Take a guess.

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Hottest Rangers
hitter since the All-Star Break?  Five
guesses.

 

Wrong.

 

Hint: He’s younger
than John Bannister, Thomas Diamond, Warner Madrigal, Doug Mathis, Guillermo
Moscoso, Max Ramirez, Joaquin Arias, German Duran, Travis Metcalf, and Brandon
Boggs.

 

Two
days before the All-Star Break, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a .213/.317/.312
hitter in 2008, with 22 walks and 52 strikeouts in 141 at-bats.  This is what the 23-year-old has done since then:

 

Twenty
big league games: .357/.446/.500, nine walks and 22 strikeouts.  He led the team in hitting over that
seven-week period.

 

Twenty
winter league games: .364/.506/.848, 17 walks and 13 strikeouts.  He didn’t qualify for the Dominican Winter
League batting title (he would have led the circuit in reaching base and
slugging if he did), and yet he still tied for third in the league with nine
home runs.

 

Four
Cactus League games: .600/.636/.900, one walk and one strikeout. 

 

All
told, in 132 at-bats since July 12, Saltalamacchia is a .379/.491/.705 hitter,
with 27 walks and 36 strikeouts.  He’s
doing a better job in the running game as well (cutting down 7 out of 38
would-be basestealers prior to July 12 and 2 of 11 from July 12 on, then 5 of
13 in winter ball, and 1 of 2 so far in camp), and he’s earned strong reviews
on the progress he’s made with the intangibles.

 

Mix
in what Taylor Teagarden has to offer (.319/.396/.809 in 16 summer games and 2
for 4 in camp), particularly since Teagarden’s right-handed bat could
complement Saltalamacchia’s left-handed bat well (the switch-hitter has shown
to be a far more advanced hitter from that side of the plate), and the Rangers’
catcher tandem could do some real damage in the bottom third of the order this
year.

 

Turns
out Brandon McCarthy hasn’t exactly scrapped the curve for the slider, as had
been reported in a couple places over the weekend.  He’s merely introduced a slider to the mix, at
least experimentally while in Arizona,
and he points out that it’s not only more deceptive but also less taxing on his
arm than the curve. 

 

Ken
Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that John Hart is a candidate for the newly
vacated Washington Nationals general manager’s position.  Hart – who I think is really, really good in his studio analyst role
with MLB Network – is said to be close to Nationals president Stan Kasten.

 

MLB
Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” Rangers episode will air at 5 p.m. on March 18.

 

In
the meantime, old friend Victor Rojas will call six World Baseball Classic games
(three for MLB Network, three for MLB International), starting with Max Ramirez’s
Venezuela club against Frank
Catalanotto’s Italy
squad this Saturday night.

 

Orlando
Cabrera is a solid shortstop, but he got just a one-year deal from Oakland, who forfeited a
second-round pick to sign him.  Makes the
A’s better in 2009, but Billy Beane won’t risk offering him arbitration next
winter and chances are Cabrera will explore free agency again.  In the meantime, he’s not the type of player
that would stand to bring a big July return if Oakland is out of the race.  And his addition won’t offset the potential loss
of righthander Justin Duchscherer, who will have an MRI on his elbow today.

 

Milwaukee has shut Eric Gagné
down with shoulder soreness.

 

The
Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League signed lefthander
Ryan Cullen, an old Newberg Report favorite before he was shipped with Aaron Harang
to Oakland for
Randy Velarde after the 2000 season. 

 

Before
Kansas City designated utility man Esteban
German for assignment on Saturday (to make room on the roster for reliever Juan
Cruz), Toronto quietly
designated lefthander Fabio Castro for assignment and slid him through
league-wide waivers.  Castro was
outrighted to AAA yesterday.

 

Some
notes from the Baseball America
Prospect Handbook:

 

Outfielder
John Mayberry Jr. is the number 24 prospect for the Phillies, whose system is
ranked 12th overall. 
Outfielder Greg Gilson is number 26 in the top-ranked Rangers system.

 

Lefthander
Danny Ray Herrera is not among Cincinnati’s
top 30 prospects.  He completed the trade
that sent Edinson Volquez to the Reds for Josh Hamilton.

 

Righthander
Jacob Rasner is not among the top 40 White Sox prospects.  He went to Chicago with lefthander John Danks and righthander
Nick Masset for McCarthy and outfielder David Paisano.

 

Righthander
Stephen Marek is Atlanta’s
number 22 prospect.  The 25-year-old
Marek – who is two years older than Saltalamacchia himself – was half the
Braves’ return for Mark Teixeira in July (along with the ordinary Casey
Kotchman) and has yet to pitch above Class AA. 

 

That
turn of events – Atlanta shipping Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus,
Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones to Texas in July 2007, not making the playoffs
with Teixeira that season, getting off to a poor start in 2008, and flipping
Teixeira to the Angels last July for Kotchman and Marek – is one that gets more
and more lopsided. 

 

Every
one of the five players the Rangers got from the Braves has stepped forward significantly
since the time that Atlanta traded Teixeira away last summer, the latest
example being Saltalamacchia, who, with Gerald Laird out of the picture, has made
strides behind the plate and has done nothing but inflict big damage with the
bat for the last eight months.

 


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

 

1 Comment

Is Ryan Cullen any relation to Tim Cullen who played second base for the Washington Senators? Thanks

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