THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 21, 2007

Brandon McCarthy says it’s “50-50″ whether he makes his two final starts, telling reporters that he was dealing with tendinitis in his forearm in the days leading up to last night’s effort, adding that “durable pitchers pitch through soreness. They know when it’s too painful to push it, though.”

McCarthy has fought all year to get his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since his second start of the season. The 24-year-old brought it down to 4.79 for one start in August before seeing it creep back up, and last night’s four scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 4.87.

I’d like to see him finish under 5.00. And to prove to himself that he can pitch, and pitch well, even if the grind of the season has him feeling less than 100 percent.

Armando Galarraga is slated to pitch on Monday in place of Vicente Padilla, who has dropped his appeal of the seven-day suspension levied by the league. Ron Washington has already said Padilla won’t start again once he is reactivated.

I was flat wrong about Padilla’s effort on Sunday, when I wrote that I was fired up by his drilling of Nick Swisher and concluded: “Padilla hasn’t done anything to earn the benefit of the doubt. But he’s still getting it, at least from me, at least today.”

I didn’t fully understand what Padilla’s teammates really think of him until reading quotes from a handful of them the next day. I wrote: “I get it that Padilla is no Clemens, no Nuschler, no Stottlemyre. He’s been a great disappointment on the mound this year and will never be branded (at least as far as we know) as a leader in the room. I’m not sure that Padilla drilling hitters rallies his teammates as much as it sets them up. I don’t know how he’s viewed by the guys who wear the same uniform he does.”

I’m pretty sure I now know how he’s viewed by them. It’s more than a little disappointing how little Padilla seems to get it, but what are you going to do at this point? It’s been suggested in the papers and on the radio that Texas might try to move the final two guaranteed years and $24.75 million on Padilla’s deal for someone else’s bad contract (Carl Pavano [two years, $24 million] and Jose Contreras [two years, $20 million] have been mentioned) or for nothing, with Texas gift-wrapping Padilla with a $20 million subsidy.

Here’s an idea: How about Boston outfielder J.D. Drew, who is owed $56 million over the next four years? The 31-year-old has been a major disappointment in the first year of his five-year deal, and is annually an injury risk, but he’s still an on-base machine and, if right, gives his team a legitimate number five hitter who is also capable of leading off.

Would Boston bury Padilla in long relief just to get out from Drew’s mega-contract?

Would Texas take a $31.25 million chance that Drew could stay healthy and productive into his middle thirties, just to eradicate Padilla from the roster?

The quotes I read after the start Padilla made two nights ago, a start in which he got away from his fastball and relied on a peculiarly steady array of loopy curves, stunned me.

Washington: “He’s more effective when he uses his fastball. I don’t know why he went to the off-speed stuff as much as he did.”

Mark Connor, on the same subject: “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “Honestly, I don’t know why he went to the [slow curve]. He had some trouble locating early, and it was one of those nights where he thought that was what was the best thing to go with.”

The comments from teammates after Padilla’s bench-clearing pitch and the remarks from his manager, pitching coach, and catcher after his subsequent start said a ton. No more benefit of the doubt from me, and I’m ashamed I ever extended it to him in the first place.

Torii Hunter fired off a couple interesting quotes of his own, confirming baseball’s worst-kept secret — that he wouldn’t mind playing 50 miles south of his Prosper, Texas home as he enters free agency this winter. Now, it’s not out of the question that comments like “I almost bet you that the Texas Rangers have a better chance than anybody” are manufactured to make sure that the Rangers get involved so that he can get a couple big market teams to throw big market numbers at him.

But when he adds, “I’m hoping the Texas Rangers make some moves and I’ll be right there,” and “I’m just watching. Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me],” that does sound more like a player who actually wants to be here.

I’m on record saying I’d rather commit less to 29-year-old Aaron Rowand than the 32-year-old Hunter to play center field here. (Did you realize that Rowand’s OPS is .901, compared to Hunter’s .858? And that the rangy Rowand has 11 assists to Hunter’s five?).

But what about the thought of signing both of them? Can you imagine an outfield of Hunter, Rowand, and a David Murphy/Marlon Byrd platoon? Defensively, it would be the best outfield this franchise has ever had and one of the best in baseball. Think it would leave the lineup too bare? Rowand has 43 doubles and 26 home runs this year. Hunter, 43 and 28. Extrapolate Murphy and Byrd to a platoon-based number of shared at-bats, and based on their 2007 numbers they’d give you 51 and 13. That’s obviously based on Murphy doing over 350 at-bats what he’s done in his seven weeks here, which is unrealistic, but I’m starting to really believe he can be Rusty Greer with a plus arm if everything breaks right.

Would Texas pay $16 million a year to get Hunter, and $11 million a year to get Rowand (probably for five years on each)? Big commitment. But I’m a huge Rowand fan, and while I don’t think Hunter is going to be this productive for the last half of his upcoming contract, I’m starting to buy into the idea that he can have a Will Clark impact on his next team even once his numbers start to decline. This team needs more Clark types in the room, more Greer’s, more Mark McLemore’s and Mickey Tettleton’s and Mark DeRosa’s and Dave Valle’s.

Another thought (which presupposes Hunter or Rowand but not both): Eric Hurley, Taylor Teagarden, and Elvis Andrus for Adam Dunn, assuming Cincinnati exercises its 2008 option early in October and Texas can work out a long-term extension with Dunn during a brief window leading up to the trade. Which team refuses?

Would Saltalamacchia have to be in the deal rather than Teagarden? Would that be a deal-breaker from a Rangers standpoint?

Last night’s disgusting 10th inning, along with Tuesday’s game in Minnesota, reminded me how much I miss Mark Teixeira’s defense at first base.

Michael Young needs to go 8 for 40 (.200) in the Rangers’ final nine games to reach 200 hits for the fifth straight season, a feat that only Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki have achieved since 1940.

Akinori Otsuka is officially done for the season. Scott Feldman probably is. Kameron Loe may not be.

It’s still undetermined whether Hank Blalock will play defensively before the season ends.

Baseball America has kicked off its minor league top 20 prospects features, with scouts’ and league managers’ assessment of Arizona League talent slated for later today.

Low A Greenville manager Gabe Kapler told the Red Sox he’d like to make a comeback as a player in 2008.

The Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association released lefthander Seth Hill.

Righthanders Luis Mendoza and Edinson Volquez take the hill the next two nights in the Ballpark. I’m pretty pumped to see them make their final home starts and extend two of the better Rangers stories of the 2007 season, as it nears its conclusion.

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

2 Comments

“Eric Hurley, Taylor Teagarden, and Elvis Andrus for Adam Dunn. Which team refuses?”

Sorry, Jamey, although you and I agree on many points I am so not with you on this…if the Rangers don’t refuse, I give up.

Jamey,
The Padilla situation isn’t the only thing you will be admitting you were wrong about. Your keyboard must have malfunctioned when you proposed that trade of our #1 pitching prospect, TNT, and Elvis for Adam Dunn, who we will have to pay big money to keep anyways?? I understand we are deep in young pitching now, but doesn’t that mean we have plently of other pitchers to trade insted of our #1! And then when I thought I couldn’t be more shocked, you want to throw in Salty? I know you have mentioned how much you like Dunn in the past, but that would be like trading Teixeira and Hurley for Dunn?? I’ve been reading your report for 2 years, and your insight and opinions are the best I’ve ever known, but that is the worst thing I have ever heard you say. We should only make a trade involving those players for a Johan Santana, or Roy Oswalt type pitcher if we are going to have to pay big money to the player comming back in the trade, like we would Dunn. I’m all for giving up prospects who are not sure things, for a proven hitter. But Hurley is not some prospect in single-A ball. We’ve waited this long, and now he’s knocking on the doorstep to the Majors. And Taylor Teagarden was awesome in college (in our home state), and awesome in the minors too. He’s as close to a sure thing as Hafner was when we gave him away. I hope we aren’t spending these years in last place “rebuilding” only to give up our young jewels for high priced trade bait. (That can’t pitch too.)

Please Jamey, tell me there isn’t something inside you that longs for the days when we had big sluggers that led the league in HR’s, as our teams lost 10-9 beacuse we never had any pitching.

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