Gamer?

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When Alex Rodriguez took a poorly veiled shot at the “24
kids” and recalled questioning, while he was paid reasonably well to play
baseball for the Texas Rangers, “What am I in this for?,” it was easy to draw a
conclusion, because those words appeared in a magazine article he purportedly
wrote himself.  He didn’t have the luxury
to claim his remarks were taken out of context.

 

Milton Bradley didn’t write Gil LeBreton’s Monday
column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
,
but I’m not sure how you could take what he said regarding his time in Texas out of context, specifically
when asked about the frequency with which he removed himself from the lineup
due to injuries that were never severe enough to prompt a disabled list stint:

 

“If I’m being paid,
and I’ve got the commitment to me that I give to them, you make more of an
effort to be out there every day.”

 

Wow.  Did you really
mean to say that?

 

“When you’re on
one-year deals constantly, you’ve got to put up as good numbers as you can.  When you have days where you’re not feeling
like you can contribute, you’re not going to go out there, because you’re not
going to want your numbers to [be really bad].”

 

Well, OK, there you’ve admitted to something that most fans
think exists – the added incentive of the “contract year” – but it’s not just about
the on-base and the slug.  Durability and
reliability figure in, too, I think. 
(But maybe I’m wrong: the Cubs gave you what you were looking for, in a
winter when almost no free agents got what they were looking for.)

 

“So, if you’re in a
situation like I am now, if they want me to go out there when I’m feeling a
little banged up, I’ve got no problem doing that because they’ve made the
commitment to me.”

 

Seriously.  Seriously? 

 

Are you really saying, after making $1.73 million and then
$2.5 million and then $3 million and then $4 million and then $6.35 million over
the last five seasons, that you weren’t “being paid”?  That the Dodgers and A’s and Padres and
Rangers didn’t make a commitment to you?

 

You’re really telling a reporter – and as a result, your
former teammates and coaches and fans in Texas – that you’re more likely now to
answer the bell, just because you have a multi-year contract?

 

If he got a multi-year deal this winter to stay in Texas – something
he’s bitter at having not been offered – would he have gone ahead and told Ron
Washington and Michael Young and Chris Davis and Frankie Francisco that they
could expect him to make more of an effort to play every day going forward than
he made in 2008, now that he was “being paid”? 

 

Bradley frequently claims that he is misunderstood.  I believed that last year.  But can the things he said to LeBreton be
misunderstood?

 

Last week he told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune: “I’m as serious as a heart attack about baseball,
and winning.” 

 

It doesn’t quite sound like winning was Bradley’s top priority
in the second half, when his teammates were trying to stay in the divisional
race.  Not if you take a close look at
what he said to LeBreton.

 

As a Rangers fan, I’m disappointed.  And I’m not sure how thrilled I’d be to read
it if the Cubs were my team, either.  Mike
Imrem of the Chicago Daily Herald, one
of several Chicago
writers to pull quotes from the Star-Telegram
piece, highlights Bradley’s comments and writes: “Relax, Cubs fans, Bradley
said his mindset is different now because the Cubs gave him a three-year deal.”

 

Would that really be comforting if you were a Cubs fan?

 

Maybe I make too much of clubhouse chemistry and leadership
issues and character – some of the things I praised Milton Bradley for
repeatedly during his time here – but I’d react very poorly to what he said
over the weekend if I were his teammate in 2008.

 

Evan Grant suggests in his Inside Corner blog that Elvis
Andrus’s situation shouldn’t be compared to Evan Longoria’s a year ago when speculating
as to whether the Rangers might delay the start of Andrus’s big league career
by a few weeks to buy another year of control before he can be a free
agent.  I agree with that.  He’s certainly holding his own in camp right
now (though there’s still nearly a month to go), and if he shows he’s ready, he’s
going to open the season as this club’s shortstop.

 

But if he’s hitting .210 on April 25 and struggling to make
the plays he needs to defensively, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him optioned for
three weeks so he can refind his rhythm.

 

The way he’s going with the pitch right now, though, and
executing, and making what seems to be a highlight reel play every day at
shortstop, I think the odds are that Andrus has played his final minor league
game.  If you feared that the massive, big
league expectations might have been a bit unnerving for the 20-year-old
Venezuelan, or that he might have come to camp with a big head, this comment
ought to rest any concerns: “I learn something on every ground ball, every
at-bat.  I’m trying to let the game come
to me and just react to every situation and be prepared for everything.”

 

Righthander Kris Benson had another solid outing yesterday, lowering
his ERA to 2.57 in seven innings of work (four hits, two walks, five
strikeouts), and that, combined with the May 5 opt-out date, means the 34-year-old
is right on track to fill a rotation spot in Oklahoma City. 

 

Andruw Jones is up to .280/.357/.440 in 28 plate appearances
(second-most on the team), but he’s been a bit rusty defensively.  He’s finding a rhythm at the plate (after
striking out 10 times in his first 15 plate appearances, he’s fanned only once
in the next 13), but you would think that regardless of what he does offensively,
he’s got to show that he hasn’t lost his rhythm in center field to earn a
roster spot.

 

I still don’t see both Jones and Marlon Byrd making the
roster, given the overlap in what they ideally bring to the roster, and that’s
to say nothing of the work that Brandon Boggs (.364/.417/.773) and Greg Golson
(.438/.471/.750) have done in camp. 
Golson has no real chance to make the Opening Day roster, but his
ability to play center field does give Texas
more options. 

 

The Rangers plan to get Hank Blalock some game time at third
base later in camp, which is probably an indication that neither Omar Vizquel
nor Joaquin Arias would be counted on to play third in a pinch (and perhaps not
Chris Davis, either).  Grant speculates that
there could also be a showcase component to the Blalock development, as the
Yankees recently lost their third baseman for six to nine weeks due to hip
surgery.  For the moment, New York plans to go
with former Rangers farmhand Cody Ransom (who squeezed the final out in Yankee
Stadium) at the hot corner.

 

Arias is back in camp after the death of his father.

 

Texas will start to officially reassign players to minor
league camp in less than a week, and that’s usually the time that you see young
starting pitchers moved over, not because they earned “early cuts” due to their
performance, but because once the schedule gets into mid-March, the big league
starters begin to stretch their workload out to the point at which there just
aren’t enough innings to give the younger pitchers so that they get stretched
out as well. 

 

But Derek Holland, after a poor first appearance, has been very
good in his next two, and there’s a real chance that the first wave of reassignments
doesn’t include the 22-year-old non-roster invite.  He’s not going to break camp as a big
leaguer, but he may get another handful of opportunities to face big league
hitters before packing up for the back fields. 
Holland touched
96 in his last outing, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

 

Matt Harrison is working on a new cut fastball, the key pitch
that John Danks added to his repertoire in Chicago.

 

C.J. Wilson’s index finger is fine.  Brandon McCarthy says his shoulder is fine.

 

Relievers Joe Torres (stiff lower back) and John Bannister (strained
oblique) have been limited.  Eddie
Guardado’s lower back soreness has reportedly subsided.

 

Is there a better story in camp than how well Jarrod
Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden are playing?  Texas
went into camp with unique depth at catcher. 
The club seems to be positioned even better now than it was a month ago.

 

Catcher Kevin Richardson, who was expected to share duties
behind the plate in Oklahoma City, had surgery last week to repair a torn
meniscus in his right or left knee (depending on which source you believe) and
will miss anywhere from six weeks to several months (depending on which source
you believe).  Emerson Frostad, who didn’t
join Team Canada for the
World Baseball Classic this year, has replaced Richardson in big league camp.

 

According to Grant, the Rangers might meet with a new immigration
law group to further explore the possibility of getting righthanders Omar
Beltre and Alexi Ogando into the United States.

 

Hearing Larry King spend an inning in the booth with Eric
Nadel yesterday was pretty cool – and clearly very cool for Nadel himself. 

 

Hearing Executive Vice President/Communications John Blake
relieve Nadel for a couple innings was an unexpected surprise.  His style is different from anyone you’ve heard
do Rangers baseball, but he’s very good. 
The onetime Georgetown Hoyas basketball broadcaster (in the Sleepy Floyd
[pre-Patrick Ewing] days of 30 years ago) will
call the Webcast of today’s 2:05 Rangers-Giants game.

 

Good friend Will Carroll does a Baseball Prospectus Radio interview
with Jon Daniels here.  A teaser, regarding last year’s draft:

 

“Our pick came and Tom Hicks was in the room, and I looked
at him and said ‘Well, there’s this high school kid we really like, or there’s [Justin]
Smoak, who our people love and think could come very quickly.’  And Tom said, ‘Who’s the best player?’  I said, ‘Smoak.’  So Tom said: ‘You take the best player.'”

 

The Angels have shut righthander Ervin Santana down with a
sprained medial collateral ligament in his elbow and have already decided that he’ll
probably start the season on the disabled list.

 

Wes Littleton has an ERA of 19.29 in five Red Sox appearances.  Don’t count on a second Boston player to complete that trade.

 

Milwaukee
released Eric Gagné.

 

Toronto
reassigned lefthander Fabio Castro to minor league camp, days after getting him
through waivers and outrighting his contract. 
Kansas City
released infielder Esteban German.

 

Wow: Read Part
1 of Grant Schiller’s interview with Jeff Zimmerman
.

 

The Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association
released righthander Mark Roberts.

 

Negotiations with Josh Hamilton for a long-term deal are “just
getting going now,” writes Jon Heyman of Sports
Illustrated
.

 

Outstanding.  Because if
you asked Milton Bradley, there’s no sense in Hamilton making a full effort otherwise,
since he made less than a tenth of what Bradley earned last year, a year during
which the Rangers paid Bradley more than he’d ever been paid to play baseball
and, somehow, under his interpretation, made less of a commitment to him than
he did to them.

 

 

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

 

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