May 2009

Contented.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Aside from playing the game, there’s nothing that gets my
sports adrenaline firing like a big trade by my team.

 

A great win deprives me of sleep.

 

A great play is guaranteed to bust me out of my relatively
even keel.

 

But a sustained run of good, solid, efficient baseball simply
makes me a happy, contented person. 

 

The second five of Matt Harrison’s 10 straight scoreless
innings heading into tonight’s game came against the White Sox on Sunday, but
it took the lefthander 100 pitches to get through those five frames.  It wouldn’t take a sports genius to figure
that a veteran lineup like Chicago’s would find a way, five days later, to forge
a game plan that would take advantage of the high pitch count it had forced in
Arlington and turn things around on Harrison in the encore.

 

And then he goes out and shows the White Sox 111 pitches tonight.

 

And they were enough to get him through not five, but nine
innings.

 

Without allowing so much as an extra-base hit. 

 

Or a run, something he can vaguely recall happening 20
innings ago.

 

The 111 pitches are remarkable, not only in terms of the
workload they represent but also – more
so
– because they completed a game. 
Twelve-pitch innings create momentum. 
Averaging 12 a frame is something
else altogether.

 

He’s 23.

 

The smile on Harrison’s face after the 27th out betrayed
some of the relief he must have felt that he was able to cross the finish line himself
and do so with nothing but zeroes in the most spaces on the board.

 

The smile on his personal catcher Taylor Teagarden’s face,
less battle-weary and more energized, looked more like what I think my own did.

 

More good, solid, efficient, winning baseball. 

 

Rewarding.

 

 

 

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

 

The trade.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

While Elvis Andrus is showing, one day and one play and
one plate appearance at a time, that he belongs at this level, and Matt
Harrison’s last 10 innings suggest that he’s figured something out, and Jarrod
Saltalamacchia has found a hitting groove (.382/.417/.500 over the last two
weeks) and improved defensively, and Neftali Feliz has struggled in AAA but
remains a monster pitching prospect, and Beau Jones has quietly punched out 13
hitters in 11.2 Frisco innings, it’s less notable to me that notoriously slow
starter Mark Teixeira is hitting .198/.339/.396, and more significant that Casey
Kotchman (.313/.377/.458) has one home run and six RBI as Atlanta’s everyday
first baseman (the same as Braves utility infielder Martin Prado, whose has a
third of the plate appearances) and right-handed reliever Stephen Marek has an
8.68 ERA for the Braves’ AA affiliate in Mississippi, where opponents are
hitting .350/.431/.525 off him.

 

It may be too soon to say whether that was a Herschel
Walker Trade for the Rangers, but at this point I think it’s safe to that it was
for Atlanta, who I suspect, if given the chance, would swiftly trade the
26-year-old Kotchman and 25-year-old Marek for any one of the first four players the club
traded to Texas for Teixeira two July’s ago, since which time the Braves missed
the playoffs for the second and third times in 14 seasons (with Teixeira) and
now sit in fourth place in the tightly bunched National League East, seventh in
the NL Wild Card race. 

 

You can make the argument that (notwithstanding Brian
McCann’s injury) none of the players Atlanta traded to Texas would fill a
desperate need at the moment, but imagine how much brighter that franchise’s
immediate outlook would be if Andrus, Harrison, Saltalamacchia, Feliz, and Jones
were still Braves property – or traded in different deals that were better
designed to sustain the long term, if not improve it.  (Cf., Travis Hafner
2002.)

 

Harrison, who goes tonight, officially has a personal
catcher.  Ron Washington acknowledged yesterday that Taylor Teagarden will catch
the lefthander tonight and serve as Harrison’s
battery mate until further notice. 

 

This isn’t about familiarity, but results.  Harrison and
Saltalamacchia were teammates in the Gulf Coast League (2003) and Southern
League (2006 and 2007) while with Atlanta, and in
Texas last
year and this year.  Teagarden has caught Harrison only seven times: twice with
Frisco last April (4.70 ERA), twice with Oklahoma last June (3.55 ERA), one with Texas last September (Harrison’s complete-game, five-hit
shutout), and Harrison’s last two starts with Texas, which include the 10 consecutive
scoreless innings.  Harrison’s ERA in the three
2009 games in which he was paired up with Saltalamacchia: 9.20
ERA.

 

Facing the prospect-studded San Jose Giants last night,
Bakersfield
righthander Blake Beavan fired a complete game, scattering four singles and a
walk while fanning five.  He gave up three runs – all unearned – and needed
somewhere between 104 and 107 pitches, an extremely economical total, becoming
just the second pitcher all year to go the distance in the 10-team California
League.  The longest Beavan had gone as a pro before last night’s gem was seven
innings, which he did twice in 2008.

 

Hickory righthander
Fabio Castillo fired 2.2 scoreless innings last night, maintaining his 0.00 ERA
for the season.  In 14 Crawdads innings, all in relief, the 20-year-old has
allowed three unearned runs (all in one inning on Saturday) on 13 hits (10
singles, three doubles) and eight walks, striking out 14.  Right-handed hitters
have helplessly compiled a slash line of .194/.324/.226, and all opponents have
managed to hit just .182/.289/.212 off Castillo with runners on base. 

 

Scott has covered the stack of moves the Rangers have
made in the last few days with the AAA and AA squads, including the return to
the RedHawks of first baseman Nate Gold, who had a stint in Taiwan.

 

More bloggy
greatness from Beau Vaughan
, whose interview victim this time is former Red
Sox minor league teammate (and occasional subject of Rangers off-season trade
rumors) Daniel Bard, the flame-throwing reliever who remains in the Boston system.  The
Houston native
has 29 strikeouts and five walks in 16 innings for AAA Pawtucket, yielding just
six hits and allowing only two runs – both on solo
homers.

 

The Rangers released righthander Dan Sattler, who signed
as a draft-and-follow in 2007 after Texas took him in the 44th round
out of Purdue in 2006.  Appearing 61 times in relief between Spokane, Clinton, and
Bakersfield in
2007 and 2008, the 25-year-old posted a 3.51 ERA with 10 strikeouts per nine
innings and a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Finally, a bittersweet farewell to Kat O’Brien, who has
decided to leave the Newsday
Yankees beat in order to attend the University of Pennsylvania.  The former Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer will leave
a void in the baseball writing industry but, after she earns a dual degree at
Penn (an MBA from Wharton and a Masters of Arts in International Studies from
the Lauder Institute), will certainly star in whatever she chooses to do
next.

 

Jamey

 

 

 

135.

                                      W        L          PCT     GB      
L10      STRK

TEXAS                        15       
12        .556     —         7-3       W5

SEATTLE       
            15        13        .536     0.5       3-7       L3

LOS ANGELES          12        13       
.480     2.0       6-4       W3  (though
they’re about to lose
)

OAKLAND                
9          16        .360     5.0       4-6       L4

 

The magic number is 135.

Starting strong.

Kris Benson is ready for activation.  Derek Holland is on the rotation watch.  But the Rangers’ starting five isn’t making
any room for either of them, and that’s just fine.

 

The last two times through the rotation, Texas starters have gone 6-1, 3.34.  In those 10 starts, they’re limiting the
opposition to a fairly punchless .251/.299/.357 slash line (the rough
equivalent of facing Ramon Hernandez every time up).  They’re only striking out a batter every
other inning, but still maintain a 2.4 K/BB by virtue of a dazzling rate of 1.89
walks per nine innings.  They’re throwing
nearly twice as many strikes as balls, and inducing 1.3 as many groundouts as
flyouts.

 

The average Rangers start over these last 10 games: 6.1
innings, six hits, two earned runs, one walk, and three strikeouts.  And 94 pitches (15 per inning), 59 for
strikes. 

 

Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu, who was on the Texas coaching
staff when Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla arrived in 2006, said after
Millwood’s effort last night: “I think at the start of that game, Millwood was
probably as good as anyone I’ve seen this year, as far as command.  He was literally unhittable.  He topped out at 93 and kept our hitters
off-balance. . . . He really had both sides of plate working.  That’s probably as good as I’ve seen him since
I’ve known him over a six-year period.”

 

He could have said the exact same thing about Padilla
today. 

 

How much of the credit should go to Millwood, Padilla, Brandon
McCarthy, Matt Harrison, and Scott Feldman for the run they’re on now, and how
much should go to Mike Maddux, one of the best off-season acquisitions this
franchise has made in years, and how much should go to Jon Daniels and Nolan
Ryan and Andy Hawkins and former minor league pitching instructor Rick Adair (who
watched from the opposing dugout with Wakamatsu these last two days) and any
number of other executives and instructors driven to change this franchise’s
pitching fortunes is tough to say, and not all that important to sort out. 

 

The fact is that Texas
has found a solid groove right now, largely due to a surge in rotation
consistency, and that’s a very cool thing to be able to write.

 

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

The Play.

The first time I saw Elvis Andrus, at Fall Instructs in
October 2007, I wrote this:

For some players, the ball just
sounds different coming off their bat.  Some can spin a breaking ball in such a
way that you know the hitter has no chance before the pitch is halfway to the
plate.  There are others, like Andrus, who you can tell are different simply by
how they carry themselves.  I’m struggling as to how to explain it.  It’s not
really a swagger that Andrus has.  It’s more of a comfortable magnetism.  He
reminds me of a feature tailback, or a really good cover corner, with that smile
that says he knows he’s going to beat you more often than not.  He’s going to be
a leader.


The last time I saw
Elvis Andrus, he did this:


http://dwarfurl.com/e0818
(click the arrow for the video)


And it was brilliantly described by the brilliant Eric
Nadel.  If you didn’t hear the radio call last night – or even if you did -
click here:


5-4 eandrus diving stop.mp3

 


Good grief.  I may have to make that my
ringtone.


Have a great day.

Thumbnail image for andrus.jpg

 


Jamey

 

Goodness.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

87 (63/24) over 7.1.

 

22 out of 29.

 

>.500.

 

And 1.5.

 

Even if you’re unable to tire a horse like King Felix out by
driving up his pitch count, it sure helps when your own number one is getting his
mound opponent back out on the field as quickly as he did all night.  Kevin Millwood’s full innings lasted 11 pitches,
nine, nine, eight, 21, 10, and 10. 
Hernandez, who was apparently a bit under the weather, didn’t have a lot
of chance to catch his breath.

 

No team in baseball has won more over its last 10 games than
the Rangers’ seven, and no team in the American League has won as many.  Baby steps. 
But, still, steps.

 

Reaching back for my August 3, 2006 report:

 

I hate weeknight West
Coast games. 

 

Hate ‘em.  Hate ‘em. 
Hate ‘em.

 

By which I mean I love
‘em.

 

The preceding was brought to you by the man – no, the kid – who, half an hour ago, made arguably
the greatest play a Rangers shortstop has ever made.

Andrus.jpg

 

 

 

Trade up.

The Chicago Trade was the lead going into last night’s game, but it
was two players from the Atlanta Trade who stepped to the forefront to help
give Texas a really solid win and another chance, today, to get back above
.500.  Matt Harrison – once again with Taylor Teagarden behind the
plate – extended his scoreless streak to 10 innings (seven hits, no
walks, six strikeouts), though he was less efficient than in his last start,
needing 100 pitches to get through five on Sunday.  Liked how he dug deep
to touch 94 and fan Alexei Ramirez to finish the second with a man on third,
and 93 during the nine-pitch Carlos Quentin at-bat with the bases loaded and a
3-0 lead in the fifth, a battle that ended with Quentin flying out lazily to
right.

Elvis Andrus was outstanding in his first start hitting somewhere other
than ninth, going 2 for 3 with a great-looking sacrifice bunt out of the two
hole, firing a double down the left field line and aggressively stretching a
single to center into two bags when Brent Lillibridge didn’t field the
ball cleanly.  Andrus added a steal of third and made several impressive
plays defensively, showing off both his range and arm strength in several chances.

Second straight subpar effort for John Danks, whose night got off to a bad
start when his Spokane, Clinton,
and Oklahoma teammate
Ian Kinsler worked the count full leading off the first before depositing Danks’s
sixth pitch in the left field seats. 

Darren O’Day: 12 pitches, 10 strikes.  So far, looks like a
very solid pickup.

C.J. Wilson: eight pitches, six strikes.  Much better.  (And
bet Ozzie Guillen enjoyed that.  Bet he enjoyed that very much.)

Seattle
manager Don Wakamatsu probably wasn’t too concerned about pulling Chris Jakubauskas
in the fifth yesterday, considering he has horses Felix Hernandez and Erik
Bedard ready to go tonight and tomorrow.  But seven Mariners relievers ended
up throwing 188 pitches in the 15-inning tussle with the A’s, and though
only Miguel Batista (65 pitches) and Jason Vargas (45 pitches) threw at least
20, you can bet the blueprint against Hernandez tonight will be to work the count
(not that it would be any different even if Jakubauskas had gone the distance
on Sunday) in an effort to try and get to the Mariners bullpen early.  Easier
gameplanned than done.

For what it’s worth, Hernandez has consistently averaged 99-103
pitches in each of his five big league seasons, generally getting into the
seventh.

While Hernandez is riding a 19-inning scoreless streak, he’s had
trouble with Texas,
relatively speaking.  In 16 career starts against the Rangers (more than
he’s had against anyone else), he’s 4-8, 4.38.  A couple
American League clubs have slapped a higher ERA on him, but nobody has skewed
his win-loss record as much.

With Jarrod Saltalamacchia no longer sidelined with eye irritation, Max
Ramirez was reportedly optioned back to Oklahoma City,
and RedHawks outfielder Greg Golson joined the team on its flight to Seattle.  Golson, acquired
in November from Philadelphia
for John Mayberry Jr., was hitting .286/.338/.400 with four stolen bases in as
many tries, getting the nod ahead of Brandon Boggs as the latter is dealing
with a sore shoulder.

Unbelievable effort by Chris Davis on that foul pop-up in the big Quentin
at-bat.  That had a chance to be one of the all-time great plays by a
first baseman, if the ball hadn’t gotten Bartmanned by a fan. 

Before playing at Navarro Junior College, Davis briefly
attended the University
of Texas.  If he hadn’t
transferred, and if Danks didn’t sign with the Rangers out of high school,
they would have been Longhorn teammates with Teagarden in 2005.  Johnny
Whittleman would have arrived in 2006 had he not signed with the Rangers,
joining the squad as Teagarden departed, and Marcus Lemon would have shown up
in 2007 after Danks moved on to the pros. 

Randy Taylor was the Rangers’ area scout responsible for all but
Lemon (who was a Guy DeMutis sign).  Taylor
was probably in on Golson, too, another UT commit whom the Phillies drafted (and
signed) in 2004 in the first round, 21st overall, between the Thomas
Diamond and Eric Hurley selections that the Rangers made and 49 rounds before
the Yankees took Davis, then a Longview High School
third baseman.

Infielder Jose Vallejo (.289/.318/.349, seven stolen bases in eight
attempts) was promoted from Frisco to Oklahoma
City, contributing a single and a walk in a 10-inning,
12-8 RedHawks loss on Sunday.

Separated at birth: Kinsler and actor James Franco.

Rangers starting pitchers averaged the most pitches per game (101) in
baseball in April.  That’s a very good stat.

Worst team ERA in baseball?  Belongs to the club that signed C.C.
Sabathia for $161 million and A.J. Burnett for $82.5 million this winter. 
No team has allowed more earned runs than the 5.93 per nine innings that the
Yankees are serving up.

Mark Teixeira is down to .182/.354/.338. 

Stay on your toes: the local start times for the Rangers’ next
eight games (two in Seattle, two in Oakland, three in Chicago, than back in
Arlington after a day off a week from today) are 9:10, 3:40, 9:07, 2:37, 7:11,
6:05, 1:05, and 7:05.

Kevin Millwood-King Felix tonight, Vicente Padilla-Bedard tomorrow
afternoon, 2.5 games separating the two teams in the division.  It’s
not a critical pair this early in the season, but it’s a good opportunity
to take advantage of a little momentum and the right starter matchup against
the right pitchers from, for now, the right team.

McCarthy deals.

The rain cooperated yesterday.

 

It held off long enough Saturday morning for Max’s final
soccer game of the year, in which he scored a goal on his last touch of the
season. 

 

It lasted long enough to wipe out my Sunday softball games,
which I was thrilled about.  I screwed my
back up last week on a double play ball and couldn’t be sure I’d be helping the
team this week.  But there was no way I wasn’t
going to play; can’t let my teammates down. 
So this works out well.  We’re off
next week for Mother’s Day, so my back should be good to go in two weeks.

 

(Bet there was a part of Jarrod Saltalamacchia hoping for a
rainout as he hung out in a dark room on Friday.)

 

And the rain held off enough, for the most part, for Brandon
McCarthy.

 

Say what you want about McCarthy’s two-plus years here, but even
he’d admit that among the things you could say is not that he’s risen to the
occasion.  He did last night, though.

 

The righthander had something to prove, even more than what
his burden is in general, to prove to his teammates and the people who believed
enough in him to make The Trade that he’s not the pitcher whose Rangers career
has triggered more column inches about blisters and shoulder blade stress fractures
and forearm inflammation and strained middle fingers than about quality starts and
rotation footholds, but rather the one who blew the Rangers away in Arlington as
a Chicago rookie on August 30, 2005, earning his first big league win with 7.2
scoreless innings (two hits, one walk) and, before that, had a minor league track
record of pure dominance, striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings while walking
just 1.8, a sparkling 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Or, even if somewhere in between, something
closer to the latter.

 

He had more to prove because, for the first time, he was
facing the White Sox, the team that traded him in December 2006 and has
benefited in a big way as a result.

 

Fighting through two rain delays, the second of which (lasting
an hour and 10 minutes) ended his night after five crisp innings, McCarthy was really
good, limiting Chicago
to one run on three hits and no walks, fanning three.  It was not only his sharpest effort of the
season (3-0, 4.67), but it was only the second time in 44 career starts in
which he walked nobody and allowed no home runs.  The other was June 9, 2007, when he held Milwaukee
to one run over five innings in a game that Texas trailed 3-0 (blanked by Ben
Sheets and Derrick Turnbow) before plating four in the ninth, all after two
outs, off of Francisco Cordero. 

 

Last night, starting with the second-inning sacrifice fly
that scored Chicago’s lone run off of him, McCarthy retired the final 12 hitters
he faced, and given the weather issues, the fact that he breezed through the
third inning on 10 pitches, the fourth on 13, and the fifth on 13 (to make it an
official game) was big.  Efficiency (both
in pitch count and in strikes-to-balls, which of course is not unrelated) has
never been a McCarthy hallmark since his arrival in Texas. 
It was there last night.  He pounded
the strike zone, and commanded the lower third.

 

The second rain delay ended McCarthy’s night after 68
pitches (45 strikes).  It was the first
time he’s thrown fewer than 91 pitches in a start this season, but without the weather
stoppages, he was certainly on his way to that number again, and at the rate he
was getting outs, he was on his way to completing at least seven innings for
the first time in 32 Rangers starts.  He
did so three times in his first eight Chicago
starts, at age 22. 

 

Last night McCarthy probably reminded the White Sox of what
the pitcher they traded was capable of – not that they regret the deal, of
course – and gave Texas another glimpse of a 25-year-old, younger for instance than
Thomas Diamond and Doug Mathis, who we might dare suggest is on the verge of
becoming a dependable member of the rotation. 

 

Righthander Kris Benson kicked off his rehab assignment
today with a five-inning effort for Frisco, allowing three runs on five Corpus
Christi hits (including the first home run of the season from Felix Molina, who
went deep twice in 2008) and a walk, fanning four.

 

Houston
signed righthander Brendan Donnelly to a minor league contract.

 

The Rangers traded Minnesota
a player to be named for Twins legacy Joe Gaetti, a 27-year-old outfielder who
has spent the last four seasons in AA and AAA. 
Taken by Colorado
in the 12th round of the 2003 draft, Gaetti was a lifetime
.284/.369/.511 minor league hitter coming into the season, and was hitting
.139/.179/.278 in 36 AA New Britain at-bats before this week’s trade.

 

If you want to see the five prospect features we’ve done for
the video boards in Rangers Ballpark (Derek Holland, Justin Smoak, Neftali
Feliz, Marcus Lemon, Diamond), click here.

 

Love the minor leagues: During Hickory’s current four-game
series with the Lakewood Blueclaws, as part of a “Complete Your Meal” promotion,
Crawdads fans get a free 12-ounce Pepsi any time right-handed reliever Mark Hamburger
strikes out a batter and outfielder Eric Fry hits safely in the same game. 

 

ESPN’s Jorge Arangure Jr. reports that Texas is “all but
certain” to land Dominican left-handed power-hitting teenager Guillermo
Pimentel, who is expected to command a signing bonus of at least $1.5 million once
the international signing period opens on July 2.  At least two clubs told Arangure that
Pimentel “will no longer work out for teams, making it all the more likely Texas will sign him.” 

 

Arangure adds that the Rangers are “heavily tied” to 16-year-old
righthander Jurickson Profar, an excellently named power pitcher who starred in
the 2004 Little League World Series for tournament champion Curacao,
the island territory from which Andruw Jones hails.  Don’t underestimate the connection.

 

Texas
is also among several teams reportedly in on 16-year-old Venezuelan lefthander
Juan Urbina, son of former Rangers closer Ugueth Urbina.

 

Another Venezuelan lefthander, Martin Perez, just two years
older, just got through throwing another gem for Hickory, holding Lakewood to a
run on two hits and no walks in 5.1 innings, fanning three, as he improved to
1-2, 2.42 on the season.  (No hits for
Fry, and Hamburger didn’t pitch.)

 

Perez is without question one of the two top pitching
prospects in the Rangers’ farm system right now, a distinction that John Danks owned
for several years.  Danks goes for Chicago in Arlington
tonight, and three out four times this season has been even better than
McCarthy – once Chicago’s
top pitching prospect – was last night. 

 

If Danks beats Texas (on national television, facing Matt
Harrison, who comes off a brilliant effort, and Elvis Andrus, who will bat
second for the first time), and fares better than McCarthy did on Saturday, it shouldn’t
change how the December 2006 trade ought to be evaluated, any more than if Danks
gets chased in the third inning.  What matters
now, from a Rangers standpoint, is solely whether McCarthy can put the variety
of injury issues behind him and continue to give Texas a consistent run of good starts. 

 

I’ll be thrilled if McCarthy is a fixture in the Rangers’
starting five when Perez makes his way to this level.

 

 

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

Stuff.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

A few days ago I wrote about a Rangers win that seemed like
one we’re accustomed to seeing Boston or Minnesota get.  Yesterday’s loss was the antithesis.  Mental (and fundamental) mistakes, failures
to execute in conceded situations, bad decisions and efforts to do too much
that turned into not enough.  Brutal.

 

Last year, if my math is right, Texas was 7-17 in games it entered with a
.500 win-loss record, but 18-5 when the club was a game under .500.  This year: 1-2 (if you count Opening Day) and
1-4. 

 

On to the farm.

 

When I went to spring training in Port Charlotte in 1990, a
bizarre, watered-down environment due to the big league work stoppage, I got the
chance to watch an 18-year-old named Ivan Rodriguez, sort of a tubby kid who
could have passed for a Charles Barkley Mini-Me, do his thing.  In defensive drills with the likes of fellow
catchers Barry Winford, Jorge DeLeon, Bubba Jackson, and Mike Mendazona, you
could see how different “Pudge” was.  It was
like watching Cal freshman Jason Kidd – while there were limitations in some
aspects of his game, his ability in other phases (irrespective of his age) was
transcendent, even to the untrained eye of a 21-year-old college student.

 

The thing about the physically immature Pudge back then was
that, as a contrast to the laser throws and lightning-quick feet and the command
he exuded behind the plate, to say that his bat was suspect was kind.  His throws to second had more charge in them than
the balls coming off his bat in BP, and often traveled farther.  Some questioned whether he’d have the bat knocked
out of his hands at the upper levels of the minor leagues, let alone the big
leagues.  Not that that would matter
much, though, considering his ability to defend.

 

What I’m about to say shouldn’t be taken as a suggestion
that the Rangers are seeing one of their prospects beginning to chart an Ivan
Rodriguez path.  Rodriguez is headed for Cooperstown.  I have
my doubts that this other player will ever be a major league starter.

 

Rodriguez didn’t come into his own as a hitter until he got
to Texas.  His lifetime minor league numbers were .266/.297/.370.  In the big leagues: .301/.338/.475. 

 

Manny Pina came into this season as a .248/.306/.322 hitter
on the farm.  But consider how that
breaks down.

 

In 2005 and 2006, at age 18-19, he hit .246/.338/.315 in the
rookie leagues. 

 

In 2007, he hit .228/.278.285 for Low A Clinton. 

 

In 2008, he hit .265/.313/.359 for High A Bakersfield and
.275/.330/.363 for AA Frisco.  Better competition,
better results. 

 

This year, back in Frisco, he’s hitting .481/.518/.731 in 52
at-bats.  He’s played in 13 games and has
hits in all of them. 

 

Like Pudge, Pina is showing signs of transforming from a high-contact,
low-damage hitter who just might not get that bat knocked out of his hands into
someone who can be a contributor at the plate. 

 

Like his RoughRiders teammate Marcus Lemon, Pina’s hot 2009
start doesn’t make me think he’s becoming a big league starter before our
eyes.  For me, Lemon projects to be a
utility player and Pina a backup.  But there’s
nothing wrong with that.  Considering Pina’s
defensive skills, he could be an ideal number two catcher, which obviously
creates an increasingly interesting situation given the Rangers’ collection of
young backstops in and near the big leagues.

 

I have my doubts that Pina will get to Arlington before Pudge’s playing days are over,
but it can’t be ruled out.  And again, I’m
really not comparing the two catchers. 

 

But what Pina is doing right now in Frisco at age 21,
considering what he’d done (and been viewed as) before, reminds me a lot of the
unexpected transformation that Pudge made as a hitter – interestingly, also at
age 21 . . . which was his third year in Texas and second as a Major League All-Star.

 

Scott Lucas celebrated this
cool plug from MLB.com and MiLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo
by contributing a great
shot of Justin Smoak to the revolving prospect photograph section on the front page
of NewbergReport.com.

 

Outstanding blog run by the Hickory Crawdads’ Mark Parker
and Mike Welge, with spectacular photography from John Setzler: http://hickoryball.blogspot.com/

 

Professor Jason Parks gets Baseball Prospectus farm guru Kevin
Goldstein to answer a ton
of very good questions about Rangers prospects
, and you should read it.

 

Pitch-tipping. 
Really?

 

Really??

 

Mark Teixeira hit .200/.367/.371 in April, whittling his
career first-month numbers down to .249/.348/.432.

 

Milton Bradley’s lifetime March/April numbers are a
healthier .278/.367/.457, but they were better than that before his .118/.333/.294
April line to kick off a two- or three-year Cubs career.

 

Cue the (center field) lights: White Sox lefthander Mark
Buehrle is on the hill in Arlington
tonight. 

 

All things considered, it’s been a disappointing April, but
still far better than last year’s 10-17 month. 
If this club can come close to matching 2008’s May (19-10), especially
considering the relative weakness of the division, we’re in serious business.

 

 

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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers