THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Ron Washington’s unvarnished outspokenness with the press was a refreshing change over the winter and when spring training got underway, but some of his comments lately have been a little curious.

Asked on a talk show on Friday morning whether he wanted Vicente Padilla back in 2008, Washington responded: “I don’t think I have a choice there.” Honest? Sure. Tactful? Not sure.

Asked this weekend to assess his wish list going into 2008, Washington listed center field, first base, right field, and closer, adding: “Will we get them all? I don’t know. But we certainly need a closer. You’re not going to go into a season expecting to win without somebody who can close a ballgame down. It’s that simple.”

C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit have struggled a bit as they’ve surpassed career high appearance totals this month, but do they deserve that sort of comment from their manager?

Does Gerald Laird deserve to read that his manager makes first base a priority this winter, a pretty obvious signal as to where he wants Jarrod Saltalamacchia to suit up in 2008?

There’s probably even an argument that Marlon Byrd and David Murphy, with the way they have played this summer, might have done enough not to have to see quotes from their manager that among the club’s top off-season priorities, in his opinion, are the acquisition of two outfielders.

(Wonder who he considers his left fielder, since that’s the one outfield spot he didn’t list.)

Wilson and Benoit and Byrd and Murphy have all stepped up for their first-year manager this season, and each is among the best developments of an otherwise disappointing year. Theoretically, a decision hasn’t yet been made as to whether Saltalamacchia figures in at catcher or first base, but if I’m Laird and I see that Washington calls first base his number two off-season priority, I know where I stand.

I’m not saying I disagree with the wish list. Just not sure it’s up to the manager — during the season — to articulate it publicly. Not even sure it’s the manager’s place to weigh in on it publicly at all, since putting the roster together is someone else’s job. Getting the best out of his players, however he can, is up to the manager.

Regarding his current closer tandem, Washington said: “I’m not saying C.J. or Benoit can’t do it one day, but they don’t have the experience. They have the stuff to do it, but they have to earn their way to that position.”

Fine.

But that other comment: “We certainly need a closer. You’re not going to go into a season expecting to win without somebody who can close a ballgame down.”

Seems unnecessary.

And a few days ago, asked by a local columnist about the idea of going into 2008 without Sammy Sosa, Washington said: “If a young player is sitting in that DH spot, he’s got to be a hitting machine.” Got any young hitting machines on your club, Wash? “Not up here. You see any? Let me know so I can put them on my roster here.”

Not sure that was needed, either. I doubt Billy Gardner made public comments along those lines when rookie Ron Washington — 30-year-old rookie Ron Washington — led the Twins in games at shortstop in 1982.

It’s no secret that this club needs a couple impact bats and could probably use a veteran reliever. I’m just not sure how constructive it is for the leadership of the organization to get any more specific than that with the press right now.

Six months ago Luis Mendoza wasn’t anywhere near the radar, and Edinson Volquez was hurtling in the wrong direction. What a great year it’s been for those two.

In Mendoza’s case, kudos to Tom Giordano, Russ Ardolina, and the Rangers’ pro scouting staff for recommending a pitcher who was released by two organizations in 2005 and was a 1-5, 6.38 AA pitcher when the Rangers chose him as the return last July for 32-year-old journeyman reliever Bryan Corey. Mendoza was solid on Friday, dirty at times, as he earned his first major league win.

In Volquez’s case, kudos to Jon Daniels and his crew, and to Mark Connor, Scott Servais, Rick Adair, Mike Anderson, Terry Clark, and Andy Hawkins for planning and implementing such an unconventional approach to rebuild the 24-year-old. Daps to Volquez for buying into the plan every step of the way.

Mendoza, according to Washington, is most likely going to be in Oklahoma when camp breaks next year. Volquez is a strong bet to be in Arlington.

Ian Kinsler’s 20th home run last night puts him in the company of Toby Harrah, Bobby Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano as the only hitters to have 20-homer, 20-stolen base seasons as Rangers. Jose Canseco didn’t do it. Ruben Sierra didn’t, either.

Righthander Armando Galarraga will start tomorrow since he wasn’t needed in relief last night.

The Rangers have shut Kameron Loe down, opting not to push things with his elbow.

Michael Young needs to go 6 for 29 (.207) the rest of the way to reach 200 hits.

According to Kat O’Brien of Newsday, the Rangers traded Eric Gagné to Boston only because the Yankees refused to part with center fielder Melky Cabrera or minor league righthander Ian Kennedy in exchange for the reliever.

Since the Gagné trade, he is 2-2, 7.88 with the Red Sox, getting hit at a .333/.403/.493 clip and blowing all three save opportunities he’s had.

Cabrera has hit .267 with 29 RBI in 47 games, including five driven in over the final four innings yesterday as the Yankees came back to win, 12-11, in 10 innings. Cabrera’s singled Jorge Posada in with two outs in the 10th to end the game.

Kennedy, who went 12-3, 1.91 between High A, AA, and AAA this season, his first full year as a pro, was summoned to New York on September 1 to replace the struggling Mike Mussina, and he’s 1-0, 1.89 in three impressive starts.

Great finish to the Milwaukee-Atlanta game yesterday. It was tough watching Francisco Cordero blow the save with two outs in the 10th, but great to see Mark Teixeira single in the winning run off of Brian Shouse in the 11th.

Forty-two home runs and 92 walks for Carlos Pena (.278/.400/.610). Incredible.

The New York Post cites a New York Magazine report suggesting that Scott Boras has approached an unnamed potential new owner of the Cubs — reportedly not Mark Cuban — about the idea of Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract with the Yankees and hooking up this winter with the Cubs on a 10-year, $300 deal. A huge portion of the contract would be backloaded and include a provision allowing A-Rod to buy into the ownership of the club at the contract’s conclusion.

This ought to be interesting: 36-year-old Angels reliever Darren Oliver made his 59th appearance of the season yesterday. One more and his $2 million option for 2008 vests.

Scouts and Arizona League managers placed three Rangers prospects on Baseball America’s list of the league’s top 20 prospects. Center fielder Engel Beltre (who came over in the Gagné trade) was number two, righthander Wilmer Font was number five, and catcher Cristian Santana was number nine. BA’s John Manuel said in a chat session that righthander Michael Main would have been number three in the league if he qualified (but his late start on the mound and subsequent promotion to Spokane limited him to just 12.2 AZL frames).

San Francisco and Barry Bonds have announced the cutting of ties, and the national writers are already trying to fit him in his 2008 uniform, with Texas on some lists along with Oakland, Detroit, the Angels, Baltimore, and Seattle. The Rangers, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, made no offer to Bonds last winter even though he was interested in coming here.

Ron Washington is telling reporters he thinks Bonds will end up with the A’s. Fine with me if Wash publicly plays GM — as long as it’s not for his own team.

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

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