August 2008

Kinsler, McCarthy news.

Ian Kinsler saw surgical oncologist John Preskitt, M.D., today
and the news was good, relatively speaking. 
Reports indicate that Kinsler’s sports hernia is on the mild end, with
no torn muscles or ligaments but instead “just” an inflammation of
the abdominal wall, and it’s not a lock that his season is over.  Doctors will reevaluate the injury in two
weeks before deciding if surgery will be necessary.

Brandon McCarthy is with the team and is expected to make
his first big league appearance of the season on Saturday.  In his last two starts for AAA Oklahoma –
following a session in Arlington with Nolan Ryan and new pitching coach Andy
Hawkins — the 25-year-old (who we shouldn’t forget is younger than Doug
Mathis, Brandon Boggs, and Travis Metcalf, and just a few months older than
Taylor Teagarden) threw 13 scoreless innings, scattering four hits (all
singles) and two walks while striking out 11 and throwing 68 percent of his
pitches for strikes.

For what it’s worth, McCarthy’s rehab assignment that
followed a season-long stint on the disabled list concluded with an option on
August 7, but since he will be recalled before 20 days have elapsed, the option
will not count.  If he’s recalled on
Saturday, his option will have lasted 16 days, and as long as Texas doesn’t send him back to the farm for
another four days in 2008, he’ll go into 2009 with two options remaining.

But hopefully that note isn’t worth much.  The hope is that McCarthy has turned a corner
mechanically, as he believes he has, and settles in as a fixture in this club’s
rotation, making future optional assignments a non-issue.

 

Blalock to 1B, Davis to 3B

According to several local reports, when Hank Blalock
returns to the active roster (presumably within a week, after a brief rehab
assignment with Frisco), he’ll settle in as the starting first baseman, and Chris
Davis will slide across the infield to third base.

The objective to get Blalock’s bat into the lineup, as his
right shoulder is still sore enough to impair his ability to make throws across
the infield.

Jon Daniels says the move will last for the remainder of
the season.

Southern cookin'.

Tonight Matt Harrison:

a. Struck out more batters (eight) than he had in his other seven big league starts combined (seven).

b. Allowed three singles — two of which came in the first inning — and no walks.

c. Retired the final 18 batters he faced.

d. Threw one of the best games any Rangers pitcher has thrown this season.

e. Threw one of the best games of his pro career, at any level.

f. Earned his fifth win in eight starts, one victory less than Kevin Millwood has in 21 starts.

g. Became just the sixth Rangers starter this season to complete at least eight innings (and the first Rangers rookie to do so in more than two years).

h. Needed only 109 pitches — 72 percent of which were strikes and a greater percentage of which looked absolutely aggressive — to get his 24 outs.

i. Gave the bullpen a badly, badly, badly needed break.

j. Got an eighth-inning hug in the dugout from Ron Washington . . .

. . . while 20 feet away, a son of South Carolina, sitting in the Owner’s Box hours after being introduced to the press and then the crowd as the organization’s newest acquisition, got the chance to watch the North Carolina product show that it can in fact happen: on a night on which the offense is able to scratch out only a few runs, this team’s pitching is capable of making them stand up.  Texas 3, Tampa Bay 0.  Solid.

Speaking of Justin Smoak, an early big league scouting report:

HATES TO FACE: Ron Washington (when hitting right-handed)

LOVES TO FACE: Ron Washington (when hitting left-handed)

LOVES TO TATTOO: The façade of the upper deck in right field

After an impressive showing at 20-minute press conference, displaying the right combination of easygoing and confident, Smoak walked out of the dugout and onto the Rangers Ballpark field, approached first by Marlon Byrd, who greeted him with a smile and a hug and gave him his first big league ribbing, calling him “the next Chipper Jones.”

Smoak, who will board a plane for Clinton, Iowa tomorrow to get his career underway, stood behind the batting cage talking shop with acting hitting coach Mike Boulanger and fellow hitting guru Johnny Narron, and then jumped into the cage to take some cuts off the batting practice pitcher who doubles as the big league manager.

Stepping in first from the left side (which he didn’t begin to hit from until the summer after his freshman year in high school), Smoak took a few inconsistent cuts before he began to use all fields with some authority, sending one shot a majestic mile before it crashed off the façade of the upper deck in right.  

His next time up, he hit from the right side — where he really does resemble Chipper Jones, I thought — and squared up a on a few balls but also fouled several straight up or back into the netting.  Keep in mind, of course, that Smoak’s last at-bat against live pitching was two-and-a-half months ago, and it was with an aluminum bat.

The LumberKings clinched a playoff spot in the season’s first half, which means Smoak can be force-fed at-bats over the regular season’s final two weeks, after which he’ll get instant playoff experience.  

Jon Daniels said at the pregame press conference that yesterday was the first time that Smoak’s representative backed off his insistence on a major league contract for his client, but there wasn’t a hint of disappointment today as Smoak, flanked by his family and girlfriend, fielded questions from reporters, took batting practice off of Washington while wearing the home whites (sporting a number 12 jersey that said “Smoak” rather than “Vazquez”), signed autographs for fans, visited on the field with Tom Hicks for the first time, and got the chance to hang out with a group of major league baseball players that likely included several future teammates.

It had to be an overwhelming experience for a 21-year-old about to embark on a journey he’s probably dreamed about for nearly 20 years.

Probably not all that unlike the feeling that Matt Harrison, very much like Smoak in size and stature and breed, had several hours later as he walked off the mound after eight brilliant innings, heading toward the dugout and experiencing an ovation of 30,000 in the stands and a couple dozen down the steps, one heck of a solid way to celebrate your 23rd birthday.

===============================

So I’m told now that Matt Harrison revealed on the
postgame show tonight that the Rangers media guide (not
to mention STATS, MLB.com, ESPN, Wikipedia, and everyone else) is wrong: his
birthday is September 16, not August 16.

So forget the last few words
of my last post.

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

Reward.

My friend Ben Rogers, who along with Jeff
“Skin” Wade is taking the Ben & Skin Show from the Ticket taxi
squad over to Live 105.3 for a fulltime slot (weekdays, 11-3, starting a week
from Monday), is taking a big chance.  He’s
giving up something that’s relatively safe (his normal job, which looks a lot
more like most of ours) in exchange for more upside.  Risk: potential reward.

Ben said it best: “Nobody is going to brag at my
funeral about the awesome conservative decisions I made.”

Maybe it would have been safer for Texas to have used the
number 11 pick in June’s draft on a college pitcher like TCU’s Andrew Cashner
or a high school arm like Ethan Martin, than to draft Justin Smoak, both
because he was unquestionably going to command a couple million dollars over
slot to sign, and because the Rangers’ top prospect was Chris Davis, a first
baseman himself and roughly the same age as Smoak.

Texas
could have even made an awesome conservative decision like the Astros did at
pick number 10, when they chose eminently signable Stanford catcher Jason
Castro, passing over Smoak.  But that’s
not how the Rangers think, or act.

Were there nervous moments on Friday as the late-night deadline
neared, real possibilities that the club wouldn’t come to terms with Smoak and would
be left with slot 11A (which will be the 13th pick) as consolation next summer?  Absolutely. 
But Tom Hicks stepped up financially, as he has done every year at draft
time, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan stayed true to the game plan — which meant both
going significantly above slot but not limitlessly and refusing to offer a
major league contract — and a $3.5 million deal got done just as the hourglass
was nearly emptied.

As for the issue that the right-handed-throwing Davis
appears to be this club’s long-term first baseman despite the versatility to play
elsewhere, while the left-handed-throwing Smoak is an above-average defender at
first base but not likely to profile in the outfield?  That question is answered easily. 

As Daniels said late last night: “There are worse
problems to have than to have to figure out a way to get both bats in the
middle of our lineup down the road.”

Whether that means that Davis could eventually slide over to third
base or an outfield corner, or that one of them will ultimately figure in at
designated hitter — or that we bring the name of Matt LaPorta up again in 2009
– it’s a non-issue right now.

Right now the key is that Justin Smoak’s pro career is
about to launch, and it will be as a Texas Ranger, with stops in either Spokane or Clinton
this month and then Surprise in the fall. 

Where it goes from there, that is, when and how soon and
in what capacity, isn’t as important now as the awesome aggressive decision
that Texas made on June 5, and last night, to add another impact talent to the
organization.

I’ll try to remember to pay attention to who is on the
board next June at pick number 13, when the switch-hitting Smoak is terrorizing
one of the minor leagues in a Rangers-issued uniform.

=========================

One other thing.  If the season were to end today, the 2009 draft order would be as follows:

Washington     44     79     .358    
Seattle     46     75     .380    
San Diego     47     75     .385
San Francisco     51     70     .421
Cincinnati     54     69     .439    
Pittsburgh     55     67     .451    
Kansas City     55     67     .451    
Atlanta     55     67     .451    
Colorado     55     69     .444
* Washington (comp pick for failure to sign Aaron Crow)
Cleveland     55     66     .455    
Oakland     56     65     .463    
Detroit     59     63     .484    
Baltimore     59     62     .488    
Texas         61     62     .496    
Houston     62     60     .508    

Toronto     62     60     .508    
Florida     63     60     .512    
Dodgers     63     59     .516
Arizona     63     59     .516
Yankees     64     58     .525    
* Seattle (comp pick for failure to sign Joshua Fields)
Philadelphia     65     57     .533    
Mets         66     56     .541    
St. Louis     69     56     .552    
White Sox     68     53     .562    
Minnesota     68     53     .562    
Milwaukee     70     53     .569    
Boston         71     51     .582    
Tampa Bay     74     47     .612    
* Yankees (comp pick for failure to sign Gerrit Cole)
Cubs         75     47     .615    
Angels         75     45     .625    

I would never root for Texas to lose games, but keep an eye on this.  If the Rangers finish with one of baseball’s 15 worst records — they are at number 14 right now — then if they sign a Type A free agent this off-season, they’ll forfeit their second-round pick, which could be around the 60th pick overall. 

If Texas finishes with one of baseball’s 15 best records — a group from which the club is separated right now by just 1.5 games — it will instead forfeit its first-rounder by signing a Type A.

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

Justin time.

T.R. Sullivan reports on his MLB.com blog that Justin Smoak has signed with the Rangers, minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline.  Terms were undisclosed, but it’s apparently NOT a major league deal.  Outstanding.

Also, the bonus that Texas reportedly agreed to give second-rounder Robbie Ross was $1.575 million — approximately the same bonus that Blake Beavan got last year as the 17th pick in the even deeper 2007 draft.  Ross went 57th in this draft.    

Great night for the Rangers, off the field.

========================

According to Jim Callis of Baseball America, Smoak’s deal is for $3.5 million.  According to many reports, it’s not a major league deal, meaning he doesn’t take up a spot on the 40-man roster until he plays his way onto the big league roster.  

All things equal, I’d have taken Smoak over Yonder Alonso — whom Cincinnati took four spots earlier, and gave not only a million dollars more to sign but also a major league deal.

Smoakin'.

From Sunday’s report:

Big week ahead, both
in the short term and the long term.  All that Texas has before returning
to town Friday for a nine-game homestand is a three-game series in Boston, but
after that quick set with the Red Sox the Rangers will be anywhere from three
games back in the Wild Card race to 10 games back.  Obviously a massive
difference.  

Texas
sits 10 games back.

The season as a whole is not a disappointment – except from
the standpoint that every season is a disappointment for 22 teams, if not 29 -
but the way things went from Wild Card contention to the dog days, both in the abruptness
of the fall and in the manner in which the games in Boston were lost, there’s a
demoralizing snapshot feel right now, though I keep reminding myself that there’s
been serious progress in 2008:

  • A new
    identity not seen on this club in years – a tough, resilient, confident attitude,
    with lots of fight and lots of heart
  • A strong,
    young core offensively
  • A
    spectacular year in player development, particularly on the mound
  • An absolutely
    crystal-clear picture of what needs to be fixed at the big league level to
    take the next step

Texas now comes home for a
series with Tampa
Bay, with some really cool
Alumni Legacy Weekend events as a backdrop, but as Kevin Millwood and Matt
Garza tee it up for the series opener tonight, Jon Daniels will likely be
otherwise occupied. 

There are just over 12 hours remaining before Texas and first-round
pick Justin Smoak (and a few other key draftees) must bridge negotations and
come to terms.  Otherwise, the Rangers
lose their rights to Smoak and will be awarded pick 11A in next June’s draft.

While you won’t see me invoke the name of Matt LaPorta (“Wow, how could the Brewers draft that kid
when they’re all set with Prince Fielder??”
) quite as incessantly as I drilled
you with “Glaus vs. Grilli” leading up to the Mark Teixeira draft in 2001, I am
on record: I will be very disappointed if talks break down and the Rangers are
unable to sign Smoak today and add him to this vertically and horizontally deep
farm system. 

Because that’s how
you add impact pitching here.

Stay tuned for updates as the situation develops.

Smoak & Ross updates.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are
close to signing high school lefthander Robbie Ross, the club’s second-round
pick in June.  All indications were that Texas would have to go meaningfully above slot to prevent
Ross from honoring his commitment to the University of Kentucky.

Sullivan adds that the Rangers are “not yet close”
on a deal with first-rounder Justin Smoak, the switch-hitting first baseman from
the University of South Carolina, who will not only take an above-slot
bonus to sign but possibly a major league deal (like Texas gave to Julio Borbon last summer). 

Talks reportedly continue with Smoak’s advisor, Dustin
Bledsoe, who also happens to advise Ross, but Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning
News suggests that the Rangers are not as optimistic about signing Smoak as
they are with Ross. 

For what it’s worth, South Carolina coach Ray Tanner told the
Greenville News that he expects Smoak to sign before tomorrow night’s 11 p.m.
Central deadline.  

 

"In Their Footsteps": Completing the rosters.

With this week’s installment of “In Their Footsteps,” we’ll wrap up the feature by completing the rundown of my all-time favorite Rangers at every position on a 25-man roster, and by pegging a current prospect who could develop into that roster spot in the years to come.  Starting next week, we’ll transition this column to take a weekly look at the system’s top 20 minor league prospects.

In the last four months, we’ve filled the bench and most of the bullpen.  All-timers Bill Haselman (catcher), Mark DeRosa and Frank Catalanotto (infield), and Ruben Sierra and Roberto Kelly (outfield) man the bench, and Jeff Zimmerman (right-handed set-up), Mitch Williams (left-handed set-up), Tim Crabtree (middle), Mike Venafro (situational left), and Danny Darwin (long) hold down all but the chief relief role.

Their future counterparts are Manny Pina, German Duran and Joaquin Arias, and Brandon Boggs and John Mayberry Jr. on the bench, and Fabio Castillo, Beau Jones, Andrew Laughter, Ryan Falcon, and Doug Mathis or Michael Schlact in the bullpen.

My number five starter from the past is Doug Davis, while Zach Phillips gets the future nod.  Chris Young and Tommy Hunter are the number four starters.  At designated hitter, my picks are Julio Franco and Max Ramirez.  In left field are Rusty Greer and Cristian Santana.  Manning the infield corners are four onetime third basemen: Mark Teixeira and Buddy Bell in the past, Chris Davis and Johnny Whittleman going forward.

That leaves five spots in the lineup and four roles on the staff to fill.

In the middle infield, former teammates Alex Rodriguez and Michael Young make my team as the all-time shortstop and second baseman, while current Frisco teammates Elvis Andrus and Jose Vallejo figure in as the system’s best bets down the road.

In center field, there’s no looking to the past.  Josh Hamilton is the best who has ever suited up for this franchise.  Julio Borbon is the system’s best prospect among center fielders who stand to remain at the position.

Eighteen-year-old Engel Beltre mans center field now but he has the arm and the power potential to move to right field, a shift Juan Gonzalez made early in his career.  Gonzalez (who took a couple pro seasons to exhibit the power numbers that would eventually define his career) and Beltre are my right fielders.

Behind the plate I wish I could go with two all-time catchers and two future standouts at the position.  But needing to settle on one each, I’ll go with a couple guys who broke into professional ball as defensive geniuses with questions at the plate — questions that were quickly erased.  My catchers are Ivan Rodriguez and Taylor Teagarden, who idolized Rodriguez as a young Rangers fan growing up in Carrollton, Texas.

At closer, there are several worthy candidates, but for me the all-time nod goes to John Wetteland, who not only has the most saves in Rangers history but also logged the club’s most important saves.  The best closer prospect in the system right now — at least among those who are certain to pitch in relief in the Major Leagues — is Warner Madrigal.

My number three starters are two former Florida high school outfielders: lefthander Kenny Rogers (a 39th-round pick in 1982) and righthander Michael Main (a first-rounder in 2007).  Stuff, athleticism, and savvy: I might be selling both short by calling them number threes.

When the Rangers chose Georgia Tech righthander Kevin Brown with the fourth overall pick in the 1986 draft, he was expected to be a number two starter, if not better.  Expectations weren’t quite the same for Wallace State Community College lefthander Derek Holland, taken by Texas with the 748th pick in 2006.  But Holland’s my choice from this system to develop into a big league number two.

And my number one starter?

You’d be right to point out that Nolan Ryan was 42 years old when he threw his first pitch as a Texas Ranger, that the most dominant stretch of his career might have been 15 years before he got to Arlington.  But no pitcher ever took the mound for this franchise with better stuff, with a stronger mental approach, with as much potential to do something huge on any given night.  

In Ryan’s first two years with Texas, he posted the greatest strikeout season in franchise history, and the second greatest.  And Ryan’s 3.43 ERA is the fourth-lowest a starter has ever compiled in his Rangers career, trailing three pitchers whose work was done at least a decade earlier, when pitching numbers were markedly shinier across the board.

It’s hard to believe in retrospect that the Mets traded Ryan at such a young age.  If the Rangers — including Ryan, the club’s President — are right about 20-year-old righthander Neftali Feliz, one day soon people will ask how Atlanta could have ever parted with the young hurler.  It’s not just the triple-digit velocity that Feliz effortlessly fires.  It’s his command of the high-octane arsenal.  His makeup.  His unflappability.

Feliz has caught the attention of the generally understated Ryan, who recently commented on a national broadcast that the young Dominican, with his live arm, easy motion, and advanced polish, is someone who could put himself in a position to join the big league rotation sometime in 2009.

Ryan, who debuted for the Mets at age 19, was in the Major Leagues to stay at age 21.  Feliz will turn 21 in May, and at the rate that he’s punishing AA hitters, nothing can be ruled out for 2009.

But this exercise isn’t about 2009.  It’s about a bigger picture than that, and Feliz is the most exciting pitching prospect the Rangers have had in years, a legitimate number one candidate for a franchise that hasn’t had many.

There’s never been a time in Rangers history when the club has had the kind of depth to put together a legitimate future 25-man roster like there is now, let alone to have to leave off a significant number of worthy candidates.  Next week I’ll start to rank the players that make this one of the most formidable farm systems in all of baseball, and in Rangers history.  

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.

Trading for a starting pitcher.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning
News wrote a fascinating lead in his weekly “Inside the Texas Rangers”
newsletter on Wednesday, suggesting that “[t]o get [a top-flight pitcher], you
are going to have to say goodbye to one of these guys: Chris Davis.  Neftali Feliz.  Engel Beltre.  Elvis Andrus.  No substitutions allowed.  And you may have to give up something else in addition
to one of those players to get said pitching.”

As I wrote late last night, I’d
inject Derek Holland’s name somewhere near the middle of that list, but
otherwise I think Grant is dead-on, as long as we’re talking about an All-Star
level, legitimate number one. 

I wrote a lengthy report on
why I think the Rangers could encounter some difficulty making an impact trade
because of their own prospect depth, and I won’t rehash all the points here (go
to http://newberg.mlblogs.com/archives/2008/06/why_this_could_be_a_tough_trad.html
if you want to revisit my train of thought). 
The basic point is that other teams will surely try to hold Texas up because of Davis
and Feliz and Holland
and Beltre and Andrus.  Even if a package
of Max Ramirez, Kasey Kiker, and Jose Vallejo should be enough to play ball for
a legitimate number two, whoever is on the other end of the line may never cede
the leverage it thinks it has, figuring that the Rangers are so desperate for
frontline starters that they’ll simply have
to
part with one of the top-tier guys.

The good thing here is that Texas is so deep that it
may not have to touch the top few names, as long as we’re not talking about
going out to get Scott Kazmir or Felix Hernandez.  The Cubs didn’t have to give up Josh Vitters
to get Rich Harden.  Philadelphia didn’t have to part with Carlos
Carrasco or Lou Marson to get Joe Blanton. 
At some point, an offer that includes a couple or few names from among Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, Matt Harrison, Warner Madrigal, David Murphy,
Michael Main, Blake Beavan, Neil Ramirez, Brandon Boggs, German Duran, Julio
Borbon, Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan, Cristian Santana, and John Mayberry Jr.,
as well as the aforementioned Max Ramirez, Kiker, and Vallejo – and that’s
certainly not an exhaustive list – should objectively top whatever Team X is
offering.

I just can’t see a scenario in
which Davis or Feliz or Holland could be moved.  Not unless someone like Kazmir or Hernandez
is on the table.  For someone like A.J.
Burnett, we should – should – be able
to work from the second list.

Grant also suggests today that
it might not be a bad idea to hold the line in negotiations with first-rounder
Justin Smoak, the switch-hitting first baseman whose window to sign shuts at 11
p.m. tomorrow night.  His theory is
presumably that Davis’s emergence has made the addition of Smoak less important,
and that the draft pick Texas would recoup if it didn’t sign Smoak (number 12
overall next June) could be used on a another first-rounder with a clearer path,
which would also offset the loss of a mid-first or mid-second (depending on
this year’s final standings) if the club were to sign a Type A free agent
starter.

That all makes sense.  But I disagree. 

There’s no telling what
players will be available at number 12 next June, but it’s not likely they’ll
have the upside of Smoak, who by all accounts should never have fallen to
number 11 two months ago.

And here’s the more critical point:
Milwaukee got
C.C. Sabathia last month because they had Matt LaPorta.

If he develops as expected, an
already signing-bonused Smoak will be more valuable as a trade chip than having
an extra pick at number 12 next summer would be. 

I sure would like to see Smoak
signed by tomorrow night, as well as second-rounder Robbie Ross, who told
reporters last week that he’s “about 85 percent sure” that he’ll sign rather
than attend the University of Kentucky. 

Among the Rangers’ later
unsigned picks, outfielder John Ruettiger (nephew of Dan Ruettiger of “Rudy”
fame) will apparently make good on his threat to go to Arizona State
rather than sign as the Rangers’ 35th-round pick.  No word yet on the state of negotiations with
Harold Martinez, Charlie Robertson, Jack Armstrong, or Ben Petralli.

A few more things, since I generally
don’t have time during the day to pump out a full-fledged report (but wanted to
get the above thoughts off my chest):

You have to check out the video
Q&A that Nolan Ryan did with Chuck Morgan that’s now posted on the Rangers’
official website at http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808123295785&c_id=tex.  Two icons from Rangers history talk for 15
minutes about the club’s present and future. 
I hope we get more of this.

Also, I haven’t had the chance
to mention this, but I also thought the on-field interview that Fox Sports
Southwest did with Ramon Vazquez minutes before last Tuesday’s home game
against the Yankees was really cool.  That’s
the first time I can remember seeing something like that done, here or in any
other ballpark.  The circumstances have
to be right, but I hope to see more of that, too.

For what it’s worth, Peter Gammons
said in a Boston Globe chat session that he thinks Boston will come after Saltalamacchia or the
Angels’ Mike Napoli this winter. 

Let’s see: Josh Beckett and
Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester are locked up for multiple years.  Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Michael
Bowden can’t all fit in the rotation.  Catching
strength for pitching strength.  Works for
me.

Saltalamacchia, playing
through a fracture in his right foot, wants to play winter ball.  The Rangers would also reportedly like to get
Davis, Boggs, Duran, and Travis Metcalf some winter work.

Texas doesn’t have a healthy, available catcher
on the 40-man roster.  Gerald Laird is
dealing with upper back spasms, Ramirez is sidelined with a hip flexor injury,
and Teagarden is in Beijing playing for Team USA.

Frisco righthander Thomas
Diamond will have surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle and will sit out
the rest of the season.

Korean 18-year-old righthander
Tae-Kyeong Ahn apparently signed for less than the $800,000 that Texas reportedly agreed
to pay him recently.  Jeff Wilson of the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram adds that Ahn might have to fulfill a two-year service
requirement with the Korean army before reporting to the United States
to pitch.

If you’re wondering why Texas
didn’t claim Paul Byrd off the revocable waiver wire to set up a potential
trade with the Indians, it’s because Byrd, whom the Red Sox ultimately traded
for, listed the Rangers as one of six teams in his no-trade clause.

Jim Reeves of the Star-Telegram
notes that Texas not only offered Laird to Florida last month for
righthander Chris Volstad, but apparently were also willing to add “a solid
prospect” to get a trade done.

The Rangers are staging their Alumni
Legacy Weekend starting tomorrow.  Bullet
points:

Friday, August 15: Dr Pepper
Rangers Alumni Legacy Luncheon (Arlington
Convention Center, 11:30
a.m.): Includes a roundtable discussion with Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan,
Ferguson Jenkins and Paul Molitor as well as Texas Rangers Hall of Fame members
Jim Sundberg, Charlie Hough, and John Wetteland.  Clay Council, Josh Hamilton’s Home Run Derby
pitcher, will also be on hand.

Rangers Alumni Legacy Game (Rangers
Ballpark, 5:30-6:15 p.m.): Former Rangers players will play against each other
prior to the Rangers-Rays game.

Saturday, August 16: Texas Rangers Alumni
Legacy Autographs (5:00-5:45 p.m.): Rangers alumni including the following are
scheduled to sign autographs on the main concourse: Mike Bacsik, Kevin Belcher,
Rich Billings, Mark Brandenburg, David Chalk, Tim Crabtree, Keith Creel, Odie
Davis, Ted Ford, Jim Gideon, Rusty Greer, Jose Guzman, Rich Hand, Don Harris,
Rick Henninger, Dave Hostetler, David Hulse, Jeff Kunkel, Frank Lucchesi, Mark
McLemore, Tommy Moore, Mike Munoz, Jim Norris, Claude Osteen, Ken Pape, Roger
Pavlik, Geno Petralli, Lenny Randle, Leon Roberts, Jeff Russell, Scott Sheldon,
Mike Simms, Dan Smith, Marty Stajduhar, Don Stanhouse, Bill Stein, Ken Suarez,
Jim Sundberg, Mickey Tettleton, Todd Van Poppel, Duane Walker, John Wetteland
and Matt Williams.

Texas Rangers Alumni Legacy
Ceremony (6:30 p.m.): The Rangers will honor Tom Grieve for his five decades of
service and Eric Nadel for 30 years of broadcasting in an on-field ceremony
before the Rangers-Rays game.  A plaque
will also be unveiled in dedication of the late Linda Kaye, a former team
photographer who passed away last year.  Rangers
Alumni Legacy members will also be on the field for the ceremony, and Clay
Council will throw out the first pitch.

In other ex-Ranger news, Milwaukee
purchased the contract of outfielder Laynce Nix (.284/.348/.539 for AAA
Nashville), and the Reno Silver Sox of the independent Golden League traded outfielder
Juan Senreiso to Sioux City for a player who will be named later (after this
season) as outfielder Chad Gabriel, plus future considerations. 

Love the indie leagues.

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

Derek Holland.

8-4-1-0-1-10: One of the two or three
greatest minor league games I’ve ever seen pitched.  The fact that it was Derek Holland’s AA
debut, that five weeks ago he was not just in Class A but in Low Class A, that one
year ago today he’d thrown 39 professional innings (and no more than five in
any one appearance), that 15 months ago he was making his final four starts for
Wallace State-Hanceville Community College, against Meridian Community College,
Marion Military Institute, Gadsden State, and Calhoun.  All that is irrelevant, as is the fact that Holland is 21 years old and would have been drafted out of
Arizona State two months ago (and probably
negotiating right up to this Friday’s deadline) had he not agreed to terms with
the Rangers last year.  As frameable as
8-4-1-0-1-10 looks on the page, it was even better in person.

69: Percentage of Derek
Holland’s 107 pitches that were strikes.

86: Number of Holland’s pitches that
were fastballs.  (His first breaking ball
of the game was his 13th pitch, a slider he left up to
left-handed-hitting first baseman Jeff Kindel, who slapped an opposite-field
double that scored Tulsa’s only run [unearned because Frisco first baseman Chad
Tracy dropped third baseman Adam Fox's throw on the previous hitter's routine grounder
that would have ended the inning].)  Holland’s breaking ball
was a little inconsistent, as was his change, but there were spectacular
instances of each.

5: Number of Holland’s
fastballs that clocked in at 97 mph – including all three pitches to strike out
the game’s second hitter, former blue-chip first-rounder Chris Nelson.  (Holland
hit 96 another 17 times, and sat 93-95 most of the night.)

2: Number of times Holland registered 95 on
the gun in the eighth inning.

8: Number of Holland’s 10 strikeouts that
were swinging.

2: Number of players in
the Drillers’ lineup that Holland
did not strike out.

3: Number of Holland’s 24 outs that
were recorded by his outfielders, who burned about as many calories defensively
as I did sitting in the stands.  Holland
induced eight groundouts, picked one runner off dead in his tracks at first
base, had catcher Manny Pina cut another down trying to scamper to third on a
ball that kicked away at the plate, and saw Elvis Andrus gun another down at
the plate to end the eighth and preserve a 1-1 tie as Holland’s night ended. 

11: Number of wins Holland
has in 12 decisions this year, as
Jose Vallejo, Andrus,
and Julio Borbon keyed a four-run bottom of the eighth with their feet before
Andrew Laughter came on to finish the 5-1 victory that Holland earned.

138: Number of strikeouts Holland has in 132.2
innings in 2008.

35: Number of walks Holland has.  How does that 4:1 ratio work for you?

747: Number of players selected
in the 2006 draft before Texas followed the
recommendations of area scouts Rick Schroeder and Jeff Wood and called Holland’s name.

2: I was planning on
keeping this under wraps until a week from today, when my first Top 20
Prospects feature is published on TexasRangers.com, but I can’t do it.  When I post my first ranking of the Top 20
prospects in the Rangers’ farm system next week, Derek Holland will show up at
number two.

And
I had made that decision before
tonight.

Evan
Grant of the Dallas Morning News suggested in this morning’s “Inside the Texas
Rangers” newsletter that in order to make a trade for an impact pitcher this
winter, Texas will probably have to part with Chris Davis, Neftali Feliz, Engel
Beltre, or Andrus.  He suggests the first
two should be untouchable, and that Andrus should be slightly more expendable
than Beltre if for no other reason than the relative lack of system depth in
the outfield.

Let
me suggest that Derek Holland is more a more untouchable asset right now than
Beltre or Andrus, or anyone else in the system outside of Davis and Feliz.

For
years we’ve sat tight anticipating whether our best pitching prospects’
performance at the upper levels would catch up to their hype.

With
this kid, we’re now seeing the hype
start to catch up.

Be
excited.  Be very excited.

 

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

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