THE NEWBERG REPORT — June 3, 2008

You really need to read Jennifer Floyd Engel’s excellent feature on Milton Bradley in this morning’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Don’t yet trust those who suggest Bradley is not a bad teammate?  Trust Josh Hamilton: “[Milton and I] talked about our pasts a little bit, similarities,” Hamilton said.  “He’s one of the best guys I have met in baseball, not only as a teammate but as a player.”

Home runs from both sides of the plate tonight.  A .323 average and an OPS north of 1.000.  The kind of fire that this team needs from at least one of its veterans.

Love that guy.  Love him, love him, love him.

As for Hamilton, since the Sports Illustrated cover was unveiled, he’s gone 10 for 29 (.345/.387/.931) with five home runs and 14 RBI in seven games and surged forward in the All-Star vote.  

The dude is such a freak that he turns the Jinx on its ear.

Can you believe tonight’s intentional walk was Hamilton’s first of the season?

Hamilton’s change at agent is interesting given the timing, as stories have circulated the last few days that the Rangers and Hamilton have had preliminary discussions about a long-term contract.  Hamilton’s new representative, Mike Moye, has engineered long-term extensions to stay put for his three most prominent clients, Josh Beckett, Lance Berkman, and Todd Helton.  Bodes well for a deal to get done, if that’s what the two sides are shooting for.

Moye is apparently a friend of Hamilton’s father-in-law, with whom Hamilton is very close.

Hamilton leaves Sosnick Cobbe Sports, among whose clients is Reds rookie phenom Jay Bruce, the 21-year-old whose rapid development prompted Cincinnati to even entertain the idea of trading Hamilton this winter.

Speaking of the trade, a bunch of you have written me and posted messages on the website asking if there was any way Texas could have pulled the Hamilton trade off without including Edinson Volquez, perhaps putting Eric Hurley in the deal and adding another top prospect.  

Don’t you think Reds fans are asking why their since-ousted general manager Wayne Krivsky couldn’t have wrested Volquez free without giving up Hamilton?  Don’t you think they’re wondering why they couldn’t have foisted Adam Dunn on the Rangers instead?

Face it: We now know that Texas offered something like 15 different combinations to Cincinnati in an effort to get Hamilton without including Volquez, and that the trade discussions spanned at least a month.  Accept it for what it is — two teams selling high and rolling the dice on the high upsides they were getting in return — and thank whatever higher power you thank for allowing you to be a fan of this team at a time when it suits up arguably the best and most exciting baseball player in the world.

Cincinnati, incidentally, purchased the contract this afternoon of diminutive left-handed slopballer Danny Ray Herrera, the second player that Texas sent the Reds to get Hamilton.  The 23-year-old, who was drafted by the Rangers in the 45th round in 2006, had a 1.85 ERA between the AA Chattanooga and AAA Lousiville bullpens this spring, scattering 26 hits and 11 walks in 39 innings while fanning 26.  

Herrera debuted for Cincinnati today, throwing a hitless, scoreless seventh (one walk, two strikeouts) in relief of former Rangers prospect Aaron Harang in a game that featured one Reds home run, off the bat of third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who like Herrera was once tacked onto a Reds-Rangers trade, joining Ruben Mateo in the 2001 deal for Rob Bell.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia looked really, really good at the plate tonight.

That ball that Ian Kinsler crushed to right center in the fifth tonight, only to have it chased down by Franklin Gutierrez for a sacrifice fly, reminded me of something I wrote while at spring training:

“Yesterday I saw Kinsler take batting practice for the third or fourth time since getting out here, and it struck me that the kid who hit .400 in Clinton and slugged .500 as a minor leaguer nonetheless has to be one of Rudy Jaramillo’s proudest sculptures.  Kinsler has come a long way from the dead pull hitter he was on the farm to a potential star who has learned to quiet those lightning-quick hands enough to create a legitimate spray chart.  In batting practice, he’s showing an ability to hit the ball to right center with tremendous authority, and I think we’re about to see a player about whom we should be thinking not about 30-30 but about 30-30-.300, a leadoff hitter whose power may make him even more dangerous than Craig Biggio.”

Kinsler, who entered the season as a career .274 hitter, is on pace for a .309-20-45 season.

Hits in 18 straight for Kinsler, 19 for Michael Young — the longest American League streak this year and tied for the longest in the big leagues.

Another thing I wrote in camp:

“I’m still hanging onto my prediction that Josh Rupe is this year’s pitching surprise.”

What Rupe brought to the mound tonight was why.  He has phenomenal stuff, and harnessed it tonight, firing what would have been 2.2 scoreless innings (two hits, one walk, two strikeouts, 61 percent strikes) had Jamey Wright not allowed two inherited runners to score.

Very ill wind blowing as far as Wright is concerned.  He’s faced eight hitters the last two days and retired nobody.

I don’t know how bad this left rotator cuff strain is for A.J. Murray, but it’s terrible news for the 26-year-old, whose two shoulder surgeries cost him the 2004 and 2006 seasons in their entirety.

There’s undoubtedly one pitcher coming up to reinforce the decimated bullpen for tomorrow’s game, possibly two.  As far as roster members are concerned, Wes Littleton pitched two-thirds of an inning tonight for Oklahoma but needed only eight pitches.  Kameron Loe will be eligible for a recall only if there’s a corresponding disabled list move (since Loe hasn’t been optioned for at least 10 days, he can’t be called up otherwise), and that looks like an obvious possibility given the Murray diagnosis.  

Kason Gabbard (who pitched for the RedHawks yesterday) and Luis Mendoza (who was spanked on Saturday) aren’t coming up.  Warner Madrigal has had a really unusual usage pattern, pitching on the 20th, 25th, and 30th, one inning in each appearance, and I’d be a little surprised to see him come up, but given how thin the bullpen is stretched right now, I suppose it can’t be ruled out.

There is room on the 40-man roster, however, to dip down for a non-roster pitcher or two, if that’s the way the club wants to go.  Kazuo Fukumori (two innings), Bill White (one inning), and Kea Kometani (1.1 innings) all threw tonight, though that certainly doesn’t disqualify them.  Could Elizardo Ramirez be summoned as an emergency long man?  If so, he’d be asked to work on three days’ rest — just like tomorrow’s starter, Sidney Ponson.  The Lizard (5-3, 3.65, 13 walks in 66.2 innings) went 6.2 frames on Saturday.  

Or how about Frisco journeyman Brian Gordon, who could be this year’s Bill White, showing up out of seemingly nowhere?  The 29-year-old, quietly acquired from Houston about five weeks ago, has been unbelievable out of the RoughRiders’ bullpen, scattering seven hits (.113 opponents’ average) and two walks in 18.2 innings, fanning 16, throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, and sporting a 0.00 ERA (one unearned run).  He last pitched on Saturday, and seven of his 12 appearances have exceeded an inning.  Four times he’s thrown more than 30 pitches.  Gordon could be a serious candidate — not for a long-term role but perhaps to help save the pen at the moment.

According to Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the reason Vicente Padilla was placed on the bereavement list was to be with his daughter in Nicar
agua.  I don’t like the sound of that.  Thoughts and prayers.  

Frisco’s Max Ramirez won the organization’s minor league player of the month award for May on the strength of his amazing .394/.465/.717 run.  Clinton righthander Neftali Feliz, who took pitcher of the month honors, went 3-0, 0.29 in six May starts, giving up one earned run on 19 hits (.181 opponents’ average) and eight walks in 31.1 innings, with 32 punchouts and a 1.90 groundout-to-flyout ratio.  Defender of the month Manny Pina, Bakersfield’s primary catcher, has gunned down 21 of 62 would-be basestealers and has yet to commit an error this season.

Baseball America published a list of the best prospects in baseball thus far this season, and Ramirez checked in at number eight.

Frisco shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has missed a week and a half with a broken finger on his right hand, should be back in action in another couple weeks.  He’s already taking ground balls.

Joaquin Arias made his second appearance at shortstop last night, his first since May 25.  He’s playing somewhere every other day.

Clinton, owners of the best winning percentage in baseball, was rewarded with nine selections to the Midwest League All-Star Game roster.  Starting will be catcher Jose Felix, first baseman Ian Gac, shortstop Renny Osuna, and outfielder Mitch Moreland.  Feliz, Kennil Gomez, and a third unidentified pitcher (either Derek Holland or Blake Beavan got dissed, in that case) were chosen, as were two unidentified reserves (perhaps outfielders Engel Beltre and Tim Smith?).

According to Baseball America, the Rangers released righthanders Kyle Rogers and Victor Prieto.  There were high hopes for Rogers in particular, after the 2004 13th-rounder had an impressive 2006 season, but elbow surgery wiped out his 2007 and he had yet to appear this year.

Detroit designated righthander Francisco Cruceta for assignment.

The Laredo Broncos of the independent United League named Mickey Callaway pitching coach.  The Edmonton Cracker Cats of the independent Golden Baseball League signed infielder-outfielder Ruddy Yan.

I’ll give you a free 2005, 2006, or 2007 Bound Edition in exchange for every Rangers media guide you send me from any of the following years: 1975, 1979, 1982, 1984, or 1985.  First come, first served, though — I don’t need three 1984 media guides.

Shopping on Amazon.com for Father’s Day?  If you plan to do so, please click the Amazon.com link on the top of any page on www.NewbergReport.com first.  By going through the link, any purchases you then make at Amazon.com will kick a small referral fee to the Newberg Report (at no cost to you), which we’ll use to help upgrade our website features.

Time to gear up for the draft, which begins on Thursday.  Texas will select five new players by the time Day One ends.  Presumably none will be asked to help fortify the big club’s bullpen this week.

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

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