THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 11, 2007

I’d rather be talking about the Rangers getting ready for a league championship series, but since we don’t have that opportunity this year, you’re stuck these days with some news out of Arizona, less than hour away from where the Diamondbacks open their playoff series with Colorado today.

The Rangers came up big in yesterday’s Arizona Fall League action. In a 14-11 Surprise win over Peoria Javelinas, German Duran homered, doubled off the top of the center field wall, singled twice, and walked, driving in two runs, scoring three times, and — interestingly — playing third base, a position he’d appeared at just one time professionally. (That was in a May 14, 2006 Bakersfield game in Modesto, a 7-4 Blaze win in which Duran went 3 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a sac fly. So Duran, as a third baseman, is 7 for 7 with three extra base hits, two walks, and a sac fly.)

More importantly, we’re seeing the effort to develop Duran as a utility infielder candidate get underway.

Taylor Teagarden caught and went 2 for 4 with a three-run home run. Two Javelinas stole bases on Teagarden, both with starter Matt Harrison on the mound.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus tripled in five trips.

Right fielder John Mayberry Jr. went 0 for 2 but drew three walks. He’s going to do an AFL journal for MLB.com. His first entry should be posted today.

Harrison allowed two runs on five hits (including a homer) and a walk in three innings, but he did strike out four.

A couple leftover notes from Instructs:

Lefthander Martin Perez is 16 but looks 20. Catcher Leonel De Los Santos is 17 but looks 12.

The grand slam that outfielder Miguel Alfonzo crushed off of Clayton Kershaw on Friday was plenty impressive, but the identically smashed shot that he hit the next morning off Royals lefthander Ben Swaggerty was notable from the standpoint that Swaggerty gave up only one home run in 35.2 innings in 2007.

The reason lefthander Beau Jones isn’t at Instructs is that he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow area last week. He should be ready for spring training.

Promising lefthander Miguel De Los Santos, who pitched just four times in 2007 (between June 8 and July 3), is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Center fielder Julio Borbon returned to Instructional League action yesterday (he’d been nursing a tight hamstring) and went 5 for 5 in a game against Seattle, homering and adding three doubles and a single.

Love this quote from Jim Czajkowski, pitching coach for Atlanta’s Appalachian League affiliate in Danville, regarding 19-year-old righthander Neftali Feliz: “He had a very loose, fluid arm that flat-out, God-given gasoline came out of. It looked like he threw hard without even trying. Any high schooler that throws like that is a No. 1 pick. Our scouts did a great job of finding him.”

And ours did a great job insisting that he be included in the Mark Teixeira trade. Appy League managers and scouts ranked Feliz as the circuit’s number four prospect this year, according to a Baseball America survey.

Andrus was number three in the Carolina League, and catcher Max Ramirez was number four. Harrison didn’t rank in the Southern League top 20.

Said Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler of Andrus: “He had 30-some RBIs, but he probably saved us 50-some runs with his defense.”

Other Baseball America top 20′s:

Midwest League: righthander Omar Poveda (12), third baseman Johnny Whittleman (14), lefthander Kasey Kiker (17)

California League: third baseman Chris Davis (9), Teagarden (13)

Texas League: righthander Eric Hurley (8), Duran (14)

Pacific Coast League: righthander Edinson Volquez (13), Hurley (16)

Teagarden was the second-team catcher (behind the Cubs’ Geovanny Soto) on BA’s Minor League All-Star Team. The High A All-Star Team included Teagarden at catcher and Davis as the designated hitter.

You knew that Davis finished second in the minors in home runs (36) and RBI (118). His .598 slug and 296 total bases were each fifth-most in the minors. Jason Botts had the third-highest on-base percentage (.436). only two players had more than Clinton outfielder K.C. Herren’s 12 triples.

Volquez held minor league opponents to a .190 batting average. Only Yankees blue-chipper Ian Kennedy (.183) had a stingier mark among starting pitchers.

Righthander Kameron Loe recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow, but he should resume off-season workouts in about a month and is expected to be at full strength by spring training.

Oakland will not bring several coaches back, including bench coach Bob Schaefer. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Don Wakamatsu is a “strong bet” to succeed Schaefer as the A’s bench coach — a job that he was apparently offered last year (after his run at the managerial job in Texas) but declined because he didn’t want to move his family at the time.

Wakamatsu is also identified as a candidate for the Tampa Bay bench coach job.

If Wakamatsu leaves, what about bringing Trey Hillman in to fill his spot on the Rangers staff? Or do you instead let Ron Washington choose the replacement (presumably one of the three coaches let go by the A’s)?

Hillman’s Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won their second straight Japan Pacific League championship last weekend, defeating Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines. Hillman has said that he intends to return to the United States for the 2008 season. According to Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Yankees, Dodgers, Royals, and two other teams have already contacted Hillman about a possible job.

The White Sox named Buddy Bell director of minor league instruction.

Detroit exercised its 2008 option on catcher Pudge Rodriguez.

Colorado dropped lefthander Mark Redman from its playoff roster, adding outfielder Willy Taveras.

Cleveland lefthander John Koronka is now a minor league free agent.

Washinton slid lefthander Mike Bacsik through waivers and outrighted him to AAA.

I’m overcome with guilt. For some reason I tuned into SportsCenter last night. I then saw the Celtics-Timberwolves pre-season highlights package set to something called Stuart Scott’s Poetry Jam, and I might be scarred for life.

Good grief, ESPN is an embarrassment. The only good thing about SportsCenter is the genius of the commercial spots promoting the show. Sad.

The Alex Rodriguez drama picks up full steam now. He’s apparently seeking a new 10-year deal that will pay more than $30 million annually . . . which is more than half of the 2007 payroll of three of the four teams that are still alive in the playoffs.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com points out that those same three teams — Cleveland, Arizona, and Colorado — are run by GM’s who were mentored by John Hart.

Keeping an eye on the Arizona Fall League and the Rangers’ Instructs program, and recognizing what this system is in the process of developing, I’ve got visions of a fourth.

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

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