THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
It was one of those surprising little moments, watching Bill White warm up in the pen last night in preparation for what would be his big league debut, and just his second appearance as a pro above Class AA: his fellow bullpen members were tracking his pitches, most of them not moving their heads so as not to betray their curiosity but nonetheless darting their eyes toward bullpen catcher Josh Frasier with every warm-up pitch.
White has intriguing stuff, which is why Texas decided to give the 28-year-old lefthander a somewhat stunning September look. Along with the addition yesterday of righthander Luis Mendoza, the Rangers have added two non-roster pitchers from the Frisco staff who remain longshots to be part of the staff in April but who will get a chance to prove otherwise.
White spent seven seasons in the Diamondbacks system after signing as their third-round pick in 2000. He reached AA in his first full pro season but, in his time with Arizona, never pitched above that level. A lifetime 13-22, 4.88 pitcher coming into this season, he closed games for the first time in 2006, fanning 76 in 63.2 innings for AA Tennessee. Taking advantage of minor league free agency this past winter, he signed with the Nationals but was released before the end of spring training, hooking on with Texas late in camp.
Assigned to Oklahoma to start the season, White made the first AAA appearance of his career on April 7, getting five outs without permitting a run, but the Rangers then reassigned him to Frisco, where he went 2-0, 4.44 with two saves, permitting 48 hits (.253 opponents’ average) and 26 walks in 48.2 innings while fanning 64. He induced 1.33 as many groundouts as flyouts, and surrendered four home runs.
White was strong early (1.50 ERA in April) and strong late (1.50 ERA in August), and in his final two outings he gave up one hit, walked none, and recorded six outs — all on strikes. The southpaw was actually stingier against righthanders (.236/.320/.309) than lefties (.275/.414/.463) in AA, and last night Ron Washington wasn’t hesitant to use him in the seventh and eighth innings of a one-run game, or to leave him in against right-handed-hitting Mark Grudzielanek. White’s fastball sat at 92-93 and his slider had some bite to it. Interested to see more.
Mendoza didn’t appear in Wednesday night’s game, his first as a big leaguer, but his arrival means that last summer’s trade of journeyman reliever Bryan Corey to Boston for Mendoza was an unequivocal success. The 23-year-old Mendoza, who like White began his pro career in the year 2000, has never pitched in AAA. He’s going to pitch in the big leagues first.
Mendoza went 15-4, 3.93 in 25 starts and one relief appearance for the RoughRiders this year, leading the Texas League with three complete games and finishing second in wins. He nearly doubled his previous season high for wins (eight, in 2004), and was named to both the Texas League Mid-Season All-Star team and the league’s Postseason All-Star team.
Mendoza was particularly strong late, posting a 2.59 ERA in his final 12 starts. He will be able to leave the Rangers via minor league free agency if he’s not on the 40-man roster this winter, and so the Rangers are giving themselves three weeks to see what they have before deciding whether he belongs on the winter roster.
To make room on the 40-man roster for White and Mendoza, Texas moved righthanders Willie Eyre and Akinori Otsuka from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
The Rangers also purchased the contract of Oklahoma catcher Guillermo Quiroz (rather than existing roster member Chris Stewart) to serve as an extra catcher in September. Quiroz can also leave via free agency if not on the roster this winter.
Lefthander A.J. Murray and outfielder Freddy Guzman were recalled as well. While the club envisions Murray’s further development as a starter — he could get a spot start this month — his arrival, along with that of White and Mendoza, should help the club limit C.J. Wilson, Joaquin Benoit, and Frankie Francisco (all three of whom have already set career highs in games pitched) to stints of no more than one inning down the stretch.
No call-up for outfielder Victor Diaz. I suppose it might be because Hank Blalock’s return as a designated hitter has relegated Jason Botts to the outfield, and with David Murphy commanding more playing time and Nelson Cruz still needing lots of it, the opportunity for Diaz to get at-bats would have been slim.
Francisco has stranded the last 35 baserunners he’s inherited. Sick.
Michael Young needs to play every day and hit .315 (29 for 92) the rest of the way to reach 200 hits for the season.
Young was honored yesterday as the Rangers’ recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. He’s one of 30 players eligible for the league award, which honors players for their on-field play and their work in the community. You can vote for the winner of the national award through October 5 at http://www.mlb.com/chevy21.
Last night was the best we’ve seen of righthander Vicente Padilla all year. He was outstanding.
So was Benoit, who is 3-0, 0.98 with two saves since August 1 (eight hits [.131 opponents’ average], six walks, and 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings). What do you do with him this winter, his final arbitration-eligible off-season before free agency?
Brad Wilkerson still frustrates me offensively, but I like him a lot better at first base than I do in the outfield.
The Rangers exercised the 2009 option on manager Ron Washington’s contract. Not a surprise.
Righthander Kameron Loe is experiencing elbow soreness, describing a sharp pinch right at the release point. He’ll undergo an MRI today and miss his next start. Murray is a candidate to fill in for him.
Sidewinder Scott Feldman is now conventional three-quarters guy Scott Feldman. He was touching 94 on Tuesday night.
Frank Catalanotto led the American League in hitting in August (.406). Interestingly, he also led the league in August 2001 (.431) and in August 2003 (.412).
The Rangers posted a 3.76 ERA as a team in August, following a 3.95 July. It’s the first time the club has been under 4.00 in consecutive months since 1992.
Since July 31, Atlanta has fallen from 3.5 games back in the National League East (and 1.5 games back in the Wild Card chase) to 7.5 games back (and 5.5 games out of the Wild Card spot). But you can’t pin that on Mark Teixeira (.302/.393/.581, 10 home runs, 32 RBI in 33 games) or Ron Mahay (1-0, 1.45, 10 hits [.156 opponnets’ average], nine walks, and 16 strikeouts in 18.2 innings).
Since the trade, the Braves are 15-18, and the Rangers are 18-15.
Boston righthander Eric Gagné is battling shoulder tightness. He hasn’t pitched in 11 days.
The Commissioner’s Office levied a 50-game suspension on Rangers 2007 second-rounder Matt West for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. West was hitting .301/.397/.388 in 103 Arizona League at-bats.
Frisco fell to San Antonio, 5-3, in the opener of the clubs’ best-of-five Texas League playoff series. All three RoughRider runs came in the seventh inning, when German Duran, Brandon Boggs, and John Mayberry Jr. each went deep to give Frisco a 3-2 lead that the Missions turned around with a three-run ninth off relievers Jesse Ingram and Danny Ray Herrera.
Righthander Armando Galarraga was transferred from Oklahoma to Frisco for the playoffs, but he could show up in Texas this month as well.
Clinton lost, 4-1, in the opener of its best-of-three against Cedar Rapids. Chad Tracy’s solo homer in the fifth accounted for the LumberKings’ only run.
Righthander Neftali Feliz pitched two innings in Spokane’s season finale yesterday, recording six outs — every one of them on strikes. In 15 innings since arriving in the Teixeira trade, Feliz punched out 27 hitters in 15 frames, though he did issue 12 walks.
You’ve never seen an organizational depth chart as well done as the one that Scott Lucas has created for the Rangers: http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/org.htm.
Baltimore purchased the contract of righthander Jon Leicester and made the odd decision, after designating righthander Rob Bell for assignment on August 30 and then outrighting him to the farm on Tuesday, to then purchase his contract the very next day.
Washington called up outfielder Justin Maxwell.
Low A Peoria lefthander James Russell combined with three relievers to throw a no-hitter on Saturday. The Cubs’ 14th-round draft pick in June, Russell is the son of former Rangers closer Jeff Russell.
What Bill White combined with four other Rangers pitchers to accomplish last night was not a no-hitter, but it was a major league win, and coming into this season that probably seemed just as elusive to the 28-year-old lefty.