Mining for bullpen help.

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For obvious reasons this may be the year I’ve looked forward
to the beginning of Scott Lucas’s daily minor league recaps more than any.  Between Thursday’s farm openers and last
night’s action, we were treated to the 2009 debuts of Neftali Feliz, Michael
Main, Martin Perez, Kasey Kiker, Wilfredo Boscan, Wilmer Font, Omar Poveda, and
Tim Murphy, not to mention Justin Smoak and Max Ramirez and Engel Beltre and
Julio Borbon. 

 

There
are handfuls of legitimate prospects on every roster in this system (check
Scott’s groovy organizational depth chart at http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/org.htm),
and every night there’s something on the farm worth getting excited about.  If you’re not on the Newberg Report mailing
list, now’s a pretty good time to think about jumping on, if for no other
reason than to read Scott’s good news every morning.

 

Last
year there were players who came out of nowhere on the farm, led of course by lefthander
Derek Holland, who is scheduled to make his AAA debut tomorrow.  I’m going to knee-jerk after yesterday’s
Motor City Mess and suggest that among this year’s surprise breakthroughs will
be a player who, for various reasons, you won’t find in the top 20 names in any
off-season Rangers prospects lists. 

 

Ron
Washington noted after Friday’s ugliness that Dustin Nippert and Willie Eyre
are working themselves back into pitching shape on the farm, putting the
Rangers’ current middle relief corps on less-than-subtle notice that a routine failure
to command the strike zone anywhere close to what we saw yesterday isn’t
acceptable and, one way or the other, won’t last.  And yes, there’s Derrick Turnbow as well -
though his Oklahoma City
debut on Thursday was awful – and the intriguing Pedro Strop (AAA) and John
Bannister (AA) lurking as well.

 

But
I’m going to suggest that Thomas Diamond is going to figure in before long, in Arlington.  The Rangers haven’t ruled out his future as a
starting pitcher, but considering the fact that he’s now working in the RedHawks
bullpen, getting used to a reliever’s schedule, and Nolan Ryan’s comment last
week that he could see starter hopefuls Feliz and Holland breaking into the big
leagues in bullpen roles, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Diamond arriving in
Texas as a reliever.  In 2009.

 

Last
night’s Diamond effort had some blemishes – he started five of the nine hitters
he faced with a ball, threw only 20 of his 35 pitches for strikes, and gave up
five flyouts without inducing a groundout – but he battled, retiring eight
straight Memphis hitters (three strikeouts [two looking], a pop to second, and four
flies to center field) before Redbird shortstop Tyler Greene took him deep to
left center to end his 2.2-inning stint in relief of Feliz.  Where the uberprospect Feliz had trouble with
the patient Memphis
lineup – he issued six walks in four scoreless innings – Diamond was equally
inefficient with his balls and strikes but still avoided any free passes.

 

Kiker
was the Rangers pitching prospect who has had the biggest 2009 debut, as Scott
has chronicled, but Diamond rises near the top of the list of pitchers whose progress
I’m most keyed in on.  Whether it’s to help
reshape this year’s bullpen, or maybe more to the point, to get him acclimated
in 2009 (like Matt Harrison and Taylor Teagarden last year, and like Elvis
Andrus and probably Holland this year) with an eye toward a bigger year in 2010,
I see Diamond, perhaps wishfully, as a pitcher who could be a developmental
star this year, forcing his way up here for a meaningful part of this season
and helping the club address what is now pretty clearly its biggest weakness.

 

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

 

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