Harrison and Ballard to start.

When the Rangers drew it up, it’s safe to assume they weren’t planning to throw their sixth, seventh, twelfth, and thirteenth starters at the Angels in a big early July series, but injuries have forced the issue.

Remarkably, this is a team that’s two games over .500 despite the fact that it has needed, and gotten, contributions from 11 rookies (including six pitchers), and that list increases by two tonight and tomorrow, as lefthanders Matt Harrison (age 22) and Mike Ballard (age 24), according to multiple reports, are slated to get the starts in the middle two games of this four-game series.  Harrison gets tonight’s start and Ballard starts tomorrow.  

Harrison, who came over from Atlanta in last summer’s Mark Teixeira trade, is 6-3, 3.43 in 15 starts between Frisco and Oklahoma this season, including a seven-inning no-hitter for the RoughRiders on May 18.  Harrison has allowed as many as four earned runs only twice all year, with 3.0 walks and 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings and a .271 opponents’ average.

Ballard, the Rangers’ 14th-round pick in 2006 as a University of Virginia senior, is 8-3, 3.97 with Frisco this season, with 3.0 walks and 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a .304 opponents’ average.  He’s a strike-thrower with the standard four pitches, and he’s been zoned in lately.  In his last seven starts, he’s allowed as many as four earned runs just once, going 5-0, 2.17 in that stretch.  

Eric Hurley has been placed on the disabled list (retroactive to June 30) with a left hamstring strain to make room for Harrison on the active roster.  No move will be announced until tomorrow regarding Ballard’s addition, though it could be accomplished with a Harrison option.  (Ballard will join the 40-man roster without a corresponding move, as the roster had an open spot.)

Finally, a very good thing just happened for Texas, both for this year and beyond.  Oakland has traded Rich Harden (along with reliever Chad Gaudin) to the Cubs for righthander Sean Gallagher, outfielders Matt Murton and Eric Patterson, and Class A catcher Josh Donaldson.  
Getting Harden out of Oakland accentuates the Rangers’ chances to catch the A’s for second place in the division, and frankly, as far as the long term is concerned, I’m stunned Oakland didn’t get more in return.  Gallagher, a pitcher that the Rangers reportedly wanted when Chicago was after Marlon Byrd over the winter, has some upside, but in a package for a guy like Harden, you would have thought he’d be the second piece to the trade, and in this one there’s no question that he’s the key player Oakland is getting.

I’m glad at this point that Texas never picked Gallagher or Murton up from the Cubs, so that today’s Harden trade could get done the way it did.  That’s a good development.

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

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