THE NEWBERG REPORT — April 29, 2008

The circumstances are crummy, but the big league career
of outfielder Brandon Boggs begins tonight. 
With Hank Blalock landing on the disabled list with a small tear in his
left hamstring and no real candidate on the 40-man roster to come up and
fortify the infield depth (Joaquin Arias still isn’t throwing from the left
side of the infield, and Travis Metcalf’s hamstring isn’t ready for action yet),
German Duran will now pack away his outfielder’s glove and share third base
duties with Ramon Vazquez, with Boggs coming up to provide outfield depth.  It’s an opportunity he’s earned.

The 25-year-old, drafted by Texas in the fourth round out
of Georgia Tech in 2004, has achieved the extraordinary feat of improving his
batting average and his slugging percentage in each of his four pro seasons,
and in his fifth year — his first at the AAA level — he’s off to his best
batting average and is close to yet another career high in slugging (.309/.368/.456).  He’s also two off a career best — and one
off the league lead — with three triples.

In 2007, the switch-hitter’s .893 OPS was the third
highest in the Texas League, and only 11 players in all of minor league baseball
drew more than his 84 walks.  Boggs has
enough arm to play on a corner and enough range to patrol center, and with his offensive
production catching up to his defensive versatility last year, he earned a
40-man roster spot in November that paved the way for this move.  

Historically better against left-handed pitchers than
righthanders, Boggs has been just the opposite this year, hitting
.360/.431/.520 against righties and just .167/.167/.278 against southpaws. 

Boggs has certainly earned the look, but if Nelson Cruz
were on the roster, he’d undoubtedly have gotten the call.  The 40-man roster is hamstrung right now due
to the rash of early injuries, but at this rate Cruz (.366/.531/.775) is soon going
to get one last opportunity to play in Texas.

Cruz has played in the AAA Pacific Coast League in each
of the last five seasons. 

Here’s how often he has drawn AAA walks:

2004: every 13.0 at-bats

2005: every 6.9 at-bats

2006: every 8.8 at-bats

2007: every 7.7 at-bats

2008: every 3.0 at-bats

And how often he has struck out:

2004: every 1.9 at-bats

2005: every 3.4 at-bats

2006: every 3.7 at-bats

2007: every 4.8 at-bats

2008: every 5.1 at-bats

It’s a ridiculously dramatic turnaround.

And, for good measure, hitting and slugging:

2004: .231/.538

2005: .269/.490

2006: .302/.528

2007: .352/.698

2008: .366/.775

Then there’s this from Cruz, the RedHawks’ number three
hitter: Last night he hit his eighth home run of the season — and five have
come in the first inning.  Cruz is a
.400/.550/1.467 hitter in the first frame (20 plate appearances: no singles,
one double, five Cruz missiles, five walks, two strikeouts).  He’s locked in as soon as the Anthem ends.

Bakersfield lefthander Kasey Kiker threw a career-best
seven-plus innings last night, earning the Blaze win as he held High Desert to
three runs on five hits and two walks, fanning four.  The 20-year-old induced 11 groundouts and six
flyouts.

Slick second baseman Jose Vallejo homered in the game and
sits at .324/.371/.500 for the season.  In
four pro seasons coming into 2008, the 21-year-old switch-hitter had a line of
.253/.316/.309, with five lifetime home runs. 
He’s already gone deep four times in his first 25 games this season –
all from his less familiar left side of the plate.

Josh Hamilton leads baseball with 27 RBI.  Edinson Volquez has baseball’s third-best ERA
at 1.23.  The number of trades involving
big leaguers on both sides that neither team would conceive of undoing is very
small.  This one is right at the top of
the list.

The shoulder injury that has put Yankees catcher Jorge Posada
back on the shelf is interesting because, even though it’s for an entirely
different reason from John Schuerholz a year ago, Yankees general manager Brian
Cashman — an avowed shepherd of the New
York farm system — may actually be forced into in an
amplified, self-preserving, win-now mode. 
The Yankees purchased the contract of former Ranger catcher Chris Stewart
from AAA so he can serve as Jose Molina’s backup.  It wouldn’t be shocking if New
York were to call Texas
about Gerald Laird (a lifetime 5 for 10 hitter at Yankee Stadium, by the way) and
Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Back in May, when the idea that trading Mark Teixeira gained
steam, I suggested that maybe New York, especially if it feared that Boston
might get in on Teixeira, could step up with an offer like Melky Cabrera, Kevin
Whelan, and either Dellin Betances or player to be named later Joba Chamberlain
(this was well before Chamberlain went on his rampage that ended in New York).  Given the roster situation, if Texas were to trade
Laird at this point, it would make sense to try and land a top prospect not
needing protection on the 40-man roster, and from that standpoint righthanders Betances
or Alan Horne or outfielders Jose Tabata or Austin Jackson or Brett Gardner
make some sense.  And there’s also McKinney native Daniel
McCutchen, a 25-year-old righthander who is 3-1, 1.42 in five AA starts.

Ian Kinsler has quietly reached safely in every one of
the 25 games he has played this season, good for the third-longest streak (at
any time of the season) in franchise history, behind Michael Young (37 games in
2005) and Gabe Kapler (29 games in 2000).

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the
Rangers have hired Russ Nixon as a roving minor league instructor.  The former Cincinnati
and Atlanta
manager work will work primarily with the organization’s catchers.

Lefthander Danny Ray Herrera, who went to Cincinnati with
Volquez in the Hamilton deal, posted a 3-0, 2.55 mark in 10 relief appearances
for AA Chattanooga, earning a promotion to AAA Louisville, where he’s pitched 4.1
scoreless innings (three hits, no walks, six strikeouts) in his first two Bats appearances.

San Francisco
has dropped lefthander Barry Zito from its rotation.

If you are locked into every Rangers radio broadcast like
I am, you probably share my desperate hope that Toyota Truck Month ends tomorrow. 

The best thing about R.E.M.’s new CD, which is an
improvement over their last few releases but still falls well short of their
heyday: the return to prominence of Mike Mills, particularly on the first four
tracks.

I erred when I noted a week ago that catcher Kelley Gulledge,
the son of Chuck Morgan, was playing for the Dodgers in AA after a five-year
absence from the affiliated minor leagues. 
He had in fact already been promoted from AA to AAA two days before I wrote.

The Rangers signed 29-year-old righthander Brian Gordon
and assigned him to Frisco.  He’d been with
the Astros organization, starting the season with AA Corpus Christi.

Texas released infielder
David Peterson, who hit .218/.272/.261 in three seasons after signing as
undrafted free agent in 2005 out of George
Fox University.  Baltimore
signed catcher Brian Valichka.  The
Atlantic City Surf of the independent Can-Am League signed righthander Jim
Wladyka.

Righthander Aaron Myette, age 30, is pitching for the
York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League.  Among his teammates are catcher Luis Taveras
and infielder Enrique Cruz.

Three at home against the Royals, starting tonight,
before 13 in a row  against the A’s and
Mariners.  Would be nice to win a second
straight series before jumping back into division play.

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

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