THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 5, 2008

If your mind worked in numbers when you were a kid, your baseball cards probably helped you learn that batting averages like .182 and .273 and .364 are what you often get when your at-bat total is a multiple of 11.

But .636?

Josh Hamilton’s unconscious spring as a Rule 5 pick a year ago (.403/.457/.556 in a Reds-leading 72 at-bats) secured a roster spot that he turned into one of baseball’s best stories in 2007. In his first 11 trips to the plate as a Ranger, Hamilton sits at .636/.636/1.000 with hits in each of his four games, including three of his seven hits going for extra bases. Last spring, he had just seven extra-base hits among his 29 hits.

I ask this again, not as a Rangers homer but objectively: given the frenzied center field market this winter ($90 million and a surrendered first-round pick for Torii Hunter, $60 million and a forfeited second for Aaron Rowand, $36 million over two years for Andruw Jones), why didn’t someone offer more than Edinson Volquez for Hamilton?

If you’re effectively persuasive you can sell me on the idea that Cincinnati, with Jay Bruce apparently ready to play and figuring it could sell high on Hamilton a year after spending just $50,000 to acquire him, and recognizing the health risks theoretically associated with Hamilton, made a defensible decision to trade the 26-year-old. But you can’t convince me that none of the other 28 teams, particularly those who were in on Hunter or Rowand or Jones and even those who weren’t, could afford to outbid Texas in trading for him.

The Reds, incidentally, signed Corey Patterson and Jerry Hairston Jr. to minor league deals this week. Patterson will evidently compete with Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper to caddy Bruce (if not secure the starting job in the event that Cincinnati decides Bruce needs a little more farm seasoning).

Kevin Millwood will pitch a two-inning simulated game this morning, facing German Duran, Brandon Boggs, Julio Borbon, John Mayberry Jr., and Max Ramirez. If all goes well, Millwood could start on Monday.

Borbon’s pro debut in August against a bunch of 21-year-olds in Spokane and a handful of teenagers in the Arizona League: 7 for 37 (.189/.250/.216), including one double. Borbon’s work so far in big league camp, against pitchers who have earned the opportunity to compete for major league jobs: 3 for 6 (.500/.500/1.000), including a grand slam and a two-run single.

How great would it be if Borbon can become this franchise’s Jacoby Ellsbury?

Nolan Ryan spent some time with Brandon McCarthy during the latter’s bullpen session yesterday, offering some tips on McCarthy’s curve ball. The younger righthander is on schedule to start on Friday.

The first Rangers pitcher to go three innings this spring? Surely you guessed it would be Eric Hurley. The 22-year-old held Arizona scoreless yesterday, yielding just a single and registering three strikeouts and no walks with command of a good fastball and improving breaking ball.

Nobody has mentioned reliever Franklyn German’s name, but in three spring appearances the big righthander has put up three scoreless innings, permitting three hits, walking nobody, and punching out five.

Milton Bradley could see his first action, most likely at designated hitter, next week.

Hank Blalock was scratched from Monday’s game due to mild soreness in the back of his right shoulder, and later that day he and his wife and three-year-old son were involved in a car accident, when their SUV was rear-ended at a stop sign by a car that was reportedly traveling at 40 mph (and was totaled). Blalock’s neck is reportedly a little stiff and sore, but he expects to be back in action soon. Misty and Trey are OK, too. Fortunately, the Blalocks’ six-month-old son was back at their Arizona residence with their nanny.

Sad thing, that Noah Lowry effort against Texas on Monday (nine walks in 12 batters, three pitches to the screen, four strikes in his first 40 pitches). No Rangers hitter even swung until his 25th pitch. The lefthander insists there’s no mental or psychological issues; he’s fighting through tendinitis in his wrist.

Baseball America reports that Texas has loaned righthander Francisco Cordova and third baseman Jaime Trejo to the Mexican League. The Rangers drafted Cordova (AA phase) and Trejo (AAA phase) in the minor league portion of December’s Rule 5 Draft. Each played for the Quintana Roo Tigers in Mexico in 2007.

Detroit righthander Francisco Cruceta remains stuck in the Dominican Republic due to visa problems, and the Tigers are saying they have no idea when to expect him.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League signed outfielder Tydus Meadows.

I really dig the Rangers’ new TV spots. Best ad campaign they’ve come up with in years.

According to the Associated Press, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. have turned down an $800 million offer to purchase Liverpool FC made by Dubai International Capital (whom Hicks and Gillett outbid a year ago when they bought the club for $431 million), and now Hicks is reportedly making a bid to buy all or part of Gillett’s 50 percent share of the club. The story says Hicks and Gillett each have the power to block the other from selling his share.

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s book, “Facing Clemens: Hitters on Confronting Baseball’s Most Intimidating Pitcher,” is now available at http://www.jonathanmayo.net/. Mayo interviews dozens of big league hitters on their approach when stepping in against Clemens, who wrote the book’s foreword.

According to Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, former Rangers communications director Gregg Elkin is the new vice president of communications with the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.

Noteworthy from White Sox camp: in two starts, John Danks has allowed three runs (one earned: 1.80 ERA) on five hits and a walk in five innings; in a start against Arizona, Nick Masset (who is out of options and came to camp having lost 25 pounds) fired three scoreless innings, scattering three hits and a walk while fanning one; and non-roster invite Jason Bourgeois, battling for a utility infield spot, is 7 for 13 (.538/.600/.769) with three doubles, three RBI, and five runs scored.

Speaking of the White Sox, and former Rangers, Gabe Kapler made his Rangers debut on April 3, 2000, having arrived over the winter from Detroit in the Juan Gonzalez trade. In that game, which was the opener for Texas and Chicago, Kapler made a huge splash, blasting two home runs, adding a single, driving in three runs and scoring three times in the Rangers’ 10-4 win.

We all know that Kapler’s career never lived up to the promise of his Rangers debut, and what we should take from the lesson of April 3, 2000 is that we ought to tap the brakes on Josh Hamilton’s 7 for 11 start as a Ranger.

Nah. Never mind. Floor it.

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

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