion to starter. In seven games for the LumberKings, he went 6-1, 2.93, punching out 42 and walking just six in 43 innings.
Outfielder Brandon Boggs is finally getting eye-opening results out of his tantalizing tools. A lifetime .249 hitter in three pro seasons, the 2004 fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech is hitting .375/.448/.458 since a promotion to Frisco 10 days ago, with four walks and three strikeouts in 24 at-bats. A plus defender, he has played primarily left field for the RoughRiders (one game in center field), just as he did with Bakersfield over the first month, hitting .250/.361/.500 in that encore stint with the Blaze.
Bakersfield’s Taylor Teagarden is still DH’ing, and is still ridiculously hot at the plate. He homered and walked last night, and is hitting .407/.573./796 for the season.
Meanwhile, Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman (.373/.462/.678) and outfielder K.C. Herren (.358/.404/.613), the reigning Midwest League Player of the Week, were held in check last night.
Because the LumberKings were rained out.
Whittleman (December 2005) and Teagarden (December 2006) were among the guests at the Newberg Report Bound Edition Release Parties the last two years. Applications for guest appearances this winter will soon be available.
Virgil Vasquez, the young righthander whom the Tigers called up for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against Minnesota, was the Rangers’ seventh-round pick in 2000, opting to enroll at UCSB rather than sign. Vasquez was roughed up in his debut, which was earmarked to be nothing but a spot start, and he has gone back to AAA. Legitimate prospect.
Cincinnati has made former Rangers farmhand Rick Asadoorian a pitcher, after a minor league career as an outfielder that never came together as it was supposed to for the former Boston first-rounder. Asadoorian posted a 1.29 ERA in 12 High A Sarasota relief appearances, earning a promotion to AA Chattanooga, where he fired two scoreless innings in his first trip to the mound a couple days ago.
The Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent American Association signed righthander Pat Mahomes. The Quebec Capitales of the independent Can-Am League released infielder Craig Ringe. The Sussex SkyHakes of the same league signed righthander Fernando Rijo.
The draft is in three weeks. Texas drafts 17th and 24th (and 35th, 44th, and 54th), and projections are beginning to show up. Baseball Prospectus’s Bryan Smith speculates that Irving righthander Blake Beavan or Georgia high school southpaw Josh Smoker could fall to the Rangers’ first slot — Baseball America projected a week ago that they will go 15th and 16th, however — and Smith named University of Maryland lefthander Brett Cecil and switch-hitting Houston Memorial third baseman Kevin Ahrens as candidates for the number 24 pick.
I wish I weren’t already thinking about the draft. And I really, really wish I weren’t checking to see that, yes, Texas would draft third in June 2008, the club’s highest slot since 1985, if the 2007 season were to end today.
Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman (.373/.462/.678) homered again tonight. It was his seventh.
Frisco righthander Doug Mathis (3-2, 1.14) took a loss but was outstanding once again, allowing only an unearned run over six innings.
Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden (.391/.576/.761) hasn’t homered yet tonight, and hasn’t walked.
But it’s still just the second inning.
Mark Teixeira is hitting .417 and slugging .792 over the 12-game hit streak he’s in the midst of.
Robinson Tejeda has a sore forearm and will pitch Friday in Houston rather than make tomorrow’s Disney start.
First two innings this season: Opponents 70, Rangers 20.
I’m in the mood for Brandon McCarthy and the Rangers lineup to buck that trend tomorrow against Tampa Bay.
You can read more from Jamey Newberg at http://www.NewbergReport.com.
There’s exactly one player on the Rangers roster who is exceeding expectations (at least the expectations I had), and it’s the player I probably had the least hope for going into the season. Sammy Sosa is hitting .278/.346/.548 with eight home runs 26 RBI in 32 games.
One American League team and one National League team have a worse record than the Rangers’ 14-21.
I’m easily demoralized by bad defense.
It’s been an exceedingly demoralizing fifth of a season.
In early March, “Batter’s Box Interactive Magazine” asked me what I thought the biggest surprise would be for this team in 2007. My answer: “Michael Young’s RBI total. Ian Kinsler’s All-Star Game appearance. C.J. Wilson.”
Despite Young’s slow start, Frank Catalanotto’s struggles limiting Young’s RBI opportunities, and Catalanotto’s injury ultimately prompting a return to the two spot for Young, the shortstop nonetheless has 21 RBI and is on pace for 97, six short of a career best. Still, not what I had envisioned.
Kinsler? That prediction looked very good a few weeks into the season, and it’s still not impossible, but as a result of his recent struggles, both at the plate and in the field, what was beginning to look like a lock, especially with a tremendously weak American League class, is certainly no longer that.
Wilson has been filthy lately. His ERA is at a season low 2.63, opponents are hitting .163/.305/.245 against him, and only one of his 11 inherited runners have come around to score.
Wilson claims he is throwing the mythical gyroball (which allegedly moves up and away from right-handed hitters) once or twice an appearance, and he says he’s punched out five batters with it, adding, “I haven’t had anybody really swing at it — mostly check-swings.”
Mark Teixeira in April: .231/.346/.341 (on-base higher than slug!).
Mark Teixeira in May: .400/.429/.750. Interestingly, after drawing 15 walks in 25 April games, Teixeira has drawn just two in 10 May games. Considering how many hitters’ strikes he patiently watched early on, I think it’s actually a good sign that he’s not racking up as many free passes.
Catalanotto will make a rehab appearance for Frisco tonight, leading off as the designated hitter. The assignment is expected to last just one game.
Pretty interesting that Nelson Cruz is starting to see time in left field on occasion. His troubles at the plate are obvious. But when you start to see him in left rather than right — including twice in games that Victor Diaz got the right field assignment — you have to wonder whether a AAA assignment might be nearing.
There’s no shortage of piping hot outfield alternatives at Oklahoma. Marlon Byrd is hitting .358/.428/.537. Jason Botts, after a slow start, is hitting .333/.408/.500 in May. Kevin Mahar, a week into his promotion to the RedHawks, sits at .414/.485/.655.
Lefthander John Koronka’s first three AAA starts this year: 0-2, 8.40, no quality starts. His four since: 3-0, 2.60, four quality starts.
Oklahoma co-catcher Guillermo Quiroz has multiple hits in five of his last seven games, raising his line to .306/.352/.327.
Only three times in 27 games has RedHawks infielder Tug Hulett failed to reach base on a hit or a walk. He’s hitting .340/.429/.489, having started the season as Oklahoma’s everyday third baseman before becoming the club’s full-time second baseman late in April.
The RedHawks activated first baseman Nate Gold (fractured finger) from the disabled list. He was hitting .194 with one home run and one double in 36 at-bats when he got hurt; he’s 6 for 20 with two home runs and two doubles since returning. Oklahoma utility man Dave Matranga replaced Gold on the DL.
Oklahoma righthander Scott Shoemaker pitched five times for Bakersfield (one win, three saves) after coming over from Boston in the Daniel Haigwood trade, giving up three runs (1.80 ERA) on nine hits (.173 opponents’ average) and three walks in 15 innings, fanning 10. Promoted this week to AAA, he debuted for the RedHawks on Thursday, giving up two hits in 3.2 scoreless innings, setting two Las Vegas hitters down on strikes.
Haigwood debuted for AA Portland on Monday, firing four shutout innings (three hits, two walks, four strikeouts).
Major League Baseball suspended Oklahoma righthander Francisco Cruceta for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The 25-year-old righthander, whom Texas claimed off waivers from Seattle in October, has a 1-0, 4.82 record in five starts and one relief appearance for the RedHawks.
Joaquin Arias made his first defensive game appearance in extended spring training game on Thursday, apparently at shortstop.
Frisco second baseman German Duran is having the quietest breakthrough of any Rangers position player prospect. The stocky second baseman is hitting .317/.366/.587 with seven home runs in 104 at-bats, less than two years after Texas drafted him out of Weatherford College in the sixth round. Duran hit .262/.313/.393 for Spokane in 2005, and .284/.331/.446 for Bakersfield last year. He’s trending up.
Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden’s stay on the disabled list was happily brief, as his surgically repaired elbow was sore but not damaged. Sidelined for three weeks, he returned to action on Thursday and has DH’d the last two nights, picking up right where he left off offensively, going 2 for 6 with three walks. He’s hitting .325/.518/.575 for the season.
The Rangers’ last two second-round picks are leading Clinton’s offensive attack. Third baseman Johnny Whittleman, repeating with the LumberKings, went 3 for 3 with his sixth homer and a walk last night, and is hitting .364/.461/.664 for the season. Center fielder K.C. Herren homered and doubled and sits at .363/.414/.626, including a sick .538/.571/.949 in May.
Whittleman leads the Midwest League in batting average. And in on-base percentage. And in slugging percentage. Herren is second, fourth, and third in the same categories.
Clinton lefthander Glenn Swanson (who made my pitching breakout predictions in the 2007 Bound Edition) has made six starts for the LumberKings. Every one of them has been a quality start. The 2005 49th-rounder is 5-1, 2.19, having scattered 29 hits (.218 opponents’ average) and just four walks in 37 innings while punching out 37 Midwest Leaguers.
Don’t be fooled by Swanson’s draft position. He was coming off a medical redshirt season in which he was only healthy enough to pitch nine innings. He returned to Cal Irvine as a fifth-year senior, allowing Texas to retain draft-and-follow rights on the southpaw after using its penultimate 2005 pick on him. Swanson proceeded to go 9-4, 2.86 last spring, firing the third no-hitter in school history, and he signed with the Rangers on June 5, the day before he otherwise would have gone back into the draft.
Good scouting, Steve Flores.
Swanson’s teammate Zach Phillips, who went 5-12, 5.96 for the LumberKings last summer after a brilliant debut season in the Arizona League in 2005, is capitalizing on his encore run at Low A hitters. After a disappointing season debut (five runs on six hits and a walk in three innings, two strikeouts), the 20-year-old is rolling. In his six starts since, he is 4-0, 1.23 with 39 strikeouts (though 18 walks) in 29.1 innings, scattering 22 hits. Phillips has a 1.67 groundout-to-flyout ratio for the season.
Phil Nevin retired. He’s going to work on a Padres radio pregame show and provide analysis for ESPN during the College World Series.
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, back in the big leagues for the first time since May 2005, has driven in runs in three of his five games for St. Louis.
Cincinnati optioned third baseman Edwin Encarnacion to AAA Louisville.
Baltimore purchased the contract of righthander Jon Leicester.
A former heralded Rangers righthander prospect is dealing for AAA Sacramento in the Oakland system, but it’s not Juan Dominguez, who was a failure in his A’s stint. Colby Lewis is 4-1, 2.42 in seven RiverCat starts, scattering 32 hits and 13 walks in 44.2 innings while fanning 40. The Nationals released Lewis in mid-March — on the day his son Cade was born.
“Studio 60″ returns (even if briefly) on May 24.
When I was probably 12 years old I had an NFL Almanac that, among a thousand other things, had complete historical draft lists. It may not surprise you that I read that section over and over, and that it was really cool to me that the Cowboys had drafted Ball State halfback Merv Rettenmund in the 19th round in 1965, and Kentucky wide receiver Pat Riley in the 11th round in 1967.
Peter Gammons writes that Gabe Kapler will manage the Red Sox one day, possibly as Terry Francona’s eventual successor. Kapler is managing at Low A Greenville right now.
Indie moves: The Reno SilverSox (Golden Baseball League) signed outfielder Cody Nowlin. The Edmonton Cracker-Cats (Northern League) signed righthander Lou Pote. The Sussex SkyHawks (Can-Am League) released shortstop Bobby Lenoir. The Pensacola Pelicans (American Association) released righthander Clint Sodowsky.
Texas held Vladimir Guerrero hitless last night for just the fourth time in his 58 career games against the club. He’s never gone hitless in two straight against the Rangers. How good are Kameron Loe’s chances of making history today? Guerrero is hitting .313/.421/.375 against Loe in 16 career at-bats. The .313 lifetime clip is the just 12th-highest that Guerrero sports against pitchers who have appeared for Texas this year.
But Vlad can go 5 for 5 today, for all I care, if we come away with a win.
May 10, 1973: Texas trades righthander **** Bosman and outfielder Ted Ford to Cleveland for righthander Steve Dunning.
The playing career of **** Bosman lasted only a short time with the Texas Rangers, but there may be no man involved in as much history with the club who has gotten less recognition.
Bosman was the established ace of the Washington Senators rotation when, at age 28, he assumed that role with the new Rangers franchise in 1972. He pitched for Texas for only a year and a month, more than 20 years before he would make his greatest mark with the organization. Bosman went a respectable 8-10, 3.63 for the 54-100 Rangers in 1972 and was 2-5, 4.24 in seven starts the next year when, on May 10, 1973, he was shipped to Cleveland with outfielder Ted Ford in exchange for young righthander Steve Dunning.
In 1969, Bosman’s second full season in the Major Leagues, he had gone 14-5, 2.19 for the Senators, leading the American League in ERA. In 1970, he won 16 games, the most for a Senators pitcher since 1959.
Bosman’s most notable 1971 effort came on September 30, when he started and lasted five innings the Senators’ last-ever game, a contest with the Yankees that Washington led, 7-5, in the top of the ninth. Reliever Joe Grzenda came on to close things out, retiring pinch-hitter Felipe Alou on a comebacker, when Senators fans swarmed the field. Once order was restored, Grzenda forced a second comebacker, off the bat of Bobby Murcer. An out away from the exodus of the franchise, the home fans once again poured onto the field, this time grabbing the bases and home plate, stripping the RFK Stadium scoreboard, and tearing out chunks of sod from the field. Umpires called a forfeit, stripping the Senators of a victory they were an out away from recording.
It was the last forfeit in the Major Leagues until June 4, 1974, when Cleveland forfeited a home game against Texas on “Ten-Cent Beer Night.”
Bosman pitched in relief for the Indians that night.
But between the two forfeits, Bosman spent a season and a month with Texas, starting the opener for the Rangers in each of the franchise’s first two years of existence. Bosman took the hill in the club’s first-ever game, pitching into the ninth inning of a scoreless tilt in Anaheim on April 15, 1972, but he was chased after a walk, an error by catcher Hal King, and another walk, suffering the loss when lefthander Paul Lindblad came in and promptly uncorked a game-ending wild pitch.
Six days later, Bosman got the nod in the Rangers’ first home game, not pitching nearly as well as he had in the season opener but notching his first Texas win, as he gave up four California runs in 5.1 innings of a 7-6 Rangers victory. Immediately after Lindblad recorded the final out, Bosman dashed to the curb outside Arlington Stadium, where his wife Pamela had parked their car. Bosman hopped in, and accompanied by a police escort the former drag racer rushed Pamela to a Fort Worth hospital, where the couple’s first child, Michelle, was born hours later.
Bosman ended up leading the 1972 Rangers in starts (29) and innings pitched (173.1), and he was once again bestowed the honor of starting the season opener in 1973, taking the loss as Texas fell to the Chicago White Sox, 6-1. Bosman would make just six more starts for the Rangers before being traded on May 10 to the Indians, along with Ford (who had led Texas with 14 home runs in 1972 but failed to make the club in 1973), for Dunning, who had been the second pick in the entire Major League draft just three years earlier after a standout career at Stanford.
Dunning’s stint with Texas was less than illustrious. He would go 2-6, 5.34 in 12 starts and 11 relief appearances in 1973, prompting Rangers manager Whitey Herzog at one point to issue an unusually blunt comment about the impact of the trade: “[Bosman] hasn’t done much for Cleveland. And Steve hasn’t looked too good for us.” Dunning would make one Rangers appearance in 1974. It would be his last with the club.
Herzog was absolutely right about Bosman as far as the 1973 season was concerned, as he posted a 1-8, 6.22 mark for the Tribe, going winless until mid-July and pitching himself out of the Indians rotation by late August.
Bosman worked mostly in long relief at the start of the 1974 season, but Cleveland manager Ken Aspromonte shifted Bosman back into the rotation in July, and the move paid off. On July 19, Bosman was an errant throw – his own – short of throwing a perfect game in a 4-0 defeat of Oakland. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Bosman fielded a ground ball off the bat of Sal Bando, but threw wildly, allowing Bando to reach second base. It was the only baserunner the Athletics managed all night as Bosman recorded a no-hitter.
Six weeks later, Bosman was back on the mound in Arlington when his former teammate, Rangers second baseman Dave Nelson, led off the bottom of the first by drawing a walk, after which he stole second, stole third, and stole home, becoming the second player to achieve that feat since 1941.
Bosman split the 1975 season between Cleveland and Oakland, retiring after a final year with the A’s in 1976. He then embarked on a coaching career that began at Georgetown University and led to a pitching coach gig with the White Sox in 1986-87. Bosman served as a minor league pitching instructor for Baltimore from 1988 through 1991, before Orioles manager Johnny Oates made him his big league pitching coach from 1992 through 1994.
In November of 1994, two weeks after Oates was hired to manage the Rangers, Oates brought Bosman over to be his pitching coach. Bosman would serve in that role until the 2000 season, notable of course from the standpoint that he coached the pitching staffs of the only three Rangers clubs ever to reach the post-season. He has since caught on with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization, serving in various coaching capacities in that club’s farm system.
When it comes to a discussion of the key figures in Texas Rangers lore, **** Bosman’s name isn’t mentioned nearly enough. While Bosman’s legacy with the Rangers is headlined by his role coaching pitchers on the club’s first three playoff teams, those weren’t the only firsts that he can claim as far as the history of the franchise is concerned.
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.