THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 12, 2007

Any visions that Mark Teixeira had of the 2007 season that included him standing in the on-deck circle with the Astros’ Brad Lidge on the mound probably involved a mid-May matchup in Houston or a late-June confrontation in Arlington, with the game on the line. If not a ninth inning in late October. It surely didn’t have Teixeira wearing a RoughRiders jersey and Lidge in Corpus Christi Hooks garb, and regardless of the circumstances, you can bet that neither Teixeira nor any of us envisioned the iron man playing anywhere over the All-Star Break other than San Francisco.

But it’s been a season full of dashed visions, of course. Teixeira made that very clear in his comments to reporters before yesterday’s rehab appearance in Frisco, in which he played first base and grounded out, flew out, and drew two walks. He talked about being tired of losing, and about Rangers fans deserving better. Nobody will take issue with him there.

But when he says he hopes winning here “will happen this year or next year, but the window is closing,” and “when a player has the chance, they’re going to go with a winner,” it’s hard not to interpret Teixeira’s comments as a signal that he’s planning to leave when he can become a free agent after the 2008 season — if not traded first.

And it’s likely that he’ll be traded first. Rumors are just rumors, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday that one that was circulating at the All-Star Game had the Braves among a handful of teams showing interest in Teixeira. The fact that the story erroneously pointed out that Teixeira is eligible for free agency after this season calls the reliability of everything else in it into question, but if the Braves are in fact in the mix, that’s good news.

It was suggested in the article that Texas “would probably accept nothing less than top Braves prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia and another young player,” but more important than the names being exchanged (if any are) would be the simple presence of Atlanta in the talks in the first place. For the Rangers to get what Teixeira is worth, at least two teams need to be seriously interested, preferably two with a healthy inventory of upper-level prospects. The Braves fit the description.

While most national journalists are claiming that this trade market is different from most because teams aren’t as willing to part with top prospects anymore, check back in two weeks. There are several heated division races, and when the opportunity comes the last few days of July to shake things up by adding an impact bat or arm, we’ll see how attached teams are to their minor league and rookie talent.

And then we’ll see how long it takes before Texas is judged to have a stronger farm system than it is right now. An organization can change its perception in that regard fairly quickly. Not long ago, a weak Dodgers system was headlined by Joey Thurston, Koyie Hill, and Chin-Feng Chen. Then they drafted James Loney, Greg Miller, Jonathan Broxton, and Russ Martin in 2002; Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, and Chuck Tiffany in 2003; Scott Elbert and Blake DeWitt in 2004; Jonathan Meloan in 2005; and Clayton Kershaw in 2006, and now Los Angeles is considered perhaps the elite system in baseball.

The Rangers’ last few drafts have a chance to pay solid dividends, not to mention the work A.J. Preller, Don Welke, and Manny Batista are doing in Latin America. Add a couple key prospects by way of trade this month (Dodgers example: Andre Ethier from Oakland), and there’s no reason this system can’t be considered one of the better ones in the league within a couple years. There’s that opportunity, at least.

Teixeira, who has been out since June 9 with a strained left quadriceps muscle, is expected to fly out with the big club today, rejoining the lineup when Texas opens in Anaheim tomorrow night.

Incidentally, one local media outlet claims that the Rangers have not approached Boras about a long-term extension. Another two say the club has in fact approached Teixeira and Boras but that he and Boras prefer to wait.

Albert Pujols reacted to his All-Star Game DNP-CD a bit differently from the manner in which Michael Young reacted.

Oklahoma lefthander A.J. Murray over the last six weeks: four saves in four opportunities, 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings, 16 hits (.246 opponents’ average), zero home runs, seven walks, 16 strikeouts. The reason that’s meaningful is that southpaw Ron Mahay is quietly having a sensational season (1-0, 2.35, .200/.320/.343, 24 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, and fairly even lefty-righty splits), and despite virtually no mention by the media in terms of the Rangers’ trade commodities, it could be that the 36-year-old Mahay (who is halfway through a $1.2 million contract for 2007) has as much trade value as anyone on the club outside of Teixeira, Eric Gagné, and Akinori Otsuka. With Murray pitching well, Texas might not hesitate to move Mahay if a solid trade offer comes along.

Actually, the pitcher who might have the most trade value on the team right now is C.J. Wilson, but he isn’t going anywhere. I remember being caught slightly off-guard when I realized that young Cowboys lineman Larry Allen was not only considered a budding star but perhaps the finest guard in football, just a couple years into his career. I remember similar reactions when I first learned how much peer acclaim Tom Petty, Beck, and Trent Reznor had earned. No such blindsiding with Wilson. We all know what we’ve got here. We may not know the limits to his potential, but we know he’s going to get a chance to realize it here.

So the New York Daily News (Bill Madden) and the Bergen Record (Tara Sullivan) cite a “major league source” as supplying intelligence that Tom Hicks has expressed interest in reacquiring Alex Rodriguez. I’d be stunned if the Rangers reentered those waters. And as for the “major league source” — do agents trying to shape a player’s market qualify?

When Texas resumes play tomorrow, the club will go forward with a rotation order of Kevin Millwood, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Jamey Wright, and Robinson Tejeda.

An off-day coming out of the Break. Weird.

Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis singled in the second inning last night, extending his hit streak to 29 games. Davis (.307/.350/.575) added another single and a walk on the night.

Frisco right fielder John Mayberry Jr. starred in Teixeira’s rehab game last night, homering twice and driving in four in the RoughRiders’ 5-2 win. Mayberry is now hitting .286/.355/.548 with six homers and 17 RBI in 24 AA games, after hitting .230/.314/.496 with 16 homers and 45 RBI in 62 Bakersfield contests.

Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman homered in Sunday’s Futures Game, taking 18-year-old Mets righthander Deolis Guerra deep. In a Baseball America survey of scouts, Guerra was ranked as the number two pitching prospect dispatched to the Futures Game, with one scout offering the following remarks: “Just unbelievable stuff with great life and movement late in the zone. His breaking ball is very good right now, but it has a chance to be plus-plus. He pounds the zone, repeats well for a big-bodied guy, and really has a chance to be special.”

Whittleman walked in his other trip. Frisco’s German Duran started at second base for the World Team and went 0 for 2, fanning once.

When RoughRiders righthander Armando Galarraga fired his complete-game gem on July 4 (one hit, one walk, nine strikeouts), he needed only 103 pitches despite the high punchout total. All nine strikeouts were swinging, seven on his plus slider.

The Rangers named Oklahoma outfielder Jason Botts (.360/.488/.650, 19 extra-base hits, 26 walks, 23 strikeouts) and Clinton lefthander Zach Phillips (3-0, 2.37 in five starts, .193 opponents’ average, 28/3 strikeout/walk ratio in 30.1 innings, 1.95 G/F) the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for June. Eleanor Czajka and Rob Cook’s counterpart awards will be posted soon.

Clinton shortstop Marcus Lemon may be on his way to July recognition. In April he hit .203. In May he hit .220. In June, .309. So far in July, the 19-year-old is hitting .378/.442/.514, with five steals in seven attempts (he was six for 11 coming into the month). Interestingly, the left-handed hitter is faring better against southpaws (.297/.378/.406) than against righthanders (.259/.344/.341). He’s hitting .268/.352/.356 overall but is a .344/.429/.467 hitter when starting in the leadoff spot.

LumberKing righthander Omar Poveda was brilliant yesterday, striking out 12 in a dominant seven-inning start in which he scattered three hits and one walk, allowing one run. The 19-year-old is now 9-3, 2.41 for the season. Righthander Brennan Garr closed out the 2-1 victory to earn his fifth save. In 39 innings, Garr has allowed just 25 hits (.177 opponents’ average) and 16 walks while punching out 50 and producing an extremely impressive 2.58 G/F rate.

Oklahoma right fielder Nelson Cruz — who like Botts will be out of options at the end of the season — opened his stance since his early June demotion to AAA, and he’s hitting .340/.405/.708 in 106 at-bats, striking out just 22 times. Half of his 36 hits have gone for extra bases, including 10 home runs, and he has 29 RBI in 30 games.

I was thinking the other day that maybe it’s just as well if Texas doesn’t sign Blake Beavan or Neil Ramirez until closer to the August 15 deadline, because the Arizona League regular season ends on August 30, meaning a deadline signing would almost surely mean a 2008 contract. The upside there, from the organization’s standpoint, would conceivably mean that it could stagger the Rule 5 eligibility of all its high school players taken early in last month’s draft.

But under the new CBA, I think it’s a moot point. I’m pretty sure that all 2007 high school picks who sign will be Rule 5-eligible in 2011 if not added to the 40-man roster by that November — even if they sign 2008 contracts rather than 2007 deals. Under the old Rule 5, the date of the effective contract dictated eligibility. But I’m pretty sure it now revolves solely on the year that the player signs, no matter when the effective date of the contract is. The exception is if the player signs after the minor league season has ended, but since players have to sign by August 15 of their draft year, it’s not really possible any longer to sign after the season.

So the bottom line is that, even if Beavan and Ramirez sign as late as August 15 and their deals are for 2008, they will need to be added to the 40-man roster by 2011 just like Michael Main to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

Main, who is hitting .217/.269/.261 in 23 Arizona League at-bats as a designated hitter, will apparently make his pitching debut on Tuesday.

Oklahoma righthander Francisco Cruceta was activated off of the suspended list, following a 50-game Major League Baseball suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The Indians and Travis Hafner have reportedly agreed to a four-year, $57 million contract extension.

This caught me by surprise: Milwaukee released lefthander Julian Cordero over a month ago. The 22-year-old went 1-0, 7.82 for Low A West Virginia in the Brewers system following last July’s Carlos Lee trade, giving up 20 hits and five walks in 12.2 innings, fanning a dozen, and he never appeared in an official game in 2007. Cordero went 2-5, 2.91 for Clinton in 2006, including 0-1, 2.08 in five starts leading up to the trade, scattering 19 hits and five walks in 26 innings while fanning 18.

Fort Worth Cats catcher Kelley Gulledge, the son of Rangers P.A. announcer Chuck Morgan, was selected to appear in the American Association All-Star Game.

The Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League signed lefthander Jared Locke.

Former Rangers prospect Edwin Moreno was pitching for Petroleros de Minatitlan in Mexico when San Diego signed him late in June. He’s apparently been placed on the restricted list since then, having not yet pitched stateside for the Padres.

The Coastal Bend Aviators of the independent American Association released righthander Juan Jimenez.

Righthander Ryan Dittfurth is 1-4, 4.55 in nine starts for the Sussex Skyhawks of the independent Can-Am League.

The Mets hired Rickey Henderson last night to replace Rick Down as hitting coach.

Wow.

Later this morning, this week’s “Swapping Stories” column will be posted on the Rangers’ MLB.com site. This edition focuses on the Rangers’ 1993 trade of Robb Nen and Kurt Miller to Florida for Cris Carpenter.

The quality isn’t spectacular, but here’s a YouTube clip of my Jim Knox encounter during the Newberg Report Night game on Friday.

The auction of the autographed game-issue Rangers warm-up jacket came to a close last night, with the prevailing bid coming in at a spectacular $1,502.00. We ended up raising over $4,000 for the Hello Win Column Fund in conjunction with Newberg Report Night, which will go to help a lot of local families who have been impacted by cancer.

Thank you for your inspiring support.

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

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