THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 1, 2008

Josh Hamilton made his Rangers debut on Wednesday and played again on Thursday, going 3 for 6 with a double and triple in the two games, driving in three runs.

He sat out on Friday, which incidentally is when Edinson Volquez debuted for Cincinnati 2,200 miles away, getting the assignment to pitch the third and fourth innings in Sarasota against Tampa Bay, a club he’s never faced (and whom he won’t face when it counts in 2008 unless the Reds and Rays hook up in the World Series). He retired his first five batters but, one out away from finishing his day perfectly, he failed to get any of the next four Rays out, drilling Jonny Gomes, serving up an Evan Longoria double, walking Jason Bartlett, and yielding a Shawn Riggans single, which prompted manager Dusty Baker to come get the ball.

Volquez was charged with three runs in his inning and two thirds. Does the effort (or the fact that he wasn’t assigned the start) put him behind in the race for a Reds rotation spot, when competitors Matt Belisle (two scoreless innings), Homer Bailey (two scoreless innings), Josh Fogg (two scoreless innings), and Jeremy Affeldt (two innings, one run) have gotten off to better starts?

Not really, and this whole discussion is sort of gratuitous, of course, a mere three days into exhibition play.

As a Rangers fan, it’s premature to get too amped up about the very early results of the trade.

But you can bet there are Reds fans who caught wind of Hamilton’s opposite-field double off the wall on Wednesday and triple down the right field line on Thursday and, after Volquez’s red zone meltdown yesterday, are making too much of what’s happened so far, particularly since Volquez appears to have a job to win, rather than one to lose.

And make no mistake: I’m not at all suggesting you shouldn’t be excited about Hamilton. I can’t remember the last Rangers acquisition I was this pumped about. It was probably Alex Rodriguez (2000), and Julio Franco (1988) before that.

Still, don’t run around the neighborhood soliciting Edinson Volquez high fives just yet. Not unless you’re the type who draws conclusions when Cardinals outfielder Juan Gonzalez goes deep on the first pitch he sees from Mets lefthander Johan Santana — in February.

As good as Hamilton and Ian Kinsler — who is looking more and more like the everyday answer atop the lineup, rather than only against lefthanders — have looked in the top two slots in the order, between Kinsler’s ability to pile up doubles and get into scoring position with his feet if he merely singles or walks, and Hamilton’s and Michael Young’s ability to do all kinds of things with the bat behind him, it’s probably not a bad bet to expect a healthy Kinsler could threaten to score at least 115 times, which would give him one of the top 10 run-scoring seasons in franchise history.

T.R. Sullivan has been around long enough that it’s safe to say he didn’t mistype his note that Rudy Jaramillo insists Hamilton has more power than Gonzalez or Sammy Sosa.

Lefthanders Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson were impressive yesterday.

Kevin Millwood (sore right hamstring), Brandon McCarthy (tender right forearm), and Joaquin Benoit (bruised velocity) have each resumed throwing to some degree and are all slated to throw bullpens tomorrow.

Head to Scott Lucas’s blog for what has to be one of the first three or four articles that have ever discussed Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz, and binomial probability distributions all in one place.

It’s cool stuff.

Righthander Jesse Ingram told Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout.com that he’s retiring. The 25-year-old, a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic honoree from Berkeley, saved 26 games in 27 chances for Frisco in 2007 and held the Texas League to an anemic .191/.288/.373 line. His unspectacular 4.21 ERA obscured the fact that it was 2.10 in the second half. The Rangers’ 36th-round pick in 2004, he finishes his four-year pro career with a 16-6, 3.77 record and 46 saves, fanning 240 hitters in 179.2 innings.

The Lincoln SaltDogs of the independent American Association traded righthander Kyle Ruwe to the Sussex SkyHawks of the independent Can-Am League for righthander Ryan Dittfurth.

The Yankees’ short-season club at Staten Island added Vic Valencia to its coaching staff.

Eric Nadel kicked off his 30th year in the Rangers booth with yesterday’s radio broadcast. Eric and Victor Rojas are back on the air today at 2:05 (KRLD 1080 AM) and tomorrow at the same time, as the Rangers play a (literal) home-and-home against Trey Hillman’s Royals. Today’s lineup includes Botts, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chris Davis, and Elvis Andrus, and among the just-in-cases are righthanders Omar Poveda and Tommy Hunter.

This one’s going to be fun. Settle in for a little healthy, acceptable overreaction.

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

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