March 2008

THE NEWBERG REPORT FROM SURPRISE, AZ: March 17, 2008

Couple quick things before I hit the back fields this morning. 

First, a season-preview interview I did with Batter’s Box is now posted at

http://www.battersbox.ca/article.php?story=20080313211847161.

Second, I will be in the booth as a guest commentator with Victor Rojas
for part of this afternoon’s Rangers-Mariners game, probably sometime
after the sixth inning.  The broadcast is available over the Internet
and is free, and you can send questions to the booth if you’d like.
Full details directly below. 

Free Webcasts

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Read below for more about how to listen today, March 17, at 3:05 p.m. CT as the Rangers take on the Mariners in Surprise.

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LISTEN TO FREE WEBCASTS

 

Looking for a good way to catch up with the Rangers while they are in Arizona?  Check out the FREE webcasts on texasrangers.com where you can experience Rangers spring training game action without even leaving your desk.

Click to listen today, March 17, at 3:05 p.m. CT as the Rangers
take on the Mariners in Surprise. Rangers Radio Announcer Victor Rojas
will provide play by play and analysis while talking to Evan Grant of
The Dallas Morning News and Jamey Newberg, author of the Newberg Report
that covers the Rangers minor league system.

You can even send your questions and comments directly to Victor, Evan, and Jamey by filling out the mailbag at texasrangers.com/webcasts.

Six webcasts remain for the 2008 Spring Training season.  Don’t miss any of this exciting action exclusively available on texasrangers.com.

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THE NEWBERG REPORT FROM SURPRISE, AZ: March 16, 2008

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I saw It

I saw It with Erica and Ginger, and with Max, who issued several jaw-dropped “Whoaaaaa”’s,
holding the note like he did a year ago while watching flyover
exercises from a bigger-than-life Luke Air Force Base squadron in
formation. 

Maybe the most ridiculous thing about a Josh
Hamilton Batting Practice Display is that since so many of his missiles
explode like a perfectly struck tee shot, every once in a while he’ll
bump one off the end of the bat, and your eyes shift to the outfielder
in whose direction the ball is traveling (it could be any one of them,
from left center field to straightway right), and as you wait for him
to trot in to haul the lazy fly in, or at worst camp under it in place
to make the catch, instead you see the outfielder jog back toward the
fence, basically a courtesy gesture as the mis-hit ball carries over
the wall to keep the last several Hamilton shots company.

And then there are the pitches that Hamilton squares up on, the ones that cause you, involuntarily, to issue a “Whoaaaaa
in unison with your three-and-a-half-year-old son, with the same
reaction of equal parts awe, adrenaline, and disbelief.  The ones on
which the outfielders stand as motionless and unneeded as they do on
the requisite bunts that the Rangers’ penciled number two hitter drops
(and drops well) at the start of his rounds.

David Murphy (as I’d hoped) and Marlon Byrd,
hitting in sequence with Hamilton, had the misfortune of having what
were absolutely impressive BP sessions of their own look unjustly
pedestrian in comparison to their teammate’s, like watching Terrence
Newman and Terrell Owens run a 40 alongside Deion Sanders.

The
Hamilton swing is so devoid of effort, it makes no sense.  You’ve seen
the scout’s comment about the “flat-out, God-given gasoline” that comes
effortlessly out of Neftali Feliz’s arm.  Josh Hamilton endows his
baseball bat with a flat-out, God-given thunderstorm.  A nearly silent
thunderstorm, somehow.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT FROM SURPRISE, AZ: March 16, 2008

Three years ago, lefthander C.J. Wilson was in the midst of his breakthrough camp, getting work with the big club and more than acquitting himself, as he laid the groundwork for what would be, three months later, his big league debut.  Meanwhile, that same spring, righthander Eric Hurley was facing Class A opponents in his first camp, with plenty of key observers pulled up in golf carts around the perimeter of the chain link fence wrapping around home plate from dugout to dugout.

Yesterday Wilson and Hurley switched places, with the big league closer pitching to Class A Seattle hitters while the young righthander became the first Rangers starter to go four innings in a big league game this spring, holding the National League champion Rockies to two runs on two hits (including a home run) and two walks and fanning a pair.

We got to the fields too late to see Kevin Millwood get in his work against that same Class A squad, or Joaquin Benoit get in his – and we can’t even blame Grand Avenue, which we dutifully avoided.  We’ve had it with Hertz; if you work with another car rental company, let me know.  I’m about to transfer all my business and personal car rental business to you.

But we did arrive just in time to see Wilson get in his 10 or 12 pitches.  It’s a process – this is only the second time he’s thrown in a game this spring, the first coming two weeks ago – but his pitches had life and a little hop, if not quite as much as he’ll have once he’s ramped up to April.

Remember that episode of “Shazam” you missed when you were a kid, because your Henry S. Miller team had a Saturday morning North Dallas Chamber of Commerce baseball game, probably against Friendly Chevrolet?  And then you got into a spirited conversation with your second-grade friends in Mrs. Mulos’s class as they told you what happened in the episode, and you were fired up but it still gnawed at you that you didn’t see it for yourself and figured, since TiVo wouldn’t be around for another 25 years, that you never would? 

I had to relive that sad moment as I heard about what I’d missed catcher Manuel Pina do in the hour before my arrival at the back fields yesterday.  You need to go read Mike Hindman’s blog (rangersfarmreport.mlblogs.com) to find out.

Best moment of Day One: Bakersfield hitting coach Brant Brown leaving the field of play, during the High A game, solely to walk 15 feet over to Max and hand him a perfectly battle-scarred Rawlings baseball, before immediately getting back to the field of play.

For the next half hour, Max tossed that ball with John Whittleman, Sr., enthusiastically diving even on grounders right at him. 

Man, I hope Max doesn’t burn out.  His love for this game is unbelievably inspiring.

When David Murphy looks in the mirror, does he see a picture of Rudy Jaramillo in the bottom left corner, and pictures of Gary Matthews Jr., Mark DeRosa, and Marlon Byrd in the bottom right corner, and say, “That’s me.  I’m that guy”? 

Murphy is the runner-up to Josh Hamilton in terms of whose batting practice I most want to see.

Lots of you have emailed me asking what I think the package of players might have been that Texas and Minnesota had apparently agreed on over the winter during the Johan Santana trade discussions (per Jon Heyman’s SI.com article on Friday), only to have the talks die when Santana didn’t show much interest in signing long-term with the Rangers.  I have no idea, but I do recall that in December at least one local report indicated that the Twins’ price started with Edinson Volquez, Hurley, and Chris Davis.

The Rangers, according to Baseball America, released lefthanders Carlos Perez and Yennier Sardinas and catcher Bret Story.

Atlanta signed righthander Vladimir Nunez to a minor league deal.  Colorado signed outfielder Ruddy Yan to a minor league deal.  The Dodgers, lefthander Scott Rice.  Houston, catcher Reece Creswell.  The White Sox, outfielder Jim Rushford.  Philadelphia, lefthander Jared Locke.   

Time for some morning baseball on the back fields.

Shazam.

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS: HAMILTON INTERVIEW

There’s a longtime reader of my baseball stuff whoseabsolute favorite thing about the Newberg Report is when I write about former
Ranger farmhands signing with independent league teams. Seriously.

My favorite thing about the Hardline is when Mike Rhyner and
Corby Davidson interview someone with an interesting background.

Say what you will about the Ticket. If you’re not a fan, it’s probably because
they don’t spend enough time talking sports. On the other hand, if you’re a turbo-P1, your list of the reasons you
listen to the Hardline probably goes a couple dozen deep before you get to “Interviews.” I’m a Hardline P1 and dig a lot of what the show
offers. But when Rhyner and/or Corby i
nterview someone with some standing in the sports
or entertainment world, it’s an automatic stopdown for me.

When Rhynes interviews a ballplayer, particularly one from
The Great Game, he never resorts to cliché. When Corby i
nterviews anybody, he consistently
gets the best out of them because he’s real. Never sounds like he’s doing a job.

What those two have in common is that they ask good
questions. They ask questions that we
may or may not have thought of ourselves, but always ones we want the answers
to. You can tell that most athletes that
do a segment with those guys actually enjoy it, not beaten down by yet another
turn in front of a microphone or notepad where they have to fight through the
same queries over and over.

I hope you were able to hear the segment they did with Josh
Hamilton this afternoon. Very solid 15
minutes.

One exchange, paraphrased:

Q: “Everybody knows your story, and we didn’t bring you up
here to tell it again stem to stern. But
there are a couple things I want to touch on. [
First
was a really cool discussion about how much Johnny and Jerry Narron mean to
him. Then this . . .
]  So in the dark years, did you just tune
baseball out altogether, or did you try to stay up on what was going on in the
game, check the box scores, that sort of thing?”

A: “I don’t even read box scores now. I don’t watch ESPN, I don’t watch baseball on
TV. I’ll get shot down for saying this,
but baseball is really boring to watch. But
it’s awesome to play. I love playing the
game.”

Q: “What sports do you watch?”

A: “I’m a big college football guy.”

Q: “Who’s your team?”

A: “I don’t really have a favorite team. I usually root for the underdog.”

It was a great, revealing answer, coming from who it came
from. Nice job by Rhynes and Corby
getting him there, even if not fully by design.

Here’s the complete interview.  Enjoy it.

Download hamilton.mp3

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 14, 2008

Over on the minor league side of the Surprise Recreation Campus yesterday, and 40 miles away on a similar portion of a baseball complex in Scottsdale, the Rangers’ farm clubs opened their exhibition schedule against squads from the San Francisco system.

In Surprise, the Clinton and Bakersfield pitching staffs shut the Giants out. In Scottsdale, the Frisco and Oklahoma pitching was nearly as effective.

In the four games, the Rangers’ minor league pitchers combined to strike out 29 San Francisco hitters, issuing just four walks.

Patience.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 13, 2008

I put together a list in 2005 of the 12 things I was most looking forward to seeing when I got to Surprise. I came up with a list of 20 things in 2006. (Don’t know why I forgot to do it last year.) Add them and you get 32, which happens to be the number on Josh Hamilton’s back, permitting me to once again find a way to stick Hamilton in the lead and to scare up a list of the 32 things I can’t wait to see when I get to Rangers camp in Surprise:

1. Elvis Andrus and Engel Beltre, just to be sure I wasn’t seeing things in October. Jorge Quintero, too, for that matter.

2. Thomas Diamond, reasserting himself while nobody is looking.

3. Neftali Feliz.

4. Jason Botts, on one side of the complex or the other, in one shade of blue or another.

5. Josh Rupe, my pitching sleeper for 2008.

6. Whatever super-turbo-groovy kicks A.J. Preller is sporting these days.

7. A chance to talk to Chris Davis to figure out at what point his boyhood dreams were surpassed by the reality of the last month. German Duran, too.

8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, making a late rush. Luis Mendoza finishing what he’s started. (Kyle Lohse? No, thanks.)

9. David Murphy, continuing to quietly do his thing.

10. Michael Young becoming more and more like Don Mattingly was, and Ian Kinsler becoming more and more like Michael Young is.

11. The March 2008 version of March 2004 Ian Kinsler. I’m not sure who it will be, but it won’t surprise me if in a week I’m putting my money on Cristian Santana.

12. C.J. Wilson, using adversity to his advantage on the mound. Channeling, I think it’s called.

13. Kea Kometani, whose increasingly legitimate velocity and consistently nasty splitter belong on someone far less unassuming than he is. Root for that guy.

14. Brandon Boggs, perhaps the most unfairly overlooked player in the system.

15. Macumba.

16. Taylor Teagarden at full strength, I hope.

17. A sense that Joaquin Arias hasn’t given up.

18. Milton Bradley, leading as he can. He’s a baseball player.

(From today’s Star-Telegram feature penned by Jeff Wilson: “You’ll probably see me with [Josh Hamilton] all the time because I’m drawn to him,” Bradley said Wednesday. “Once I got to talking to him, and found out about his life and things he has to deal with every day, I kind of understand where he’s coming from.” Bradley said Hamilton has inspired him to return to studying the Bible and attending services.)

19. Wilmer Font, Julio Borbon, Michael Main, Max Ramirez, and Tommy Hunter. Lots.

20. As many conversations with Don Welke as he’ll tolerate.

21. Nolan Ryan, watching the Texas Rangers with as great a hope and confidence as any of us have that things are headed in the right direction, and with as great a passion as any of us have to see this team win.

22. Blake Beavan and Neil Ramirez, neither of whom I got to see pitch at Instructs.

23. The look in Eric Hurley’s eyes, which has been different, and better, every March that I’ve seen him take the mound.

24. Johnny Whittleman and Michael Schlact, two players whose standing among the Rangers prospect hierarchy seems to have waned, but only because of the dramatic, headline-y influx of high-end prospects in June’s draft and July’s trading season. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be on everyone’s watch list.

25. Johan Yan, hopefully looking less raw with those sick skills. It’s time.

26. Zach Phillips and Derek Holland, either of whom could be a year or two away from being Matt Harrison.

27. This rumor that Franklyn German has found command.

28. Fabio Castillo, of course.

29. The booth alongside Victor Rojas for Monday’s webcast, weather permitting.

30. Speaking of which, a couple mistaken weather forecasts for Sunday and Monday would suit me just fine.

31. Erica and Max, hopefully having half as good a time as they’ve been anticipating for weeks.

32. Josh Hamilton. In batting practice and in games, at the plate and in center field. Interacting with fans 20 years his junior and with his teammates of three months who have accepted him unconditionally, as one of them. Doing everything loudly between the lines, quietly outside them. Helping redefine what the Texas Rangers plan to be about, with all of us watching intently.

I want to see for myself what exactly he’s able to leap in a single bound.

For a few years now I’ve been saying this is my favorite time of the year. But I’m (patiently) counting on Hamilton being part of a core of players suiting up for my team who, before too much longer, lead us to a much better time of the year.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 12, 2008

Josh Hamilton punished the first pitch he saw yesterday, driving a ball over the fence in left center field, a shot that Michael Young told a couple talk show hosts, maybe only half jokingly, he thought the shortstop might have a play on as the ball jumped off Hamilton’s bat on a clothesline. Stupid skills.

Hamilton added a pair of singles, raising his spring numbers to a silly .522/.542/1.043. Among his 12 hits are a pair of homers, a pair of triples, and a pair of doubles. Three strikeouts in 23 at-bats? More than acceptable. His 11 RBI are most in baseball right now.

Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez followed two uninspiring Reds outings with a standout effort on Monday, pitching the fifth through eighth against the Yankees and setting eight batters down on strikes while walking none. He yielded two runs on six hits, but was efficient, needing just 54 pitches to get through his four innings of work, one of which featured Volquez striking out the side of Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui (with a Jorge Posada single mixed in).

Volquez hasn’t won a Reds rotation job yet, but those 13 strikeouts and two walks in eight innings are making a strong case.

Especially with 20-year-old outfielder Jay Bruce (.320/.346/.360) justifying Cincinnati’s evaluation that he’s ready, Hamilton for Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera is looking like a deal neither team would think about undoing.

Vicente Padilla pulled a hip muscle on the last pitch of his 3.2 innings yesterday afternoon, but he’s apparently fine. The righthander allowed two unearned runs on four hits and three walks, fanning two. In 8.2 camp innings, Padilla’s ERA sits at 0.00 (three unearned runs).

Kaz Fukumori maintains a spotless ERA (one unearned run) as well. In six frames over five appearances, he’s scattered four hits without a walk, retiring six hitters on strikes.

Jason Jennings’s 0.00 ERA needs no asterisk. Nobody has crossed the plate on his watch, and in fact he’s permitted just one hit in 4.2 innings. Reliever Franklyn German has given up three hits in four scoreless innings, walking nobody and punching out six with his 98-mph gas and surprising splitty.

Kevin Millwood threw just over 50 pitches in a 3.1-inning simulated game on Monday, striking out five and permitting two hits and a walk to the foursome of Johnny Whittleman, Steve Murphy, Chad Tracy, and Manny Pena, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Millwood was frustrated with his location, which is far less important than his report that his hamstring felt fine.

Brandon McCarthy didn’t travel to Dallas on Monday as planned, instead getting a second MRI on his right forearm to confirm the original diagnosis of severe inflammation, with no ligament damage. He’ll resume throwing in two weeks and has a timetable of four to eight weeks for his return to action.

Sidney Ponson is slated to pitch two innings in today’s game against the Cubs, following Jennings. Ponson reportedly has an out in his minor league deal that permits him to take free agency if he’s not on the major league roster by May 1. Reasonable enough — McCarthy should be back by then. The Rangers won’t need to go to a fifth starter before April 12, but if Ponson hasn’t forced his way back to the big leagues sometime in the season’s first month, in terms of depth a handful of young arms will be that much closer to earning their own big league looks.

Scott Feldman, who has an option left, might find himself in the AAA rotation when camp breaks. The Rangers are apparently thinking about trying to stretch him out as a starter at Oklahoma. His four-inning effort against the White Sox yesterday was the team’s longest of the spring.

Travis Metcalf will have a 20-minute procedure today in Dallas to remove a partially torn left hamstring tendon. He’ll miss six to eight weeks.

An MRI on catcher Taylor Teagarden’s left wrist (which was drilled by a pitch on March 2) confirmed a bone bruise, which is relatively good news in that it’s not a fracture. He should be back in action well before camp breaks.

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Texas is not inclined at the moment to trade Gerald Laird, who is attracting some interest.

Torii Hunter is having a massive camp for the Angels, hitting .611/.632/1.389 thus far. Thought I’d check up on Gary Matthews Jr., to see how he’s faring with the move to a corner. Twenty-three at-bats is too small a sample to extrapolate into anything meaningful, particularly for a proven veteran, but .261/.250/.304 (one extra-base hit [a double] and no walks) isn’t real encouraging.

Prediction: The only players in the American League who will finish higher than Josh Hamilton in the MVP race in 2008 will play for teams with better records.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 10, 2008

The Rangers have optioned Joaquin Arias, Julio Borbon, Thomas Diamond, and Max Ramirez to minor league camp, and have assigned the following seven non-roster invites to minor league camp: Elvis Andrus, Chris Davis, German Duran, Kea Kometani, John Mayberry Jr., Chris Stewart, and Bill White.

The only moderate surprise is the Duran move, a signal that Ramon Vazquez, who has played well early on, will likely hang onto his utility infielder role. Ultimately it’s the right move, as Duran needs to play everyday, something the utility infielder on this roster isn’t going to come close to doing. While the four optioned players are probably longshots to see much big league time this year, chances are that more than half of the seven non-roster reassignments will get to Arlington at some point in 2008.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 10, 2008

It’s no secret that I wasn’t a big fan of the Sammy Sosa project, because of where this team was in its development, the players to whom the Sosa at-bats could have gone instead as Texas spent time figuring out in 2007 where it might be in 2009, and the obvious point that Sosa, even if he ended up giving the Rangers as much production as he did, was nonetheless never going to be part of this lineup when they were contenders again.

There was one thing about the Sosa dalliance that made sense to me, even if not at the outset, and it’s the one potentially interesting aspect (though on a much smaller scale) of the signing of Sidney Ponson, even if his utility to this franchise as a pitcher could be only slightly greater than that of Mark Redman in 2007, Jose Silva in 2006, or Aaron Sele in 2005.

I’m sure that Sosa’s return to baseball energized a whole new crop of middle-teenaged kids in San Pedro de Macoris and all around the Dominican Republic. I couldn’t be more excited about the work A.J. Preller, Don Welke, and Manny Batista are engineering in Latin America, but in a landscape where every kid is a free agent, it’s probably Sosa, and not Preller and Welke and Batista, who was responsible for a surge in Rangers caps showing up on kids’ heads in the streets and on the sandlots in that country. Bet the Rangers’ street cred in the Dominican, already ticking up over the last few years, spiked with Sosa’s reemergence.

There may be no more than one prospect in Aruba for every hundred in the Dominican Republic. Truthfully, there may be no more than one for every hundred in San Pedro de Macoris. There have been four Arubans to play in the big leagues: Ponson, righthander Calvin Maduro, lefthander Radhames Dykhoff (Ponson’s cousin), and outfielder Eugene Kingsale. Every one of them got his start with the Orioles, each having been signed by scout Jesus “Chu” Halabi, whom Texas hired a month ago to cover Aruba, along with Curacao and Cuba.

Ponson, who along with Kingsale and Maduro was made a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Royal House by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (whose kingdom includes Aruba) after the 2003 season, is the best player that country has produced. Chances are Halabi will find the next one. But the odds are even better, theoretically, with Sir Sidney around.

Aside from that, don’t expect a big impact from Ponson, or even a Sosa-like contribution. With the injury to Brandon McCarthy, he’ll likely get a chance to face big league hitters at some point this month, but in all likelihood what he’s auditioning for is an opportunity to get the ball every fifth day for Oklahoma. A lifetime 82-101, 4.94 pitcher in the big leagues, he hasn’t had an effective season since 2003, though he did have a solid first two months for St. Louis in 2006 (4-0, 2.93 over eight starts).

The 31-year-old had made more news the last five years off the mound than on it. On Christmas Day 2004, he was charged with assaulting an Aruban judge in an altercation on the beach and briefly jailed. He was charged with driving under the influence twice in 2005, once in Florida and once in Maryland.

Baltimore attempted to trade Ponson to San Diego in July 2005 for Phil Nevin, but Nevin exercised his limited no-trade clause and vetoed the deal. Within a week, the Padres traded Nevin instead to Texas (not on his no-trade list) for Chan Ho Park.

Ponson comes in with no guarantees — not even a lock on a AAA job — and while the fastball may be heavier and the body trimmer, he’s still a longshot to make a difference at any point in Arlington, and certainly won’t prevent someone like Luis Mendoza, A.J. Murray, Eric Hurley, Doug Mathis, or Matt Harrison from getting a shot when the organization decides they are ready.

As for Mathis, there’s an interesting message that the organization is sending by adjusting his status three weeks into camp. As a “just in case” brought over from minor league camp, the 24-year-old has appeared in three Cactus League games, allowing three hits in 2.1 scoreless, walkless innings, fanning one. There’s no reason the club couldn’t have continued with the status quo, using Mathis as needed until the determination was made that he needed to get on a routine rotation schedule on the minor league side.

There is a reason, however, that Texas decided yesterday to give Mathis an official non-roster invite to camp, which means a lot more than the locker in the clubhouse, the boost in per diem, and the extra time with big league coaches and around big league players — I bet to Mathis the simple recognition means a lot more. Consider this remark from Jon Daniels: “We talk in the organization about our starters working quickly, controlling the game, throwing strikes and executing pitches. Doug has come into the game two or three times and done just that. This is a good reward for him and a message for everybody else.”

Nobody from the Rangers’ 2005 draft has had to be protected on the 40-man roster yet, but John Mayberry Jr. (1st round), Taylor Teagarden (3rd), German Duran (6th), Kea Kometani (15th), and now Mathis (13th) are in camp as non-roster invites. Solid.

Mendoza, historically a four- or five-strikeouts-per-nine-innings guy, has punched out seven hitters in 6.2 innings this spring, including his B game effort on Saturday.

C.J. Wilson is slated to throw a bullpen today and another later in the week, with an eye toward pitching in a game next weekend.

While Gerald Laird (.250/.250/.500, better defense) has appeared from the outside to have a leg up on Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.214/.267/.571) in the competition for starting catcher duties, Ron Washington told MLB.com: “By March 14, I’ll have a better idea of which way I want to go.” I’m not sure what it means for the next four or five games when Washington says: “After this weekend we’re going to start revving it up,” other than perhaps each will be asked to go the distance behind the plate on days they start. There’s also the possibility, I suppose, that with the likely candidates for the big league staff starting to stretch out more, the coaching staff could charge Laird and Saltalamacchia with a greater responsibility to call the game.

Travis Metcalf’s standout camp (.412/.444/.824, team-leading two home runs, one strikeout in 17 at-bats, typical plus defense) has been halted by a tendon strain in the shin area of his left leg that he suffered in Friday’s game.

It’s probably time for Ben Broussard (2 for 18, no walks) to start hitting.

On the plus side, Broussard has only two strikeouts in his 18 at-bats. The same is true for Jason Botts, who has done a lot with the small sample, hitting .389/.421/.556.

Read Evan Grant’s story in the Sunday Dallas Morning News on the history and present status of Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando’s ban on returning to the United States to play. It’s great work.

Quarantined in the Dominican Republic for the last three seasons, Beltre (from the country’s capital city of Santo Domingo) and Ogando (from Sosa’s hometown of San Pedro de Macoris) didn’t get the chance to share a clubhouse last spring — if not last summer, in Beltre’s case — with Sosa.

I don’t know if Ponson has another stretch in him like the one he gave the Cardinals in April and May of 2006, but I suppose that even if he gives the Rangers nothing more than Luther Hackman did, maybe there are a couple kids in Aruba who will be more excited about putting on one of those Rangers lids that Chu Halabi carries around.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 9, 2008

With Texas three weeks away from the regular season, several local reports today indicated that Brandon McCarthy will be sidelined for a minimum of four to six weeks, due to inflammation in his right elbow and forearm area.

McCarthy will begin the season on the disabled list but won’t need surgery. Team physician Dr. Keith Meister concluded that McCarthy’s ulnar collateral ligament is “clean,” with no signs of the type of damage that would indicate Tommy John surgery.

McCarthy returns to Dallas tomorrow and will receive an injection to enhance blood flow in the elbow and speed up the healing process. Otherwise, the prescription is rest until his arm is pain-free.

More in the next Newberg Report.

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

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