September 2007

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS: Instructional League roster set

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers’ Instructional League roster is as follows:

PITCHERS:

Beavan, Blake
Boscan, Wilfredo
Brigham, Jacob
Castillo, Fabio
Dennis, Chris
Feliz, Neftali
Font, Wilmer
Garr, Brennan
Holland, Derek
Hunter, Tommy
Jones, Beau
Kiker, Kasey
Laughter, Andrew
Lueke, Josh
Main, Michael
Ocampo, Kyle
Peralta, Juan
Perez, Martin
Pimentel, Carlos
Quintero, Jorge
Ramirez, Neil
Reed, Evan
Wilkins, Robert

CATCHERS

De Los Santos, Leonel
Greene, Jonathan
Pina, Manual
Ramirez, Max
Santana, Cristian

INFIELDERS

Andrus, Elvis
Gomez, Mauro
James, Andres
Martinez, Edward
Lemon, Marcus
Moreland, Mitch
Solis, Emmanual
Suero, Wilson
Telis, Tomas
Vallejo, Jose
Whittleman, Johnny
Yan, Johan

OUTFIELDERS

Alfonzo, Miguel
Beltre, Engel
Borbon, Julio
Paisano, David
Smith, Tim

A few items of note:

1. Instructs will stage the pro debut, so to speak, for Beavan, Ramirez, Ocampo, Perez, Suero, and Telis, the latter three of whom are 16-year-olds who were part of the Rangers’ Latin American haul this summer. Baseball America called Perez the top lefthander on the international market this year.

2. One of the two managers assigned to the IL squad is Jayce Tingler, who split the 2006 season between Bakersfield and Frisco after being selected from Toronto in the minor league phase of the December 2005 Rule 5 draft. A college teammate of Ian Kinsler at the University of Missouri, Tingler hit .271/.378/.322 in four seasons as a pro, drawing 221 walks while fanning only 95 times. The infielder coached for the Rangers in the Dominican Summer League this year.

3. Telis was born two months before I started law school.

Good grief.

4. Sort of expected to see Eric Fry in the outfield bunch.

5. Is this is a signal that Pimentel and Font have broken free from the triumvirate that included Geuris Grullon? Or a signal that we fans should stop grouping prospects together in the first place?

6. Man, there’s a ton of talent on that roster.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS: Minor league player/pitcher of the year announced

The Rangers have announced that righthander Edinson Volquez has been named their Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year and third baseman Chris Davis has been named their Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year.

Volquez went a combined 14-6, 3.67 for Bakersfield, Frisco, and Oklahoma before returning to Texas this month. He was particularly dominant in AAA, going 6-1, 1.41 in eight starts (his loss and no-decision were both 1-0 RedHawk losses) while limiting opponents to a .146 batting average and punching out 66 in 51 innings.

Davis, in what was his first full pro season, hit a combined .297/.347/.598 for Bakersfield and Frisco, blasting 36 home runs and driving in 118 runs, both of which were second in all of minor league baseball this year. He also tied two all-time Cal League records, with a 35-game hit streak and five grand slams for the season (in just 99 games).

Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 13, 2007

It’s sorta funny. Although any hope of this club factoring in evaporated before spring turned to summer, I went into last night’s Edinson Volquez matchup against Justin Verlander as confident of a win as I was confident of an April loss to Tomo Ohka, or a May loss to Casey Fossum. There is less individual talent on the current, expanded roster than there was in the season’s ugly first two months, but the Rangers are playing solid, efficient baseball right now, and it’s energizing to see.

The low point of the season, in terms of wins and losses, came when a Robinson Tejeda loss in Pittsburgh dropped Texas to 23-42. Since then the Rangers have gone 46-34, the fourth-best record in baseball in that span. Over the last month only Cleveland has a better record than the Rangers’ 19-10 mark.

It’s fashionable to call teams playing out the string in September and pinning losses on contenders “spoilers.” Maybe it’s because this roster has been turned over so dramatically through the course of the season, but this doesn’t feel at all like a run motivated by spoilage. It feels more like a few things here and there falling into place as the makeup of the 2008 roster starts to come into better focus.

Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t trade David Murphy for Gary Matthews Jr. right now. It has nothing to do with Matthews’s ankle injury. It’s not so much the .410/.438/.705 small-sample line that Murphy has produced. It’s the quality of Murphy’s at-bats, his ability to do everything he needs to do defensively, the fact that he’s just 25. I’m not exactly sure yet what he’s going to be, but he can play on my team any day, and I think he’s the type of player that is worthy of some sort of role on any roster.

As for Matthews, consider this:

In 2006, he hit .313/.371/.495, landing a five-year, $50 million contract.

Prior to that breakout age 31 campaign, in his first seven big league seasons, Matthews hit a collective .249/.327/.397.

In 2007, he is hitting .257/.323/.428, a line frighteningly similar to those that earned him annual non-roster invites over those first seven years.

In the last two weeks, the Rangers have added Volquez, A.J. Murray, Bill White, Luis Mendoza, and Armando Galarraga to the active roster. No Tejeda, who will be out of options when the season ends. I do believe his July 22 loss to Cleveland may very well have been Tejeda’s last act as a Ranger.

Galarraga’s arrival before last night’s game came after the Texas bullpen had thrown at least seven innings in three of the club’s previous four games, the first time that had happened in franchise history. The 25-year-old, who came over in the December 2005 trade that sent Alfonso Soriano to Washington, went 11-8, 4.14 in 27 appearances for Frisco and Oklahoma this year, reviving his prospect status.

Mendoza was impressive again last night. Solid command, good life.

Brandon McCarthy felt fine after throwing 35 pitches on Tuesday, and he’s slated to come back on three days’ rest for Saturday’s start in Oakland.

My prediction for Jason Botts when he came up August 1: an OPS of .700 in August, and .900 in September.

Botts had an OPS of .592 in August, and .974 so far in September.

The MRI on Kameron Loe’s elbow was relatively clean, but the timetable on his return to the mound is uncertain.

Scott Feldman will have an MRI on his right knee.

Michael Young needs to go 21 for 70 (.300) the rest of the way to extend his streak of 200-hit seasons to five.

Frisco’s and Clinton’s playoff runs have ended and so therefore has the 2007 Ryan Braun-esque run of daily minor league reports from Scott Lucas. My thanks to Scott for all the time, effort, and talent he has put into the reports all year.

Bakersfield and Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman had the eight-highest walk total in minor league baseball this year, with 86 (six walks short of the second-highest total). Frisco and Bakersfield outfielder Brandon Boggs was 12th in the minors with 84.

Galarraga, Whittleman, and Boggs are three of about two dozen players who made huge leaps in 2007 on the Rangers farm. I’m at work on the top prospects lists for the next Bound Edition, and it’s never been more difficult to sort out.

Texas is sending outfielders Craig Gentry, K.C. Herren, and Chad Tracy, first baseman Ian Gac, and right-handed reliever Jose Marte to the Hawaii Winter Baseball League, and it’s unlikely any of them will show up on any list of the Rangers’ top 30 prospects. The system has gotten exponentially deeper this summer.

The Rangers are expected to announce their minor league player and pitcher of the year sometime today.

Cleveland slid lefthander John Koronka through waivers and outrighted him to AAA Buffalo. He’s been outrighted before, and so he has the right to decline the assignment and take free agency. But that’s sort of moot since he’ll be a free agent this winter anyway.

Trey Hillman is leaving Japan. He announced at the finish of his fifth season managing the Nippon Ham Fighters that he won’t exercise the mutual option he has for more than $1.2 million to manage the club in 2008. He said he wants to return to the United States, where he interviewed for the managerial jobs in Texas, San Diego, and Oakland last winter, and would be interested in a big league coaching job or a spot as a AAA manager or minor league defensive coordinator.

According to T.R. Sullivan, the University of Oregon approached Buck Showalter before hiring Cal-State Fullerton’s George Horton to be their head coach. I’ve said it for years: I think Showalter would make a spectacular college coach, for a number of reasons.

In the meantime, Showalter works as an advisor in Cleveland, where they would have been a bit happier if Texas had gone into Detroit and taken two of three.

Even though just a month ago we were all peeking at the standings to see how close Texas was to locking down one of the first three or four picks in next year’s draft, the way things are going right now, I’m actually surprised the Rangers didn’t help the Indians out with a series win in Detroit.

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

Swapping Stories: The Dave Stewart Trade of 1985

September 13, 1985: Texas trades righthander Dave Stewart to Philadelphia for righthander Rick Surhoff.

Dave Stewart’s legacy as a Major League pitcher was firmly established from 1987 through 1990, when the righthander won between 20 and 22 games each year, lost between nine and 13, annually logged more than 250 innings, and posted a four-year ERA of 3.20. He also went 7-3, 2.23 in the playoffs in that stretch. There was no more consistent pitcher in baseball.

Stewart’s time in Texas, however, couldn’t have been marked by more inconsistency.

The Oakland native jumped onto everyone’s radar screen when, in 1977, he went 17-4, 2.15 for Low A Clinton in the Dodgers system and, a year later, made his big league debut at age 21. Stewart pitched in AAA in 1979 and 1980, and was in the Los Angeles bullpen for the duration of the strike-shortened 1981 season that ended with the Dodgers winning the World Series. He swung between the club’s rotation and bullpen in 1982, a massively disappointing season in which the Dodgers lost nine of their final 12 games to blow a three-game division lead and finish one game behind Atlanta in the NL West.

The catcher on that 1982 club was 23-year-old Mike Scioscia, who had taken over for Steve Yeager the year before but hit just .219 with no power. General Manager Al Campanis called Texas that winter to see if he could get 31-year-old Jim Sundberg to come in and assume duties behind the plate. Rangers General Manager Joe Klein wasn’t inclined to trade the six-time Gold Glove winner but agreed to do so if Los Angeles would send back a package including veteran righthander Burt Hooton, AAA reliever Orel Hershiser, AAA outfielder Mark Bradley, and the 25-year-old Stewart. Campanis and Klein shook hands on the deal at the Winter Meetings.

At first, Sundberg wasn’t inclined to exercise the no-trade clause in his contract – until the Dodgers asked him to take a 30 percent paycut for the balance of the four years remaining on his deal. Sundberg vetoed the trade. One year later he was shipped to Milwaukee for Ned Yost. Hershiser went on to win 204 games, and he wouldn’t join the Rangers until his playing days were over. The fortunes of the Rangers franchise might have been different had the deal with the Dodgers deal through.

And that’s to say nothing of how things might have played out if Texas still had lefthander Rick Honeycutt in 1984, 1985, and 1986, when he posted a 3.17 ERA as a member of the Dodgers’ rotation. Thwarted in 1982 but still determined to bring Stewart to Texas, Klein agreed in August of 1983 to trade Honeycutt – at a time when he was leading the American League in ERA – for Stewart and local product Ricky Wright, who had split the summer between AAA and the big leagues.

The way Stewart’s roller coaster ride with Texas started off, it looked as if the Rangers had stolen the 26-year-old. After he’d pitched almost exclusively in relief for Los Angeles that season, Texas inserted him into the rotation and gave him the ball eight times down the stretch. He never gave up more than three runs. Only once did he fail to go six innings, and on that occasion he fell just one out short. His penultimate start was a complete-game, 2-1 win over Seattle. All told, he went 5-2, 2.14 as a Ranger in 1983, and the franchise thought it had a potential ace in the fold.

But Stewart lacked an effective offspeed pitch, and the league caught up to him in 1984, when he started the season with an 0-6, 7.42 April and finished at 7-14, 4.73, losing his permanent hold on a rotation spot in August.

Stewart’s ups and downs while with Texas weren’t confined to the mound. A few months after the 1984 season ended, he was arrested in downtown Los Angeles for the solicitation of a prostitute. When the media reports that the prostitute was actually a male masquerading as a female made Stewart a target of the tabloids, the Rangers gave him the opportunity to stay away from a fan banquet that was scheduled weeks later, an event at which he was to receive the organization’s annual Harold McKinney Good Guy Award. Stewart refused to hide.

Tom Grieve, who had just been promoted to replace Klein as Rangers General Manager, wasn’t surprised – but he was anxious. “Stew was a high quality guy,” Grieve recalls, “very well respected among his teammates. The incident was unquestionably out of character, but we were all concerned about the reaction he would get from the fan base.”

When Stewart was presented with the award in front of 1000 fans, he stepped to the podium and paused for several seconds before beginning to speak (“which made us all 10 times more nervous,” says Grieve). He then turned and looked owner Eddie Chiles in the eye and apologized to him and his wife. He looked across the stage at all of his teammates and did the same. And then he apologized to the fans in the room.

Grieve will never forget that moment. “There was complete silence until Stew sat back down, and then an incredible ovation. It was the most powerful two minutes I ever experienced at an event like that.”

If Stewart managed to win back his reputation with the Rangers’ most loyal fans, he failed to do the same between the lines. Tom House had joined the organization as a scout in January of 1985 and then became the team’s pitching coach that May, and among his first projects was to teach Stewart a third pitch to offset the mid-90s fastball and power slider that American League hitters had zoned in on in 1984. House started to work with Stewart on a split-finger fastball.

But Stewart, who was working in late relief for Texas in 1985, wasn’t getting the job done. The low point came at home on May 22, when he was entrusted with a 4-2 lead in the eighth and promptly gave up a three-run home run to Royals DH Jorge Orta. The Texas fans unleashed a chorus of boos on the righthander when the inning ended, and after the game Stewart unleashed his frustration, telling the press what he thought about the fans: “I’d like to pick any of them out of the stands, particularly the big mouths. I would give any one of them my salary if they could go out there and do my job for one game.” He reportedly punctuated his remarks by calling Rangers fans “idiots.”

Grieve fined Stewart $500, and within a week got a memorable phone call in Boston from Chiles, who simply asked, “Tom, is Stewart still on the team?” Grieve got the message.

“In my 10 years as General Manager,” Grieve said, “it was the only time an owner ever made a comment to me that I knew was an implicit order to trade a player. It had nothing to do with the off-season incident in L.A. It was about Stew’s performance on the mound, and his demeaning comments about our fans.

“I still thought he had the potential to develop into a frontline pitcher when Eddie called me in Boston. But at the same time, I didn’t try to fight for Stew, either.”

The Rangers shopped Stewart around but weren’t getting the kind of offers they’d hoped for. Finally, on September 13, 1985, Texas traded him to Philadelphia for 22-year-old righthander Rick Surhoff, whose brother B.J. had been the first overall pick in the amateur draft three months earlier. Rick had debuted for the Phillies with two relief appearances in the week leading up to the trade, surely in a showcase effort, and Texas gave him the ball seven times out of the bullpen in the season’s final three weeks. He posted a 7.56 ERA in 8.1 innings of work. It would be the only 8.1 innings of his big league career.

The Phillies couldn’t exactly claim the trade as the finest in franchise history, however. Stewart made four relief appearances down the stretch for his new club, giving up four runs (three earned) in 4.1 innings. He pitched eight times over the first month of the 1986 season, yielding nine runs in 12.1 innings, and there were rumors that he was pitching hurt. In early May, Philadelphia simply released him.

Oakland picked Stewart up, and under Dave Duncan’s tutelage he not only perfected the elusive splitter but developed it into the perhaps the finest in the league, and a year later he would begin his run of four straight 20-win seasons.

Wearing the green and gold, Stewart used his new out pitch to bring his results in line with the power arsenal and the demeanor that had always made him a scout’s favorite. The Rangers thought they had made a franchise-altering trade when they were the team that was able to get the Dodgers to part with him, but instead what they got was two years of peaks and valleys, on and off the field, that ultimately cut short his time in Texas before he’d matured into one of the most dependable pitchers 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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 8, 2007

The day started well for 23-year-old Luis Mendoza, who learned he would be getting an emergency start in place of Kason Gabbard, who was nursing a blister on his pitching hand. Mendoza got a surprise call to the big leagues on Wednesday, but was not assured of so much as an appearance this month.

Think he was disappointed when he took a Nick Swisher rifle shot off his left knee in the second inning, dropping him in a heap to the ground for a couple minutes before he talked his way into staying in the game, but for just another two batters?

Sure. But in looking back at those four groundouts and two flies (both of which followed the Swisher missile), and the 21 strikes out of 30 pitches, including 9 of 11 to the game’s first hitter, Shannon Stewart, Mendoza can certainly take solace in the job he did and the guts he showed — not to mention that surprising fastball which touched 94, and the eye-opening, filthy sink.

And when it comes right down to it, how disappointed could Mendoza be? The man who has yet to play in AAA has now pitched in the major leagues, and left the game in the hands of his teammates without allowing the other guys to score, a game that his team would ultimately win.

The day started well for 10-year-old Ryan Newberg, who learned first thing that his morning would kick off with an unexpected 90-minute batting session with a major league ballplayer. Up from Austin for the weekend, Ryan knew about a couple other things we had in store. But not that.

Think he was disappointed when the Catch in the Outfield event in the middle of the afternoon got canceled because a handful of Oakland hitters decided they needed batting practice at 2:00?

Sure. But when those of us scheduled to participate in the Catch got rerouted to another Rangers function going on at the same time, a Q&A and autograph session with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Murphy, and Travis Metcalf, not to mention Rusty Greer and Jim Sundberg, Ryan was treated to an experience he’s unlikely to forget, along with his brother Jake, his cousins Erica and Max, and his new buds Cooper and Keaton.

And Ryan’s day ended at a ballgame, surrounded by 20 family members and thoughts, undoubtedly, about how much better his second round of soft-toss went this morning than his first, about how he took a big leaguer’s instruction and made it work for him.

I admit that part of what makes baseball such a fundamental part of my core is a vicarious impulse, an undertow that may never go away which reminds me that, when I was 10 years old, I wanted to be that guy running down a shot in the hole or laser in the gap, that guy charging a skidding line drive in the outfield as the runner on second barreled toward third with the audacity to try and take the plate, that guy who might make enough of a difference once or twice at the plate or on the bases to help lock down a win. I think that will always be there for me.

But what’s also vicariously available to us as baseball fans is that opportunity not to have to think back to when we were 10 but to see another 10-year-old experiencing a day like today that might just fuel his own dream enough that it moves forward with just a little more momentum, just a little more purpose.

And what’s also vicariously there for the taking is for a 38-year-old, and for the 10-year-old he got to hang with for a day, with baseball as the bond, to watch a 23-year-old pitcher cross that elusive threshold between chasing a lifelong dream, and realizing it, even if briefly, and not without a little adversity sprinkled in.

I don’t know where Luis Mendoza was when the fireworks show went on after Texas 7, Oakland 3, and I don’t know what was going on in Ryan Newberg’s head as he watched it himself, three days before his 11th birthday. But I know where my head was, and that was thinking about how thankful I am for baseball and everything it gives me, how lucky I am to love the game, and how rewarding it often is, even if sometimes it’s vicariously realized.

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

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.

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

Swapping Stories: The Steve Buechele Trade of 1991

August 30, 1991: Texas trades third baseman Steve Buechele to Pittsburgh for righthander Kurt Miller and a player to be named later; September 6, 1991: Pittsburgh sends righthander Hector Fajardo to Texas to complete the trade.

This one had the makings of going down as one of the greatest trades in Texas Rangers history.

It set up so perfectly. Texas was out of the race with a month to go in the season and, ready to move a blue-chip prospect into the everyday lineup, not only had an opportunity to trade the veteran who basically stood in his way, but to trade him for one of the top prospects in baseball and another with a huge upside, if less heralded.

But the deal that sent third baseman Steve Buechele to Pittsburgh on August 30, 1991 for minor league righthanders Kurt Miller and, a week later, Hector Fajardo was notable only because of how anticlimactic it turned out to be.

Buechele was among the greatest defensive third basemen in Rangers history, which is interesting in a Mark Teixeira sort of way since Buechele was a second baseman at Stanford University and for the most part in the Rangers farm system until his second AAA season — three months before Texas would trade Buddy Bell and move Buechele in at the hot corner in Arlington.

Seven years later, the Rangers were ready to make a similar transition. There were few power-hitting prospects in baseball with as much promise as 22-year-old Dean Palmer, whose 25 home runs won the Texas League crown in 1989, and whose 22 home runs won the Pacific Coast League title in 1991.

The most remarkable thing about what Palmer did with the 89ers in 1991 is that he was called up to Texas before mid-season. For good. Palmer played only 60 games for Oklahoma City that year, and still led the league in home runs.

When the Rangers placed outfielder Jack Daugherty on the disabled list on June 24 due to an emergency appendectomy, they brought Palmer up and stuck him in left field, a position he hadn’t ever played professionally. The objective was to get Palmer’s bat into the lineup however the club could.

General manager Tom Grieve and manager Bobby Valentine weren’t prepared to unseat Buechele at third base. The 29-year-old was a team leader and he was having a career year in virtually every offensive category. Both Valentine and Grieve knew that Buechele was going to be with a new team the following year, however, as he was in his final season before free agency and Palmer was considered ready to take over at third.

In mid-August, the Rangers briefly moved Buechele back to his college and minor league position, starting him at second base while Palmer played third. That experiment lasted just one week.

Still, because of Buechele’s value to the club, Grieve didn’t feel compelled to trade him. And that’s exactly what he told Pittsburgh general manager Larry Doughty — over and over and over in 1991. Doughty coveted Buechele, a player he felt could be the missing piece to a Pirates club that was on its way to its second of three straight NL East division titles. Pittsburgh was well settled at every position but third base, where Bobby Bonilla led the club in games played even though he appeared more often in the outfield.

“Larry loved Buechele,” Grieve recalls. “He called me several times that year asking for him, and every time I said we didn’t have to trade him, and didn’t really want to trade him.”

As the July non-waiver trade deadline approached, Doughty got desperate. But not desperate enough. Grieve, knowing he had the leverage, relied on his scouts’ assessment that the Pirates had three prospects worth targeting — righthanders Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo and shortstop Carlos Garcia — and told Doughty it would take two of those players to convince him to part with Buechele. Grieve wasn’t surprised when Doughty said that was too high a price.

A month later, however, Doughty called Grieve back, in the middle of the Rangers’ 6-2 win over Kansas City, a game in which Buechele singled twice in four trips. Doughty was willing to give Miller and Fajardo to the Rangers for Buechele.

“I was never more excited about a trade in my 10 years as GM,” says Grieve. “Dean was going to play third base for us in 1992, whether we traded Buechele or not. We weren’t trying to move him, but it was an easy decision when they offered us both Miller and Fajardo.”

Days before the trade was made, Grieve called Jackie Brown, his former Rangers teammate and the godfather to one of his sons. Grieve wanted to bounce the names of Miller and Fajardo off of Brown, who was the pitching coach for Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate in Buffalo, to see if the Rangers’ scouts were right about the two righthanders.

“Jackie laughed,” Grieve recalls. “He asked why I wanted to know, and of course I didn’t tell him we’d asked Doughty for both of them already. Jackie assured me that there was no chance that they would trade either one. He not only confirmed for me that our scouts were right about those two guys, he was probably even higher on them than we were.”

Miller was the number five overall pick in the 1990 draft, a 6’5″ horse with mid-90s velocity and a power curve. He was considered a certain future rotation horse, even though he’d only turned 19 a week before the trade.

Fajardo made a meteoric rise in 1991, pitching at five levels in the Pirates system (Low A, High A, AA, AAA, and Pittsburgh) that season.

The deal went down the day before the deadline for Pittsburgh to acquire players and have them eligible for the playoffs. The Pirates had to secure revocable waivers on Fajardo before moving him to the Rangers, and so he wasn’t identified until September 6, completing the deal. He made four appearances with Texas, his unprecedented sixth address in one season.

Grieve believed Miller and Fajardo would both be in the Rangers rotation within two years, a huge return for a veteran player that Texas didn’t plan to keep. While the Rangers made the right decision at third base — Palmer has more Texas home runs (154) than any other player ever developed by the franchise — the impact of the trade on the mound wasn’t what the club expected.

Miller went 12-9, 3.09 between High A Charlotte and AA Tulsa in 1992, but he slipped to 6-8, 5.06 with Tulsa in 1993, and suddenly couldn’t get his curve over the plate. The Rangers sent him to Florida in July 1993, along with righthander Robb Nen, for veteran reliever Cris Carpenter. Miller would make brief big league appearances in five subsequent seasons with the Marlins and Cubs, compiling a lifetime mark of 2-7, 7.48.

Fajardo, whose fascinating rise from Low A to the Major Leagues in 1991 occurred when he was just 20 years old, was out of baseball at age 25. He battled elbow and shoulder injuries in 1992 and 1993, split the 1994 season between AAA Oklahoma City and Texas, and had a 7.80 ERA in five 1995 relief appearances before being outrighted and then traded to Montreal in July for outfielder Lou Frazier. He pitched 11 times for the Expos’ AAA affiliate that summer, never to be heard from again.

Meanwhile, Buechele hit just .246 down the stretch for the Pirates but was solid in the NL Championship Series, hitting .304 in a seven-game battle that Pittsburgh dropped to Atlanta. He resigned with the Pirates that winter but was traded to the Cubs (for lefthander Danny Jackson) the next July, lasting three years with Chicago before he was released midway through the 1995 season.

Texas brought Buechele back on July 12, 1995, a month after Palmer had ruptured a biceps tendon that cut short what was shaping up to be a career year. Buechele appeared in nine games, hitting .125 in what would be the final big league action of a solid 11-year career.

When Buechele returned to the Rangers that July, Fajardo had already been outrighted and was a couple weeks away from being traded, a couple months from the end to his own career. Miller was in the midst of a full season in AAA after having gone 1-3, 8.10 in his four-game big league debut with the Marlins a year earlier.

When Texas made the 1991 trade with Pittsburgh that excited Grieve more than any other deal he ever made, the idea was that by 1995 Miller and Fajardo would be fronting the Rangers’ rotation, supported offensively by an attack featuring Palmer. Instead, when Buechele came back to Texas to end his career that summer, none of the other three were suited up as Rangers.

It’s not at all how this trade was supposed to work out.

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 2, 2007

As far as music goes, there’s zero risk of me losing any credibility with a certain Rangers pitcher with what I’m about to say, because I know I lost all of my cred a good while back. So I’ll go ahead and say it.

Incubus was pretty **** good tonight. Even if they played only one of the three songs I was most amped up to see.

While the band from outside Los Angeles was playing here in town, the Rangers had essentially traded places with them, playing outside Los Angeles. Tonight, Southern Californians Hank Blalock, Wes Littleton, and Michael Young had big nights as Texas won, 8-7, to take two out of three in the series.

And then there was C.J. Wilson, also basically playing in his own backyard. A night after earning a save despite giving up a three-run homer to Garret Anderson, he permitted two doubles, a single, a walk, and a hit batsman in the ninth in this one, and yet notched another save when he fooled Anderson with the bases loaded on 1-2 check swing.

You know, like the Incubus show — C.J. will be so grateful that I’m drawing a comparison between him and them — it wasn’t perfect, but that’s OK. It was still pretty **** good.

Just dance on fire and enjoy the ride.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 1, 2007

You hear the scouting term “playable” with regard to how hitters project. “We drafted him as a catcher but we think, if it’s necessary to make a position change with him, that his bat is playable on a corner.”

Edinson Volquez’s effort on the mound in Anaheim today? That was playable.

The box score looks good enough. Five innings, three runs on seven hits and a pair of walks, four strikeouts. Strikes 64 percent of the time.

But no matter what the statheads take from Volquez’s performance, the scouts are probably even more impressed. He had command of his fastball, a brutal problem for him in his previous big league seasons, and for the most part he kept the ball down. Not a lot of hard-hit balls. His offspeed stuff worked, the change was nasty at times. His tempo was good. He looked confident, without any strut.

Statistically speaking, it wasn’t a Quality Start.

From an observational standpoint, however, that was unquestionably a quality effort. Looking forward to more.

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

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