Hanging in there.

Eric Hurley probably isn’t thrilled about the news that, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, he’s finished for the season, but the silver lining is that, after a solid showing in his first big league look, Hurley’s shoulder won’t be pushed over the final month and he can go into 2009 with an extra month of rest.

But tidbits like that, as a fan, do bring the finality of the season a little more into focus.  

Ian Kinsler’s injury — especially when it first appeared that it would put an end to his phenomenal year — felt like 2008’s catastrophic moment, just as much as the 19-17 loss in Boston that Texas suffered five days earlier.

Kinsler is this team’s engine, and maybe even those of us who lead the David Murphy charge didn’t appreciate how much of a lineup sparkplug he’s been as well.  

I’m looking forward to Kinsler’s and Murphy’s return to the club sometime in September, and how they revitalize the lineup.
I’m looking forward to more from Brandon McCarthy, who was far from flawless last night but who, after the first inning, showed more command and more presence on the mound, even if part of the tradeoff as far as his modified mechanics are concerned was a difficulty holding runners.

This is the time each year when you being to think about and look forward to a handful of deserving minor leaguers joining the club’s expanded roster for the final month.  But how many teams have a 40-man roster featuring only two players (Thomas Diamond, coming back from Tommy John surgery, and Julio Borbon, who signed out of college 53 weeks ago) who haven’t already contributed in the big leagues in 2008?

Stated another way, this might have been the time for us to ask whether we might be about to get our first looks at Hurley and Matt Harrison and Brandon Boggs and Max Ramirez, and maybe Taylor Teagarden and German Duran and Doug Mathis, who would be in line for 40-man roster addition this coming winter, and possibly even Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, whose roster decisions would have been over a year away and over two years away but whose emergence has outpaced Rule 5.

But we’ve already seen all of them, in some cases because the organization decided they were better equipped to help than the veterans they displaced but in many cases because of the huge rash of injuries this team has withstood in 2008.  Injuries have completely changed what September roster expansion will look like.

But not nearly as much as injuries altered April, May, June, July, and August. 

Texas is in second place in the division and on pace for 79 wins.  How many more wins might there have been if injuries hadn’t robbed the Rangers of a month, maybe more, of Kinsler, a month of Gerald Laird, a month of Kevin Millwood, a month of David Murphy, several Vicente Padilla starts, two months of C.J. Wilson (more than that, if you take into account how long he pitched in pain), three weeks of Eddie Guardado, nearly four months of Hank Blalock, over four months of McCarthy and over three months of Kason Gabbard and over a month of Luis Mendoza, a month of Marlon Byrd, a month of Joaquin Benoit, three months of Hurley, Jason Jennings, a general hitting of the wall by the bullpen that five months of rotation issues have helped to bring on, and no disabled list time but what seems like a full year of day-to-day-ness of Milton Bradley?

Surely Texas would have a winning record had the club been forced to deal with an average year of health issues.

Amazingly, only seven players from the Opening Day roster who are still with the team have not spent time on the DL this year: Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Frank Catalanotto, Ramon Vazquez, Josh Rupe, and Jamey Wright.

A winning record obviously isn’t out of reach, especially with the possible returns of Kinsler and Murphy.  And who knows, maybe Nelson Cruz will give the club a lift against lefthanders in September?  Kameron Loe will be back, and the way he pitched twice in this last call-up, I’m eager to see more.  Teagarden or Ramirez will be back, and there will probably be another couple players added to the expanded roster as well.

I’ll be out there tonight, watching to see if Padilla can nail down his 13th win, and I still believe he’s the type of player who will have an even better 2009, pitching in what is virtually a contract year since Texas holds a club option for 2010.

I’m eager to see more of Davis at third base.  I still believe he starts at first base in April, but I think the media idea that he cannot play third is a little short-sighted.

I’d like to see Blalock tested at first base.  It can only be a good development if he can defend at that position like I bet he can.

I’ll be out there, hoping to see this team add another one to the win column, because I think a winning record and a second place finish, while not satisfying, will at least be progress. 

It’s still baseball season, a different brand than it was a month ago, but it is still baseball, and I’m not finished with it for the year.

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


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