June 2008

Old and new.

On August 17, 1985, the day Eric Hurley was born, Jamie Moyer was pitching for AA Pittsfield in the Cubs system, in what was his first full pro season.

On March 17, 1986, the day Chris Davis was born, Moyer was making enough noise in Cubs camp that, three months later, he would be in the major leagues.

Today, teeing it up against Moyer and one of baseball’s best offenses, Hurley and Davis came up big in a 5-1 win that gave the Rangers a series victory over the Phillies.  Hurley owned the inside third with tremendous fastball command and flashed a really good breaking ball over five and two-thirds, earning his first big league win, and Davis took Moyer out of the park in straightaway center, helping hand Moyer his 184th loss as he became the first player in Rangers history to homer in his first two big league starts.

This is how the first batter of the inning has fared against Hurley in his four big league starts: 1 for 19 with five walks.

This can be found on page 243 of your 2008 Bound Edition:

The Rangers once drafted a 6’3″, 220 masher out of college, developed him as a third baseman, and moved him to first base once he arrived in the big leagues, which was after just one full season on the farm.  

Mark Teixeira hit 153 home runs as a Ranger, one short of the most any player drafted by Texas has ever hit for the team.  But Dean Palmer’s 154 came in eight seasons, while Teixeira was here for only five.

Another Scott Boras client, Chris Davis, is also 6’3″, 220, also drafted out of college, and is playing third base for Frisco right now, though there’s a good chance he’ll move across the diamond and play first base as a major leaguer, just as Teixeira did.

Teixeira was drafted fifth overall in 2001, three years after Boston failed to sign him as a high school pick.  Davis was drafted in the fifth round in 2006, two years after the Yankees failed to sign him as a high school pick.

*          *          *

Don’t assume that the Rangers have found their next Mark Teixeira.  Or even their next Dean Palmer.

But you can bet they’ve found their next pure power hitter in the 21-year-old from Longview.

I don’t know if you saw today’s Davis bomb, particularly the replay from the third base, field level camera, and this photo doesn’t tell the whole story . . .
 

chrisdavishr2.jpg 

. . . but I was stunned by how much Davis’s follow-through with his lower half, the way he seemingly bounces with both feet from his pass at the ball into running position, looked like Teixeira’s from the left side.  It’s freaky.

Jamey Wright, Eddie Guardado, and C.J. Wilson, just like you draw it up: 3.1 innings, no hits, no walks, four strikeouts, two-thirds strikes.

Shane Victorino has 20 stolen bases this year, ninth best in baseball, failing in only four attempts.  The catchers who have thrown him out: veteran Brian Schneider, veteran Gregg Zaun, veteran Brian McCann, and Max Ramirez.

Hurley and Davis were high school juniors and Ramirez was about to play his first pro game, as an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, when Mike Hindman began covering the Rangers’ farm system for the Newberg Report in 2003.  Nobody has written more (or more insightfully) about Rangers prospects over the last five-plus years than Mike, and I’m thrilled to be able to report that we are all about to benefit from a new phase in his baseball-writing odyssey, as the Dallas Morning News has added him to its “Seamheads” roster, where he’ll blog on the club along with Evan Grant, Richard Durrett, and Tim McMahon.

Mike’s own words: “I’ll be posting on matters spanning the width and breadth of the Rangers organization, not just the minors.  I’ll do some live blogging from Arlington and Frisco and contribute two Farm Fresh Goodness (FFG) reports every week.  My first post should go up around noon tomorrow.”

He’s hitting the big time right along Hurley and Davis and Ramirez, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that first post of his involves one or more of those guys, and hits home with an observation or two that nobody else made before him. 

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

 

New Rangers reliever, and two other things.

The Rangers have placed lefthander Kason Gabbard on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation.  To replace Gabbard place on the roster, the club has recalled righthander Warner Madrigal from Oklahoma, where the 24-year-old had a 3.98 ERA with four saves in five opportunities (20 hits, eight walks, and 25 strikeouts in 20.1 innings) after posting a 1.72 ERA with 10 saves in 11 opportunities for Frisco (11 hits, eight walks, 18 strikeouts in 15.2 innings).  

This obviously means righthander Luis Mendoza is moving into the rotation to replace Gabbard, and Madrigal steps into the bullpen, where he could get some high-leverage assignments before long.

For more on Madrigal’s fascinating background and the manner in which Texas stole him from the Angels’ organization, check my November 18 report (http://newberg.mlblogs.com/archives/2007/11/the_newberg_rep_8.html).

Also, a clarification on Brandon McCarthy’s status:

Evan Grant wrote this in Wednesday’s Dallas Morning News Q&A: “McCarthy threw off a mound in Arizona on Monday for the first time since early April.”

Jennifer Floyd Engel had this note in this morning’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “McCarthy is a painfully slow healer, as evidenced by his latest setback in which he is once again off the mound in Arizona.”

Evan Grant provided this update on the Dallas Morning News “Seamheads” blog this afternoon: “No truth to any setback rumors.  Here’s the full text of the email I received from one Jon Daniels explaining McCarthy’s current situation: ‘No setback on McCarthy — he threw yesterday & is throwing off mound again today.  Including breaking balls now.’”

Excellent.  Not sure where Engel got her information, but it’s apparently wrong.

Finally, a quick cheat sheet on Chris Davis’s and Max Ramirez’s fielding history, because some stories are getting it wrong:

Chris Davis, who was drafted by the Yankees (2004, round 50), Angels (2005, round 35), and Rangers (2006, round 5), was a third baseman, first baseman, and closer as an amateur.

He played left field, first base, and right field (in that order of frequency) in 2006, his first year of pro ball.  No third base.

He played third base and nothing else in 2007.

He has played first base and nothing else in 2008.

Max Ramirez was signed out of Venezuela by Atlanta as a catcher whom the Braves envisioned as a third baseman.

Defensively, he played third base and nothing else in 2004.

He played catcher and nothing else in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

He has played both catcher and, for the first time, first base in 2008.

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

To buy or to sell? That is not the question.

With the schedule now half complete, the time is right to start thinking about the trade season.  Of course, even though the conventional trade deadline is less than five weeks away, it’s still way too early to attempt to peg Texas as a buyer or seller.  

The Rangers will be prepared to go in either direction.  You lay the groundwork now so your pro scouts can start to follow targeted big leaguers and targeted prospects in preparation for late July.

But here’s the thing.  We’ve talked about this a bunch recently on various message boards and talk shows.  This isn’t Fogo de Chao.  You don’t have to flip your card to green or red and label yourself definitively as Buyer, or Seller.  Certainly not now.  But not even a month from now.  You don’t have to be either, and you can be both.  

You don’t have to believe you are primed for an immediate World Series title to be a buyer.  If you can go out and pick up a veteran (at the right cost) that can help you not only in August and September but also in 2009, maybe even beyond, then you can “buy” and still have an eye on the long-term prize.

What was Volquez and Herrera for Hamilton?  

A buy.  

This is not a heads or tails thing.  You can be a buyer even if you’re building for the future.

I’ll continue to say I’d like to see us go get an eighth-inning guy, whether we’re a half-game out of first place one month from today, or 13 games back.  The bullpen is going to need a boost going forward.  Assuming the price in prospects is reasonable, if there’s a reliever out there whose arm we like and whose contract fits and who we’d control for at least a full season, preferably more, I’d rather go get him now, push a few other key relievers one slot down in their roles, and get a better sense this summer of how the bullpen shakes out for 2009.

It’s a better idea, I think, than forfeiting a first- or second-round pick and committing three years and eight figures to a free agent set-up man in the winter.

Along with Milton Bradley, Vicente Padilla seems to be the player generating the most media debate in terms of whether you shop him in July.  I love the idea of Padilla pitching here in his final guaranteed year next season — unless someone comes at us with a Victor Zambrano package, like the Mets did in 2004, gifting Scott Kazmir to the Rays.

March 13, 2008 Newberg Report: “Josh Rupe, my pitching sleeper for 2008.”

Have you noticed what he’s done in June?  His last seven outings have been scoreless, five lasting at least an inning.  Seven hits (no home runs) and one walk in 9.1 innings.  Six strikeouts, four double play groundballs, only two of nine inherited runners scored.  

He’s as dependable a reliever as we have right now, and the one guy who may be in the process of earning a bigger role than he has at the moment.

Along with Luis Mendoza, that is.  In his two long relief appearances since returning from AAA, the righthander gave up three hits and no walks in six scoreless innings, fanning five.  He’s going to be back in the rotation before too much longer, you’d think.

Ron Washington told reporters that when Hank Blalock returns to action, Chris Davis will be sent back to Oklahoma regardless of how he performs.

Blalock’s timetable is unpredictable right now.  He experienced pain in his surgically repaired wrist while hitting in the cages before last night’s game and was told by team doctor Keith Meister not to pick up a bat for a week.

Peter Gammons did his traditional mid-season polling of baseball people, asking 50 general managers, front-office executives, managers, scouts, and journalists several questions, one of which was which players they expect to make a surprising contribution in the second half this year.  The first six (Rickie Weeks, Robinson Cano, Mike Pelfrey, Elijah Dukes, Clay Buchholz, and Jason Kubel) have been in the big leagues for all or most of the season.  

The seventh was Davis.

How much did Davis remind you of Mark Teixeira last night, not only with the opposite-field bomb but the two standout, athletic plays that the former third baseman made at first base?

Ramon Vazquez since Blalock last played: .338/.400/.539 in 179 at-bats, with 12 doubles and five home runs.

You know, it’s the sort of line that Blalock was projected to put up when he broke into the big leagues, before he sacrificed some average for more power.  

Righthander Joaquin Benoit admits he’s not at full strength, telling reporters this week: “The time off helped me a lot.  There’s still something in there.  I’m trying to do the best I can.  It’s not as bad as it once was.”

Righthander Brandon McCarthy threw off a mound in Surprise on Monday for the first time since April, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jennifer Floyd Engel writes this morning that McCarthy has had another setback and “is once again off the mound.”

Clinton righthander Neftali Feliz is number two on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet this week.  Before last night he’d given up more than one run only once in his last 11 starts.  He surrendered only his second home run of the season last night.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus was ahead of the curve on Feliz.  He had him as his number 11 pitching prospect in all of baseball in January, with only one other current Class A pitcher (Arizona’s Jarrod Parker) ahead of him.  The only Class A pitcher Goldstein would take over Feliz today is Detroit’s Rick Porcello.

Spokane righthander Neil Ramirez is crashing the party around here.  Signing too late last summer to make his pro debut, the 2007 supplemental first-rounder has a 1.93 ERA through his first three pro starts, scattering four hits and seven walks in 14 innings while punching out 17.  

Remember when this system boasted one, maybe two lefthanders each year that could be considered a legitimate prospect?  Today’s games on the Rangers farm include these pitching probables:

Spokane: Martin Perez
Clinton: Derek Holland
Bakersfield: Kasey Kiker
Oklahoma: Matt Harrison

Southpaw Glenn Swanson, who got off to a huge start last year (6-1, 2.93 with six walks and 42 strikeouts in 43 Clinton innings) before mid-season Tommy John surgery, is back.  Less than 12 months post-surgery, Swanson threw two scoreless Arizona League innings on Thursday, giving up one hit and one walk while fanning one.

Frisco manager Scott Little will be on the coaching staff of the World Team for the Futures Game on July 13 in New York.

Righthander Dustin Nippert with Texas: eight walks in 8.2 innings.

Nippert with AAA Oklahoma: 14 walks in 56.1 innings.

Frisco catcher-infielder Emerson Frostad will play for Team Canada in the Olympics.

The Cubs released righthander Andy Cavazos, and Toronto released first baseman Josh Kreuzer.  The Blue Jays also returned Kevin Mench to AAA Syracuse.

The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League released infielder-outfielder Ramon Nivar, and the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League proceeded to sign him.

So, according to the transaction wires, one team subtracted Nivar, and one team added him.  

I think we’re going to have to wait for the agate type to know for sure whether Nivar’s first organization will be subtracting or adding themselves next month.  

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

See ya.

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Long.  View.

Crush Davis.

Unlikely results:

August 7, 2002: Travis Hafner legging out a triple for his first major league hit.

July 15, 2005: Rafael Palmeiro going down the left field line for his 3000th hit.

April 3, 2006: Ian Kinsler (a much different hitter then from what he is now) going the opposite way for his first major league base hit, off of Curt Schilling.

If you were told in advance that Chris Davis would cross the plate two pitches into his major league career, you’d have probably come up with 100 scenarios before guessing that he’d mash a single that would roll to a rest on the grass 70 feet away, and then score standing up on a triple.

Davis should be in tonight’s starting lineup against Philadelphia, jogging out to first base with a major league baseball as the Rangers take the field.  Hoping to see more of this over the weekend, however likely or unlikely the means is to the end:

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

 

 

Newberg Report Night: August 3

We’re now ready to start taking reservations for Newberg Report Night at Rangers Ballpark, which will be on Sunday, August 3, against the Blue Jays.  One of the potentially cool things about doing this the first few days of August will be the possibility that the team will have one or more new players in the lineup, in the wake of the July 31 trade deadline – whether it’s prospects brought in or brought up to join the club, or veterans acquired for the stretch run.

We had about 350 attend each of the last two years and were at absolute capacity – so please make your reservations as soon as you know you’ll be attending.  Once we reach auditorium capacity, we’ll have to close registration.

The gathering will be very much like last July’s, with one significant change.  Here’s what we have planned:

A ticket to the Sunday, August 3 event costs $30 a person.  Details:

1. RANGERS OFFICIAL (hopeful): Admission to the auditorium adjoining the Legends of the Game Museum between the first base and center field entrances to the ballpark, where a Rangers official will hold an exclusive Q&A session with our entire group – with comfortable auditorium seating – before the game.  Timing this right after the trade deadline should make the Q&A even more interesting.  General manager Jon Daniels has joined us the past three years, but as always it’s not possible this far out to guarantee his availability.  More details on time coming soon, but I’d expect us to gather at around 4:00 or 5:00 in advance of the 7:05 p.m. game.

2. WILL CARROLL: Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll, who delivers the renowned “Under the Knife” column and has authored several books, including “Saving the Pitcher” and “The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems,” will join us as well, as he has every year that we’ve held Newberg Report Night.  He will likely conduct a Q&A that precedes the Rangers official.

3. DONATIONS: As always, we’ll organize a charitable effort that we can all participate in that day.  More details soon.  I expect that, as usual, those who participate will be eligible for a raffle of memorabilia prizes.

4. HELLO WIN COLUMN FUND:
In each of the last two years we made arrangements to host a family impacted by cancer at the event.  We plan to do it again this year.  Cindy Kuster, the daughter of the late Mark Holtz, will act on behalf of the Hello Win Column Fund as a liaison between Cancer Care Services and the Newberg Report and help select the family who will participate.

5. THE GAME: We’re going to have lower-level seats in the stadium this year, instead of luxury suites.  We don’t yet know where in the stadium the seats will be – that will depend largely on the number of people who attend.  Of course, you’ll still be able to sit with who you want (whether you have a large group or just a few family members or friends).  

6. PROMOTION: It’s a $1 Ice Cream Sunday for fans 13 & under.

7. Note: Parking is not included.

 
Please sign up and pay as soon as you know you’ll be coming. 
We need to give the Rangers advance notice as to how many seats we’ll need.  And again, it’s first come, first served.

 
The cost, once again, is $30, and you can pay in one of two ways:

1. You can order by credit card through PayPal by going to http://www.paypal.com, selecting the “Send money” option, and typing in gjsneaker@sbcglobal.net where you are prompted for the e-mail account.

2. Or you can send a check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” to:

Jamey Newberg
Vincent & Moyé
2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2000
Dallas, TX 75201

Let me know what questions you have.  I look forward to seeing lots of you there on the 3rd.

Jamey
 

Davis up, Shelton out.

The Rangers have
officially purchased first baseman Chris Davis from AAA Oklahoma in time for
tonight’s series finale in Houston,
making room on the roster by designating first baseman Chris Shelton for
assignment.  Texas
now has 10 days to trade Shelton
or release him, or to get him through waivers and outright him to the minor
leagues, though he’d have the right to decline the assignment.

Earlier today, Davis was also named by
Major League Baseball as a member of the U.S. Team for the XM All-Star Futures
Game, which will be played at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, July 13. 

Taylor Teagarden will
also play for the U.S. Team, while Max Ramirez and Elvis Andrus were tabbed to
play for the World Team.

 

Crystal ballin'.

Rangers players have spent 554 games on the major league disabled list this season.

The club has relied on an astounding number of rookies and other minor league call-ups, including David Murphy and Scott Feldman and Luis Mendoza and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Brandon Boggs and German Duran and Doug Mathis and Eric Hurley and A.J. Murray and Travis Metcalf and, now, Max Ramirez and Chris Davis.   

Almost every one of them has not only contributed to what is now a 40-39 team, but contributed more than most people could have expected from them at this stage.

It’s not out of the question than more than half of a list that includes Matt Harrison and Warner Madrigal and Taylor Teagarden and John Mayberry Jr. and Elvis Andrus and Joaquin Arias and Tommy Hunter and Brian Gordon and Andrew Laughter could contribute in 2008 themselves.  

I remember in early July 2003 when the big story in the Rangers farm system, the one that was so eagerly anticipated among Rangers fans, was the promotion of Laynce Nix (to Texas) and Ramon Nivar (to Oklahoma) from Frisco, and the arrival of Jason Botts and Jason Bourgeois to take their place as RoughRiders.  First-round pick John Danks had signed but was still three weeks away from his pro debut.  

Now?  Aside from the huge impact that the farm system has already made on the big club, it’s worth talking about how the Clinton rotation of Neftali Feliz and Blake Beavan and Derek Holland and Kennil Gomez and Fabio Castillo is tormenting the Midwest League, and worth asking whether Julio Borbon could be on his way to earning the promotion to Frisco that Jose Vallejo just got.

And then there’s Martin Perez.  And Neil Ramirez and Michael Main and Wilmer Font and Carlos Pimentel and Kasey Kiker and Wilfredo Boscan and Omar Poveda and Michael Schlact and Beau Jones.  

And Engel Beltre and Cristian Santana and Marcus Lemon and Renny Osuna and Ian Gac and Mitch Moreland and Johnny Whittleman and Matt West and Manny Pina and Eric Fry.  

And, hopefully, Justin Smoak and Robbie Ross before long.

This is why Scott Lucas and Mike Hindman and Eleanor Czajka and Adam Morris and Jason Cole and Joey Matschulat and Jason Parks and Brett Perryman and John Vittas and Grant Schiller and I and others do what we do.  You don’t get the opportunity to try and make out what’s coming into view in the crystal ball in other sports like you can in baseball.   

And I can’t remember another time when the crystal ball around here was so good-looking.

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

In Their Footsteps: The left-handed set-up reliever

Opinions have been all across the board as to which player was the prize of the five-player package that the Rangers received from the Braves in last July’s trade deadline deal that sent Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta.  

When the trade was made, most observers identified Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the key to the deal for Texas.  Over the winter, Baseball America tabbed Elvis Andrus as the top prospect in the Rangers’ deep farm system.  Matt Harrison threw a Class AA no-hitter in mid-May, was promoted to Class AAA three weeks later, and at age 22 could be in the big leagues before the season is over.  Baseball Prospectus called Neftali Feliz the Rangers’ top prospect before spring training, and a bunch of others are coming to the same conclusion now.

Lefthander Beau Jones will have come out of nowhere, relatively speaking, if he emerges at some point as the best player Texas acquired in the deal.  But he’s no more of a longshot than Mitch Williams was in the mid-’80s.

Williams had just turned 20 when Texas used a 1984 Rule 5 pick on the wiry southpaw, who in three Class A seasons with the Padres had walked nearly eight hitters per nine innings as a starting pitcher.  Rule 5 requires a drafting team to keep the player in the big leagues, or else it has to run the player through waivers and offer him back to his original team for half the $50,000 draft fee.  

The story is that Williams had so little control of his plus stuff in spring training in 1985 that the Rangers’ left-handed hitters refused to take batting practice against him.  In seven innings of exhibition work, he surrendered 10 earned runs.  Texas couldn’t bring itself to take Williams to Arlington, got him through waivers unclaimed, and offered him back to San Diego at the end of camp. 

The Rangers got creative, however, and proposed a new idea to the Padres: Take Williams back, like Rule 5 permits, and then trade him to us for Randy Asadoor, a 22-year-old third baseman coming off of a 24-homer season at Class A.  Asadoor could settle in as San Diego’s heir apparent to Graig Nettles (in which case Texas would convert AAA second baseman Steve Buechele to third base, making him Buddy Bell’s eventual successor).  San Diego agreed.

Because the trade was made after the Rule 5 constraints had been satisfied, Texas was able to assign Williams to the minor leagues.  Working as a starter for Class A Salem, he led the Carolina League with 117 walks even though he spent only four months in the league before a promotion to Class AA Tulsa.  He proceeded to issue 48 walks in 33 Drillers frames.  Between his two 1985 stops, Williams gave up only 74 hits in 132 innings, but when a pitcher walks an incredible 165 along the way, it’s easy to be skeptical about his odds of reaching the big league.

Yet somehow, that same the 20-year-old who averaged more than 11 walks per nine minor league innings – as a starter – transformed instantly under the tutelage of pitching coach Tom House into a 21-year-old who would lead the American League in appearances (a Major League rookie record 80 games) and win eight games, save another eight, and hold the league to a .202 batting average.  Setting up closer Greg Harris as a rookie, Williams racked up 90 strikeouts, more than any other left-handed reliever in baseball.  His walk rate with the Rangers was nearly half of what it had been in Salem and Tulsa the year before, and his 3.58 ERA was lower – by more than a full run – than it had been in any of his four minor league seasons.

Williams was even better in 1987.  With Dale Mohorcic settling into the ninth-inning role, Williams posted a 3.23 ERA, held the American League to a .175 average, and struck out 129 hitters in 108.2 innings.  He won eight games, saved six, and was promoted to closer for the 1988 season.  Though his ERA rose to 4.63 and he converted only 18 of 26 save opportunities, his electric arm keyed the Rangers’ December deal with Cubs for Rafael Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer, and Drew Hall.  He spent the next five years closing games for Chicago and Philadelphia.

Atlanta drafted Beau Jones in the supplemental first round in 2005 out of a Louisiana high school and persuaded him to forgo a scholarship to Louisiana State University.  Featuring a low-90s fastball that touched 95 and a sharp-breaking curve that had out-pitch potential, he was a kid that the Braves envisioned as yet another in a long line of southpaw starters who would march into Atlanta and flourish.  

But after a solid debut summer, Jones had command issues in 2006, his first full pro season, working as a starter for Class A Rome.  Though he struck out 101 hitters in 110.2 innings, he issued an unacceptable 83 walks, and Atlanta returned him to Rome in 2007, only this time as a reliever.  

The transformation was Mitch Williams-esque.  In 48.2 innings, introducing a vastly improved changeup to his mix, Jones registered 46 strikeouts and issued only 12 walks.  Just one of the 38 hits he allowed for Rome left the park.  In the middle of Jones’s 21 appearances, the Braves challenged the 20-year-old with a brief stint in High-A Myrtle Beach, where he struggled in one start and four relief appearances (13 earned runs on 10 hits and 14 walks in 7.2 innings) before resuming his dominance in the Rome bullpen.

When Texas and Atlanta zeroed in on the Teixeira trade last July, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels insisted that the Braves tack Jones onto the deal at the last minute when it was discovered that Harrison was suffering from turf toe.  Atlanta agreed, and Texas decided to keep Jones in Low Class A but to give him another look as a starter.  The results were exciting.  Jones went 4-1, 2.70 for Clinton in six starts and one relief appearance, issuing 12 walks and fanning 29 in 26.2 innings.  

However, following the season, Jones was held out of Fall Instructional League and had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.  He was nonetheless ready to go when the 2008 season got underway, and Texas assigned him to High Class A Bakersfield.  What followed was fascinating.

In four Blaze starts, Jones went 1-3, 5.30, giving up 22 hits and nine walks in 18.2 innings.  The organization then shut him down for six weeks with what was reported as biceps tendinitis, and upon his return three weeks ago, he was asked to move to the bullpen.  In his five relief appearances, Jones has an ERA of 0.77.  He has scattered seven hits and just two walks in 11.2 innings.  His strikeout rate and groundball rate are slightly better than they were as a Blaze starter.  Right-handed and left-handed hitters have been equally inept against him.

And then there’s this: Even though Jones struggled in his four Bakersfield starts in April, he was brilliant at the beginning of the game, giving up one hit and one walk in his four first innings, fanning two.  Could it be indicative of a pitcher best suited to pitch in late relief, a guy who is at his best right out of the gate, during his first run at an opposing lineup?  

It’s not often that you peg a power arm, especially one belonging to a lefthander, as a future reliever.  The Padres and Rangers didn’t do it with Williams, and the Braves and Rangers haven’t done it with Jones.  But when Williams was converted for good to a bullpen role, he went from a minor league curiosity to a big league All-Star.  Perhaps a set-up role is where Jones is most suited to produce. 

 

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.

CD.

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Lest there are others of you who thought this morning’s visual was in reference to Max Ramirez’s game last night, it was not.

The first three images were callbacks to my June 14, 18, and 20 reports about our AAA first baseman.

The “Braveheart” image refers to the Rangers’ newest big league first baseman.

It’s the same guy.

One day, Elizardo Ramirez and Drew Meyer and Nelson Cruz will be able to tell their grandkids about the crazy, scheduled, back-to-back off-days they had as Oklahoma RedHawks in late June 2008.

But, according to multiple overnight media reports, Chris Davis won’t.

He’s been stripped of the second of those off-days, instructed to get on a plane to Houston, where he will reunite with former teammates Scott Feldman, Brandon Boggs, Luis Mendoza, German Duran, Doug Mathis, and Eric Hurley, not to mention Ramirez, with whom he formed the most feared power duo in the minor leagues not too long ago.

It’s an exciting time to be a Rangers fan.

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

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