The Rangers have placed RHP Dustin
Nippert on the disabled list with a sore right foot, recalling the unconsciously
dominant Frankie Francisco from AAA Oklahoma.
Francisco has appeared eight times
for the RedHawks, converting five all save opportunities he’s had. In nine
innings of work, he hasn’t allowed a run, scattering three hits and three walks
while striking out sixteen
That’s right. Nine shutout innings,
Right-handed hitters have been
particularly helpless against Francisco. Stepping in 18 times, three righties
have worked walks, twelve have gone down on strikes, and three have put the ball
in play, though none safely. Of
the three who have made contact in fair ground, one grounded into a double
play. The other two managed to get only themselves
It’s still my firm belief that, in terms of the big
picture, it’s all about building a consistent contender, whose arrival may be a
year or two away, and yet, while it’s not about this series or that one, or
this homestand or that road trip, or this month or this season, it’s still
about today’s ballgame.
Part of the process of building a winner is building
winners, players who grow together into a culture of doing whatever it takes,
having each other’s backs, depending on each other and internalizing that sort
of accountability themselves. While it
may not matter so much in the long haul how Texas fares over the next couple weeks, to
me there’s still plenty riding on the next at-bat with runners in scoring position,
the next opportunity for a shutdown inning, the next game.
These last two losses to the Red Sox have been killers to
watch, but there’s something I’ve taken out of this series that losses to the
Yankees or the Angels or the Mariners don’t provide.
They are the ultimate team.
Yes, the Red Sox can outspend their mistakes, maybe not like
the Yankees can but more so than anyone else.
Yet consider how that club was built.
Sure, their catcher makes more than $10 million a
year. But they acquired Jason Varitek, a
AAA player at the time, in what has to be baseball’s best trade of the last 20
years (Varitek and Derek Lowe from Seattle
for Heathcliff Slocumb).
David Ortiz pulls in $13 million annually, granted, but Boston signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in
2003 five weeks after Minnesota
had released him.
Tim Wakefield? Released
by Pittsburgh 37 games into what is now a 500-plus-game career, signed by
Boston six days after that for about 1/20th of the $4 million he’s made each
year, give or take, over the last 10 seasons.
Josh Beckett is in Boston
because the Sox signed Hanley Ramirez out of the Dominican Republic — not because
they outspent all other suitors, but because they saw a kid in 2000 they deemed
worth a extraordinarily modest signing bonus of $20,000.
Mike Lowell is there only because Florida insisted that he be tacked onto any
deal involving Beckett.
Kevin Youkilis: Eighth-round draft pick. Dustin Pedroia (Ian Kinsler’s successor at
shortstop for Arizona
Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen: Fourth round, second
Jon Lester: Second round.
Two-year, $2.5 million contract. At
about the same age and for about the same price Texas landed Kazuo Fukumori.
Sean Casey’s one-year, $800,000 deal is a lot less than
the one-year, $3.85 million Ben Broussard gets for his one year.
A lot of teams (including Texas) could have taken Jacoby
Ellsbury well before Boston popped him with the 2005 draft’s 23rd pick, or Clay
Buchholz with that same draft’s 42nd pick, or Jed Lowrie with that same draft’s
Yes, the Red Sox paid $21 million a year to sign Manny
Ramirez days after Texas
committed $25.2 million a year to Alex Rodriguez, but even they felt they
overpaid, as evidenced by their decision to run Ramirez through irrevocable waivers
three years later. Still, today, is
Ramirez all that overpaid? Think the Red
Sox exercise their $20 million option for 2009 (and again for 2010)? If not, how much will the Mets, for instance,
Boston stepped up with its silent bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka
a year and a half ago, winning negotiation rights for a little more than $51
million, but then held the line in talks with Scott Boras, ultimately signing the
26-year-old to a six-year, $52 million deal.
Curt Schilling’s initial deal with Boston
(three years at $37.5 million, plus a $13 million option for a fourth year) was
roughly equivalent annually to Kevin Millwood’s deal with Texas.
J.D. Drew for $70 million over five years? Yeah, that’s probably a deal that Boston and only a few
other clubs make.
This is a roster largely built on shrewd drafting and
trading. The Yankees, on the other hand,
have 11 players earning at least $11 million, and the only ones they can really
take credit for from a player development standpoint are Derek Jeter (chosen sixth
in the nation in 1992), Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. Give them credit for Chien-Ming Wang, Joba
Chamberlain, Robinson Cano, and Phil Hughes, but that club’s ability to build a
team (as opposed to a roster) isn’t nearly as impressive as far as I’m
concerned as Boston’s
The big thing that I think the Red Sox have over New York, and everyone
else, is that tight-knit chemistry they exude, the character they play with, the
tenacity and relentlessness and lunchpail swagger. It’s a team full of closers.
Full of hockey players.
Varitek (from Michigan), Youkilis (Ohio), Papelbon (Louisiana),
Beckett (Spring, Texas), Pedroia (California), Wakefield (Florida), Mike Timlin
(Midland, Texas), Drew (Georgia), Casey (New Jersey), Lowell (Puerto Rico). All hockey players.
You know who would fit on this generation of the Boston
Red Sox? Nolan Ryan. He had that swagger without the irritating New
York Yankees sheen. Ryan played by a
code that the Red Sox seem to stand by collectively. Mickey Tettleton had it. Rusty Greer.
Michael Young and Millwood and Hank Blalock and Milton
Bradley and Josh Hamilton, too. Kinsler is
a developing Brenden Morrow.
I had plenty of sports hurt Sunday afternoon seeing
Millwood denied his first road win since June 17 — he’s an impossible 0-9,
3.93 with eight quality starts in 12 efforts in that span — but my cap is tipped
to the Red Sox. They find a way.
Texas will take the field in a couple hours with a 7-12 record,
but it’s easy to imagine it being 12-7 if things had broken in different ways,
which isn’t to suggest luck or randomness are to blame. The Rangers have led in eight of their 12
losses, and in several of those the lead seemed somewhat comfortable, the game
well in hand. Some of those losses shouldn’t
have happened, much like some of the victories the Red Sox tend to pull off
shouldn’t have happened.
Some may suggest that chemistry, character, and confidence
are by-products of winning, rather than ingredients. Maybe so.
Either way, I look forward to seeing the winning, and the winning
attitude, return to Texas. It’s a process, and I don’t think the payoff
is all that far off.
The first eight Red Sox hitters against Luis Mendoza last
The next nine Red Sox hitters: .833/.889/1.667.
But I’ll take a loss like that any day over a 4-1 loss
marred by sloppy defense, like Mendoza’s
I’ve seen it suggested that the David Ortiz grand slam
was a bad break for Texas
because it’s a routine flyout in every other ballpark. Disagree.
It’s Ortiz understanding how to take advantage of his yard like he so
often does, the first three weeks of this season notwithstanding. It was a two-seamer that hung up and over the
heart of the plate, certainly not the pitch Mendoza wanted to throw. Ortiz simply got a pitch he could do
something with, and he did something with it.
Ortiz’s two-out bomb followed a double and two
walks. Gerald Laird came up in the eighth
reliever David Aardsma got two quick outs and then allowed a single and two
walks, throwing six of his last eight pitches out of the strike zone. Laird swung at Aardsma’s first two pitches,
fouling the first off and swinging through the second, and then took two
pitches, one for a ball and the second for an inning-ending called strike
three. Texas was down at the time, 9-3, but that
was obviously a chance to make it a ballgame again.
T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com notes that Hank Blalock’s six
RBI this season have all come on his three home runs, remarkable considering Blalock
is hitting .316/.400/.526 and has been in the fourth or fifth slot all season, with
Josh Hamilton (.294/.363/.529) and Milton Bradley (.352/.455/.481) hitting ahead
of him. Blalock sits at .233/.324/.467 with
runners on and .200/.333/.400 with runners in scoring position.
I still think Blalock is going to have a big year, as
long as he’s healthy.
As a minor leaguer, Hamilton
struck out 2.81 times as often as he walked.
As a Red, Hamilton
struck out 1.97 times as often as he walked.
As a Ranger, Hamilton
has as many walks (eight) as strikeouts.
righthander Eric Hurley nearly had his first quality start of the season last
night, holding Round Rock to two runs on five hits and two walks in 5.2
innings, fanning seven. The RedHawks’ 6-4
victory was keyed in part by outfielder Nelson Cruz, who has to be the
4-A-i-est hitter in the history of ever.
Cruz homered for the fourth time last night, and finished the game at .350/.500/.750
in 40 at-bats. Maybe more shocking than
anything is Cruz’s 13 walks and five strikeouts.
In five seasons at the AAA level, Cruz is a career .305/.395/.564
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting .298/.400/.532 for the
RedHawks, and catching every day (backup backstop Kevin Richardson has just 11
at-bats). Saltalamacchia has committed
no errors, has no passed balls, and has thrown out three of 11 would-be
Righthander Kazuo Fukumori was perfect in 2.1 innings in
relief of Hurley, fanning two.
Righthander Frankie Francisco saved the game by coming in
to get the final two outs, both on strikes.
Francisco is bucking for a return to Texas.
In eight scoreless innings of work, he’s scattered three hits and three
walks, fanning 14. He’s thrown two-thirds
of his pitches for strikes.
The last 17 hitters Francisco has faced:
All told, that’s an extraordinary 12 strikeouts in five
innings. One walk. One single.
Two balls that left the infield.
Righthander Robinson Tejeda has now pitched twice out of
bullpen, allowing two singles and no walks in 2.1 scoreless innings. Pair the walklessness with five strikeouts
among his seven outs, and you have to start paying some attention.
Frisco reliever Warner Madrigal, stolen from the Angels in
November when the Anaheim
front office was asleep at the wheel, saved his sixth game last night in seven nearly
spotless appearances: eight shutout innings, three hits (.120/.214/.160), three
walks, 10 strikeouts, two-thirds of his pitches for strikes.
Quick, rattle off the 10 Rangers pitching prospects
you’re most excited about.
Michael Schlact probably isn’t on your list. He should be.
In three Frisco starts this season, the 6’7″
righthander has a 2.50 ERA, has given up just eight hits and eight walks in 18
innings (holding opponents to an anemic .148/.254/.246 line, including .111/.256/.139
by right-handed hitters in 36 at-bats) while fanning 13, and as usual is
getting outs on the ground, inducing 1.56 as many groundouts as flyouts. Schlact will be Rule 5-eligible this winter
for the first time.
RoughRiders catcher/DH Max Ramirez is number 11 on Baseball
Hot Sheet released yesterday. He’s
hitting .255/.367/.608, with home runs in three of his last four games.
Cristian Santana finally played defense last night,
starting in left field in Clinton’s 7-2 win over
Dayton. The 18-year-old homered and singled, improving
his season numbers to .378/.465/.622. He’d
DH’d in his first nine games.
Santana’s LumberKing teammate Ian Gac didn’t go deep but
singled twice, walked, and got drilled to lift his season numbers to .409/.491/.864
(second in the league in hitting, first in reaching base, first in slugging). As impressive as all of it is that Gac, in
his fourth run with Clinton,
has fanned only seven times in 44 at-bats.
Coming into 2008, Gac had struck out once every 2.78 at-bats in his five
pro seasons. The 22-year-old first
baseman also has six walks, twice the frequency of his career rate of a walk for
every 14.5 at-bats coming into 2008.
Interesting 19-year-old catcher Jose Felix was big again
in the Clinton win,
contributing a single, a double, and a walk, improving to .444/.500/.630.
Righthander Fabio Castillo kept his seat in the Clinton pen, nursing a 1.04
ERA that he’s established over 8.2 sparkling innings of work. The 19-year-old has allowed three hits (.103
average) and four walks while punching out a dozen Midwest Leaguers. Righties have one hit in 20 at-bats. Castillo has inherited five runners in his
four relief appearances, stranding them all.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News,
Castillo will likely move into the LumberKing rotation six or seven weeks into
middle reliever Andrew Laughter, unquestionably a prospect, has pitched six
times this season, scattering seven hits and no walks in seven innings while
fanning two. The righthander, drafted in
the 10th round last June on prolific area scout Randy Taylor’s recommendation,
posted a 2.03 ERA last summer in Spokane,
fanning 32 and issuing only four walks in 31 innings.
Laughter’s Blaze bullpen mate, lefthander Ryan Falcon,
has yielded one run on four hits and a walk in 8.2 innings, striking out
four. Last year’s 29th-rounder (area
scout Jim Cuthbert) posted a 2.68 ERA in Spokane
middle relief in his debut season, with a spectacular 62/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio
and an opponents’ batting average of .223.
Dominican righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando are
auditioning for interested Japanese clubs.
Grant notes that Jon Daniels is asking Major League Baseball for
permission to loan Beltre and Ogando to a Mexican Pacific League club, which
would allow the Rangers to retain their rights while holding out hope that the governmental
ban on their reentry to the United
States might eventually be lifted.
Cleveland is the second-worst-hitting team in the
American League, and Detroit righthander Armando Galarraga helped keep them
there on Wednesday, when he held the Indians to one hit — a home run by David
Dellucci, the second batter he faced — over a spectacular 6.2 innings. Galarraga, whom Texas acquired from
Washington in the 2005 Alfonso Soriano deal and designated for assignment in February,
fanned six Indians, walked none, and threw 69 percent of his economically
parsed 81 pitches for strikes.
Galarraga, who was 2-0, 2.25 in his first two starts for
AAA Toledo, was summoned by Detroit
to start in place of the injured Dontrelle Willis.
Outfielder Michael Hernandez, the player the Rangers
picked up from the Tigers for Galarraga, was part of the Mets organization before
camp ended, though I’m not sure when that happened or how. He’s playing for New York’s High A team in Port St. Lucie.
The shift of Thomas Diamond to the 60-day disabled list
to make room on the 40-man roster for German Duran means he can’t be activated
until mid-June (the move can’t be made retroactive, but that’s virtually
meaningless given Diamond’s timetable as he comes back from Tommy John surgery)
but also means he will accumulate big league service time while on the DL, which
starts his service time clocks with regard to arbitration eligibility and free
agency. Probably also not a meaningful development
in the long run.
According to Baseball America,
signed Japanese lefthander Yukinaga Maeda to a minor league deal. A small sidewinder who pitched in Japan for
19 years (78-110, 4.17), the 37-year-old reportedly auditioned for 10 big
league clubs in February before coming to terms with the Rangers. Primarily a reliever for the last several
years, Maeda mixes a knuckleball into his repertoire.
The White Sox signed righthander Rob Bell to a minor
league deal. The Mets signed shortstop
Two struggling pitchers tonight as Jason Jennings is
paired up against Jon Lester, who has issued nine walks in his last 9.2
I bought the new R.E.M. CD (“Accelerate”) at
Barnes & Noble last week, forgetting that I’d preordered it on Amazon a
couple months ago. The Amazon shipment
arrived today, and though I’m digging the CD, I don’t need two of them.
So I’m going to give it, still wrapped, to one of
My 2008 MLB column is now three weeks old, as I build a
25-man roster from the bottom up, featuring my favorite player from franchise
history at each spot as well as the player from the farm system who might
project best to fill that role down the road.
The fourth spot — the left-handed bullpen specialist (the “LOOGY,”
to some of you) — is next week’s feature.
Guess both my all-time southpaw specialist and my top prospect for that
spot, and the CD is yours.
If more than one of you get the right two answers, I’ll send
an email to each of you with the tiebreaker question, which will be to guess
the fifth week’s featured players — the past and future utility infielder.
Here’s who the column has featured so far:
BACKUP CATCHER Bill
Haselman & Manny Pina
to article: http://tinyurl.com/3ahl2a)
LONG RELIEVER Danny Darwin & Michael Schlact/Doug
FOURTH OUTFIELDER Ruben Sierra & Brandon Boggs
Email me your guesses on the all-time
and future left-handed bullpen specialist by 10 a.m. on Friday.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Texas has purchased the contract of infielder German Duran and will start him at third base tonight, opting to keep Hank Blalock off the Toronto turf after he exited last night’s game with lower back discomfort.
The active roster move to accommodate Duran’s arrival will apparently be the placement of outfielder Marlon Byrd on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left knee. As for the 40-man roster, which Duran was not on (as he didn’t yet need to occupy a spot this winter for Rule 5 purposes), a player will need to be removed to make room for Duran. While that could mean that someone is in danger of being designated for assignment, there’s also the possibility that a player like Thomas Diamond or Travis Metcalf could be shifted to the 60-day disabled list, which would clear the necessary roster spot.
More details when the corresponding 40-man roster move is made.
P.S. Jason Botts is back in the starting lineup tonight.
ADDENDUM: Diamond has been placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Duran.
Baseball America reports today that lefthander Kasey Kiker was limited a bit by a sore shoulder over the winter, putting him a couple weeks behind other young pitchers in camp but that, if everything goes well with a five-inning stint in extended today, he will pitch for Bakersfield when his day to throw next comes up.
Rangers Director of Player Development Scott Servais also told BA that the organization would like to limit 2007 first-rounders Blake Beavan, Michael Main, and Neil Ramirez to 19 or 20 starts this season, which suggests that those three could be assigned to full-season Class A affiliates before the short-season clubs in Spokane and Surprise get underway in mid-June – a plan similar to the one that Texas successfully implemented with Kiker last year.
One of the most productive offensive seasons ever turned in by a part-time Rangers outfielder was in 2001, when a 35-year-old whose career had been circling the drain worked his way back to becoming a functional major league hitter and, as a result, squeezed another five years out of his career.
I’m unquestionably bending the rules by making Ruben Sierra the fourth outfielder on the all-time Rangers team under the guidelines I put in place, but there are three players I considered deserving of corner outfield spots, and Sierra was the only one who had a solid year as a role player. So he gets the nod.
For the first six years of Sierra’s big league career, which began at age 20, it looked like he would be generating Hall of Fame debates by his mid-30s. Instead, after the Rangers traded the 26-year-old to Oakland in 1992, a decline began that saw him traded again in 1995, then twice more in 1996, after which he bounced around for several years at a rate of more than one organization per season. Sierra’s 10th club was the Cancun Lobstermen of the AAA-level Mexican Pacific League, which is where he was playing when Texas took a return flyer on him in 2000.
After a very good run with AAA Oklahoma that spring, Sierra struggled in a September stint with Texas but was given a second opportunity when the club gave him another minor league deal for 2001. When outfielder Chad Curtis strained a hamstring a month into the season, Sierra was summoned from Oklahoma, and he made an immediate impact, slugging .706 with 19 extra-base hits in his first 26 games.
Sharing designated hitter duties with Rafael Palmeiro and Andres Galarraga, and appearing 35 times in right field (where Ricky Ledee and Ruben Mateo received the bulk of the starts), Sierra hit .291/.322/.561 for Texas in 2001, contributing 22 doubles and 23 home runs in just 344 at-bats.
The switch-hitter had not gone into a season with a big league contract since the one multi-year deal of his career expired in 1997. But Seattle, sold on what Sierra did for the Rangers in 2001, gave him a major league deal in 2002, guaranteeing him $1.9 million.
Sierra wouldn’t match his 2001 effectiveness over the next five seasons with the Mariners, Rangers, Yankees, or Twins, and his career came to an end with 306 home runs and 1322 RBI on his ledger, impressive numbers but nowhere near the expectations he’d established in his first run with the Rangers. Considering how his career began, it’s a tremendous disappointment that, at age 35, Sierra was in the midst of a ten-season run of competing year to year for backup outfielder/DH jobs.
When Sierra was 23, he hit .306 and led the American League in RBI, triples, and slugging percentage and finished second in the American League MVP vote. At the same age, current Oklahoma outfielder Brandon Boggs was in his third pro season, hitting .261/.352/.444 for High A Bakersfield. Other than the fact that Sierra and Boggs each hit from both sides of the plate, there’s very little the two have in common. Sierra’s big season as a fourth outfielder was a momentary revival of a career that took a disappointing turn. Boggs, on the other hand, has a chance to break into the big leagues in that role and possibly grow into something bigger.
The fascinating thing about Boggs’s 2007 season was that, in his first taste of AA (which didn’t start until May), he posted career highs in hitting (.266), reaching base (.385), slugging (.508), doubles (21), home runs (19), and RBI (55). Only two Texas League hitters had a higher OPS. Only 10 hitters in all of the minor leagues drew more than the 84 walks he collected between Bakersfield and Frisco. With his breakthrough season, Boggs earned a November addition to the 40-man roster so that Texas could avoid exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft.
In AAA for the first time this spring, Boggs is off to new career bests in each percentage category, hitting .333/.388/.533 in the early going, which continues a fascinating trend – the 25-year-old’s batting average and slugging percentage have improved every year since he signed as the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2004.
An outstanding defender with a good arm, Boggs is an ideal fourth outfielder from the standpoint that he can more than adequately play all three spots, just as Marlon Byrd and David Murphy have shown. If Boggs is to grow into a starting role and have a lengthy big league career, his path will probably look a lot more like Byrd’s and Murphy’s than that of Sierra, who had 98 major league home runs when he was Boggs’s age and didn’t fill a supporting role until late in his career.
Admittedly, I might be shortchanging Boggs by suggesting he profiles as a fourth outfielder and nothing more. But since I’m obviously shortchanging Sierra by tabbing him as the fourth outfielder on my all-time Rangers team – only because there are two corner outfielders who I think deserve starting recognition more – it’s not as if Boggs isn’t in very good company.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Here’s how hitters have fared against C.J. Wilson in the big leagues:
Here’s how often he’s throwing strikes:
2005: 60.4% of the time
2006: 60.8% of the time
2007: 58.7% of the time
2008: 67.9% of the time
Here’s how quickly he’s finishing innings:
2005: 17.1 pitches
2006: 16.8 pitches
2007: 17.2 pitches
2008: 12.0 pitches
Would be pretty cool if everyone was this efficient at work, and similarly trending up.
— Jamey, who, uhh, is going to get back to work now
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count as a Pyhrric victory when
it’s a fan on whom the toll is taken before being rewarded with what really
does feel like a character win, but this morning sort of feels like the first couple
days after those weekend softball doubleheaders (“[I’m w]ay too tired. And I love it. Sports soreness is the greatest.”)
Kason Gabbard, Wes Littleton, Franklyn German, and C.J.
Wilson, thank you.
Jason Botts, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley (five walks,
all in the seventh inning and later!), and Frank Catalanotto, you did more than
your fair share. Thanks.
You too, A.J. Burnett.
I was thinking at about the time that last night’s game
started feeling like a West Coast Special that this morning’s report would be
about Neftali Feliz, Fabio Castillo, Warner Madrigal, Jesse Carlson, and Armando
Galarraga, with some Cristian Santana and Jose Vallejo mixed in, but like those
Sunday afternoons I wrote about on March 30, I’m far too worn out to go there
Way too sports-tired.
And I love it.