THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 16, 2008

The reason, I think, that seeing Travis Hafner and Aaron Harang do what they do hurts even more is the same reason the loss of Laynce Nix stung more than the loss of Ryan Ludwick, even though Ludwick has been more productive since leaving. There’s been more fan outcry over the loss of Nick Masset than Justin Duchscherer, and for now that’s not justified. You never hear much about Texas mishandling Luis Vizcaino or Esteban German, at least not as much as you hear that about Edwin Encarnacion.

I’m not sure who is going to have a more productive big league career between Chris Shelton and Jason Botts, but as a Rangers fan I’m a lot more invested in one than the other because of how the player got to this point, and my reaction to the potential loss of Shelton, whom Texas designated for assignment on Monday to make roster room for Kaz Fukumori, registers little more for me, as a fan, than the departure of Daniel Haigwood did nine months ago.

The Rangers are going to drop at least one more player from the roster in the next few days, when righthander Jason Jennings gets his one-year deal done, and Botts (who was drafted 1,359 spots after Jennings in 1999) could still be a candidate to lose his spot. But I sure hope not, not only because I think there are a couple pitchers who have less chance to contribute but also because I want to believe that Botts is that guy who has created so much AAA and winter ball damage and who typically crawls a bit before walking and then running through walls at each level.

I want Botts to make it. And, as a fan, I want it to be here.

With the signing of Fukumori, the Rangers have said that there are four relievers with guaranteed bullpen jobs: C.J. Wilson, Eddie Guardado, Joaquin Benoit, and Fukumori, leaving three spots for Frank Francisco (who apparently has an edge on everyone else), John Rheinecker, Wes Littleton, Scott Feldman, Josh Rupe, Kameron Loe, Robinson Tejeda, Jason Davis, and Jamey Wright. Rheinecker’s left-handedness and lack of options probably give him a leg up, all other things equal, theoretically leaving one final spot for righthanders Littleton, Feldman, Rupe, Loe, Tejeda, Davis, and Wright to battle for. Hard for me to imagine Tejeda, despite also being without options, winning that competition.

Lefthander Bill White cleared release waivers, and Texas is interested in re-signing him to a minor league deal.

Predictably, catcher Taylor Teagarden is getting a non-roster invite to big league camp, just as he did a year ago.

The Rangers increased some ticket prices for 2008, though it looks like mostly in high-end seating areas that aren’t held by season ticket accounts. Less expensive tickets were held flat, as were all season tickets (which also came with free parking for early payment). We all know that the best way to boost ticket sales has nothing to do with increasing prices here and discounting them there: winning ballgames is the key.

Texas gave minor league contracts to righthander Jim Wladyka and catcher Joseph Hulett, who is Tug’s brother and Tim’s son. Hulett, an undrafted free agent out of McNeese State, played last summer with the Pensacola Pelicans of the independent American Association. Wladyka pitched in the Mets and Royals systems from 2005 through 2007, posting a 2-4, 3.77 record, primarily in relief.

Minor league deals: outfielder Nick Gorneault (Houston); lefthander Erasmo Ramirez (Milwaukee); outfielder Ramon Nivar (San Diego); outfielder Andres Torres (Cubs); lefthander Matt Riley and righthander Alfredo Simon (Dodgers); utility man Jason Bourgeois (White Sox); catcher Ken Huckaby and infielder Dave Matranga (Kansas City); infielder Cody Ransom (Yankees).

San Diego promoted Glenn Abbott from AA pitching coach to AAA pitching coach.

Pittsburgh named Wilson Alvarez pitching coach for its Short-Season A club and Gary Green its Low A manager. Tampa Bay hired Jayson Durocher as an area scout.

Durocher is another one of those Vizcaino types who had some big league success in his first stop after the Rangers let him go (1.88 ERA for Milwaukee in 2002). But that generated no more talk show fury than Gorneault will if he makes Houston’s club and hits .310 with 14 home runs this year.

If you’re like me, Shelton could hit .320 and go deep 24 times for the Royals and it wouldn’t resonate half as much as if Botts were to hit .290 with 16 bombs for the same team. Those attachments we form as fans of our team and the players it develops are strong.

I’m a big enough Jason Botts fan that I’d rather see him succeed somewhere else than fail here. I’m just not convinced yet that those are the only two possible outcomes.

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

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