THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 28, 2007

As T.R. Sullivan pointed out in his Friday blog for MLB, righthander Omar Beltre is leading the Dominican Winter League in ERA, with a sparkling 2.03 in 44.1 innings of work. The 26-year-old has a 4-3 mark in eight starts and two relief appearances, scattering 29 hits (.187/.254/.200), among which are only two doubles, no triples, and no homers, with 13 walks and 24 strikeouts. Interestingly, he’s faced twice as many left-handed hitters (.180/.254/.190) as righties (.200/.254/.218), but none of them have had a chance. As usual, he’s dealing.

I haven’t seen anything to suggest, however, that we should be optimistic that Beltre’s quarantine will be lifted and that he (or fellow righthander Alexi Ogando, who went 6-1, 0.96 in the Dominican Summer League this year, with 35 punchouts and five unintentional walks in 28 frames) will be able to come stateside in 2008, though Sullivan reports that the Rangers continue to have lawyers working on the situation.

By the way, Padres outfielder Vincent Sinisi is second in the DWL in hitting (.306), first in reaching base (.405) and slugging (.488), first in extra-base hits (16), third in home runs (six), and second in RBI (28). He’s also second in doubles (nine), trailing the man the Rangers traded him (and righthander John Hudgins) for in May 2006, Fast Freddy Guzman. Guzman is also second in the league in stolen bases (13), trailing only former Ranger utility infielder Esteban German (16).

Outfielders Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz, each out of options, are each making a case to survive further trimming of the 40-man roster. Botts is hitting .335/.425/.513 in the Mexican Pacific League (with a league-leading 53 RBI in 61 games), while Cruz is at .314/.383/.476 in the DWL.

Another note from Sullivan: the .922 OPS and .554 slug that Josh Hamilton posted for Cincinnati last year were each the 16th-highest number in the last 50 years for a big league rookie with at least 250 at-bats.

Baseball Prospectus’s Christina Kahrl looked under the surface at Hamilton’s 2007 numbers and discovered a couple interesting things. The left-handed hitter pulled a remarkably small 15.4 percent of the fly balls he put into play, and he also ranked fourth in the National League in “OPS versus sliders.”

Texas, now presumably even more interested in bringing a veteran starter to camp on a make-good deal now that Edinson Volquez has been removed from the mix, reportedly continues to consider righthanders Bartolo Colon and Jason Jennings, both of whom are coming off of unproductive, injury-marred seasons. The Rangers also kicked the tires on righthanders Mark Prior (who has signed a one-year deal with San Diego) and Freddy Garcia but were sufficiently turned off by their medicals.

Other free agents that the Rangers are rumored to have looked at are lefthanders Mike Maroth and Mark Hendrickson and righthander Josh Towers.

Colorado signed lefthander John Koronka and infielder Matt Kata to minor league contracts.

Former Rangers minor leaguer Craig Frydendall has been hired as a pitching coach by Neosho County Community College in Kansas. A draft-and-follow signee in 2002, the lefthander pitched for Pulaski in 2002, Spokane in 2003, and Clinton in 2004 before spending the last two seasons in the independent Golden Baseball League.

Omar Beltre’s last three minor league stops were Pulaski, Clinton, and Stockton, from 2001 through 2004. The Dominican Summer League, where Beltre has pitched in the three years since, may be more fertile ground for future big leaguers than the Golden Baseball League, but sadly the odds of Beltre ever emerging from his homeland and competing at the level that he’s capable of seem to grow longer and longer.

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

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