July 2009

Sad-happy.

It’s been a profoundly sad baseball day for me.  

First, with each couple hours as the day progressed it seemed that Texas was emerging as the leading candidate to acquire Roy Halladay, an acquisition that would rank with Nolan Ryan and Alex Rodriguez in this franchise’s history in terms of instant impact.  

That prospect in and of itself didn’t sadden me — I’m on record saying I’d love to have Doc here in 2009 and 2010 — but when word developed that the price would start with two of Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, and Justin Smoak, supplemented by Ken Rosenthal’s Fox Sports note that Toronto sent a scout to Arlington to watch Holland start tonight “on short notice,” I started to get a pit in my stomach.

And then tonight, July 30, 2009, a baseball game was played that, years from now, may be talked about (at least in this space), a game in which Holland was so good that the Jays scout might as well have stopped taking notes.  I hope.  Over Holland’s first eight innings, he permitted one hit (a fifth-inning, broken-bat single busting up a perfect game) and no walks, striking out 10 Mariners with command not only of his fastball but a crisp breaking ball.  The ninth inning wasn’t as clean — walk, F-9, fielder’s choice, single, depriving Holland of his first big league complete game — but there’s something almost poetic about that walk to the dugout after handing the manager the ball following a performance like that.  The kind he dazzled the Texas League with last summer.

Only I didn’t see that stroll off the field.

Or anything else.

I was away from a television tonight and saw only a Gameday account of what was going on.  And I didn’t set the DVR.

Sad.

I’m going to have to get a copy of that game.

As for the Halladay talks, I want to believe that Holland’s opus may have saved Texas from doing something it would later regret.  Of Holland, Feliz, Smoak, and Martin Perez, I just can’t bring myself to feeling good about parting with two to get Halladay, as great as he is.  The only pair I’d even be willing to think about is Feliz and Smoak, and even then it would give me indigestion to do it.

A Twitter post from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale after the game: “Nolan Ryan just said they actively are seeking Toronto [pitcher] Roy Halladay, but suggested that LHP Derek Holland won’t be part of any deal.”

I’d like to think that position had been taken four hours ago (Jon Daniels said after the game: “We didn’t have any more interest in trading him at 7 p.m. than we did at 10 p.m.”), but it doesn’t matter now.  What matters is Holland is going nowhere.

Ryan added: “It’s still premature to make a prediction [as to] whether it will happen.  Obviously, we’d like to have him.”  

Me, too.  But only on our terms.

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi told ESPN’s Buster Olney tonight that Halladay trade talks are “dead.”  Not sure I believe Ricciardi, but whatever.  He hasn’t played his hand particularly well this week, but he’s got half a day to salvage things.

But I can never get Thursday back.  I missed the game, finishing off a day of baseball sadness.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Swagger.

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These last few days have been (and the next few will be) consumed
by TROT COFFEY installments and Newberg Report Night updates, and so I hope you’ll
accept my apologies for the lack of full-scale reports lately.  From a baseball standpoint, I’m a slave to
the calendar this time of year.

 

But I wanted to take a couple minutes to talk about swagger,
reaching back for a couple things we’d touched on in the past.

 

Number one.

 

I wrote on October 13: “Jon
Daniels commented late last week, in the context of what the club might be
looking for in its new pitching coach, that one thing he’d like to see is a
coach who might be able to help Texas pitchers develop the same confidence -
even swagger – that the hitters always have here.”

 

Is there any question who has the swagger on this team right
now?  For the first time in decades, the
hitters don’t have it.  And maybe for the
first time ever, the pitching staff does. 
Credit Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux for helping to instill it, but it’s
the pitchers themselves who are bringing it every night.

 

It’s evident not only in Kevin Millwood, who leads in a
Michael Young sort of way, and the physically imposing Frankie Francisco, but also
in the even-keeled dominance of Scott Feldman, C.J. Wilson, Darren O’Day, and
Jason Grilli, the calm confidence that Dustin Nippert and Doug Mathis exhibit
every time they’re asked to step in on what amounts to an emergency basis, the
poise and fight that Tommy Hunter takes to the hill every single time it’s his
turn, and this:

 

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v169/dsheppard/boardimages/gifs/baseball/eddie_short.gif

 

(Hat tip to the great Drew Sheppard.)

 

We all hope that the offense can reach back and regain some
semblance of what it’s capable of.  But the
reason this season is where it is today, obviously, is because of the guys who
take the ball and climb that hill and, each in his own way, bring a brand of
fight, a swagger that has completely redefined this team.

 

But they’re not all alone, of course.

 

Which brings me to number two, and something I wrote on
October 5, 2007, just over two months after Texas had acquired Elvis Andrus and before he’d
even gotten out of Class A:

 

“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.”

 

I said then that’s it not really a swagger that Andrus has, and
I’ll stand by that.  He’ll have it within
a year or two, but for now, everything else about him is ahead of his
time.  After his first base hit tonight, I
had it in my mind that I was going to write: “There are two players in this
lineup who can be counted on to square up and stay inside the ball more often
than not: its oldest regular, and its youngest.” 

 

Elvis Andrus is already on the very short list of my
favorite players, not just in baseball but in all of sports, because of what he’s
capable of, how often he comes through and does what the game situation calls
for, and the smoothness and dependability and electricity he feeds this thing -
at age 20.  I felt this way about Troy Aikman when he was
a rookie.  There’s a very long career
ahead for this kid, a possibly extraordinary career, and it’s going to be in my
team’s uniform.

 

It stuns me – and I know John Schuerholz was about to relinquish
his GM seat and wanted to make one last run for a ring – but it stuns me that the
Braves were willing to trade that kid.

 

Thank goodness they were.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Trade deadline reminder.

Just a reminder, given where we are on the calendar: The TROT COFFEY emails that I send out, gathering and summarizing the trade rumors that are popping up in the mainstream media, do not show up on this blog or on the Newberg Report website, primarily because this time of year the TROT’s often come out daily if not more than once a day, and I don’t want to push the standard reports down every time I send a trade rumor recap out.

So if you’re interested in the TROT COFFEY emails, you need to be on the Newberg Report mailing list.  Signing up is easy to do, and free.  To do so, go here:

http://www.newbergreport.com/nrUser.asp

Thanks.

Jamey

The beauty of 2009.

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The bad thing about this ridiculous run the Angels are on (eight
straight, 12 of 13, 22 of 28, 29 of 38) is that the Rangers, despite winning
five of six and 13 of 20, have fallen to 4.5 games back in the division, 3.5
games behind Boston in the Wild Card chase.

 

It’s the furthest out of first place Texas has been all season.

 

The good thing?  An organization
positioned to be stronger in 2010 and beyond is not only breaking in key young
players like Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Taylor Teagarden, and Doug
Mathis, and maybe Neftali Feliz and Justin Smoak and Julio Borbon and a
rejuvenated Chris Davis, but breaking them in not as the 2007 Devil Rays
(66-96) but as a team that has yet to play a game that felt like it didn’t
really matter.

 

It’s a tricky time if you’re Jon Daniels, with payroll constraints
and a seller’s market and, now, a standings issue, as the trade deadline arrives
once more through the rotation.

 

Last night was a difficult loss, especially the way the
offense was once again victimized by a Baseball 101 game plan that a very good
young pitcher was able to execute (toolsy Luke Hochevar punched out 13 Rangers and
walked none in seven innings, quite the departure from his 6.1/2.5 rate this
season, and lifetime 5.3/3.0).  But Holland
will benefit long-term more from the fact that the game was one that Texas
needed than he would have if the club had been 12.5 games out, just as Hunter’s
win on Tuesday meant more because it came against Josh Beckett and kept the
Rangers within three games of the Angels as opposed to the mere novelty of
coinciding with Beckett taking the ball in the home half of each inning.

 

And I’ll say it again: the fact that Texas is where it is in the standings,
despite dramatic dropoffs from several key players and an epidemic offensive haplessness
most nights, is a lot more encouraging than if the club were 4.5 games out with
half the roster playing at an absolute peak, if not completely out of their
minds. 

 

I’m not writing 2009 off yet, in spite of the Angels’
persistent unconsciousness.  But even if Los
Angeles and Boston and New York don’t allow Texas to get any closer to the two
playoff spots at which the club has a shot, it’s a very good thing for this
franchise’s immediate future that every game this season, so far, has mattered.

 

 

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

 

Trading pitching prospects.

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Run down a
list of the Rangers’ most effective young (i.e., controllable) big league
pitchers in 2009:

 

Scott
Feldman, Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Doug
Mathis.

 

Francisco,
according to
Baseball America, was Boston’s number 10 prospect in 2002, two
years and two organizations before he’d reach the big leagues.  He wasn’t
among the White Sox’s top 10 prospects in 2003, not among the Rangers’ top 10
in 2004.

 

Wilson was the Rangers’ number eight prospect in 2003, two years
and a Tommy John surgery before he got to Arlington.

 

Feldman,
Hunter, and Mathis were never on a Rangers Top 10 list.

 

O’Day was
never on a Top 10 list with the Angels, who left him exposed to the Rule 5
Draft, or with the Mets, who were smart enough to select him in the draft but
foolish enough to float him out on waivers after four early April appearances,
three of which were scoreless and one of which saw him allow two unearned runs.

 

Brandon
McCarthy was once high up on Chicago’s
Top 10.  Matt Harrison was high up on Atlanta’s.  Josh Rupe landed on the
Rangers’ Top 10 in two of his first three years in the system.

 

Texas is in the hunt but got only 11
starts this year out of McCarthy (4.92 ERA) and may get no more this year.
 The club got only 11 from Harrison (6.11
ERA) and, we learned yesterday, won’t get any more.  The 4.2 innings that
Rupe (15.43) pitched in April cost him his 40-man roster spot and his place in
the plans.

 

The best
pitching prospects aren’t always the most dependable big leaguers.  Some
will be slowed by injuries.  Some won’t get major league hitters out.
 Many will contribute, but not always as much as a number of pitchers who
were less hyped as minor leaguers.

 

It’s one
reason you can’t hesitate to trade prospects just because you’re building
something strong.  

 

Now, you
don’t trade Derek Holland for Kevin Correia and Eulogio De La Cruz, which is
what the Mets did five years ago when they shipped Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay
for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.

 

There’s a
fan/media mindset that this isn’t the year to push all the chips in at the
trade deadline.  OK: No C.C. Sabathia rentals.  I’m with you there.

 

But does
that mean you say to yourself, “I have the deepest farm system in baseball, and
building from within is the name of the game.  I can’t afford to move any
prospects even though I have a shot to win this year”?  

 

St. Louis virtually emptied its farm system
by trading Brett Wallace in today’s Matt Holliday deal.  Texas would have to make five blockbuster
trades in the next six days to empty its system.

 

Wallace may
not pan out to be any better than Daric Barton, the last young slugger that the
Cardinals sent to the A’s as part of a huge deal.  Then again, Oakland wouldn’t undo that 2004 trade, which sent Mark
Mulder to St. Louis,
because it also netted them Dan Haren.

 

And Arizona would never take
back the 2007 trade that sent four of its top six prospects, including Brett
Anderson, to the A’s to get Haren.

 

The key for
the Diamondbacks was that they were getting a controllable young player in
Haren, not a rental.  It would take that huge a package for Texas to get Roy Halladay, and I’m resigned to the likely
fact that even if the offer was enough for Toronto, Halladay wouldn’t agree to come
here.  But I’m all for striking in the next week, for a player not as
singular as Halladay, as long as he’s controllable.

 

It’s why I
proposed a Zack Greinke trade a year ago that would have included Harrison or
Eric Hurley plus four others, and one this spring that involved Harrison and
Justin Smoak for Josh Johnson or Matt Cain.

 

Bill Ladson
of MLB.com reports that Texas
has been scouting the Nationals, and whether that means we’re looking at John
Lannan or Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn, I’m encouraged.

 

Ken
Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that Texas is
among at least four teams interested in St.
Louis’s Troy Glaus, who is rehabbing now on the farm
after shoulder surgery.  (If we do deal for him, I’ll trade a Bound
Edition for the first photo of Glaus posing with Jason Grilli.)  Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi add that left-handed
relievers Scott Downs (Toronto) and George
Sherrill (Baltimore)
are on the Rangers’ radar.

 

Cliff Lee?
 Gotta be careful there, considering how poorly he’s pitched in Rangers
Ballpark over his career.  (Though, unlike Halladay, his trouble with Texas extends to his
home park as well, so maybe in his case it really is the opponent and not the
park.)  I’m interested, but not if Holland
or Smoak or Neftali Feliz or Martin Perez is involved.

 

Zach Duke
or Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang or Doug Davis?  Not for anything close
to that top tier.

 

Correia?
 For a reasonable return, sure.

 

He’s sort
of a good example of all this, actually.  As he was coming up in the
Giants system early this decade, he was on a clear second tier in that system,
well behind Cain, Merkin Valdez, and David Aardsma.  Cain developed into
what he was supposed to.  Valdez
is 27 and hasn’t come close to fulfilling his promise.  Aardsma has come
into his own this year, but has been traded four times in the last four years,
the last two times for minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and probably never
will.

 

Meanwhile,
Correia has carved out his own useful little place in this game, and could be
traded this coming week as San Diego
tries to further its own rebuilding effort.  It won’t take Holland and Smoak to get
him.  It won’t take Holland
or Smoak to get him.  

 

There are
players like Correia (under control through 2010) and Willingham (under control
through 2011) who could make this club better right now, without costing Holland or Smoak or Feliz
or Perez.  This organization can afford to move some of its better
prospects without killing its system, maybe managing to improve its chances to
stay in this fight in 2009.  What if the Angels land Halladay and don’t
have to give up Jered Weaver to do so?  Will you feel as good about 2010
as you do about this season?

 

I’m OK
trading pitchers like Kasey Kiker or Omar Poveda or Guillermo Moscoso or Blake
Beavan or Wilfredo Boscan in the right deal, to get someone established and
controllable.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think those guys will make it in
the big leagues.  They may, they may not.  But they won’t all make it
(and if miraculously they all do, there won’t be room for all of them in
Texas), and if you don’t take chances by moving some of them for players that
you know can help, you’re going to end up holding onto a number of them past
the point at which they have any value to you at all, either as big league
players or trade chips.

 

Kiker (4-0,
1.22 in his last six starts) and Poveda (2-0, 2.39 in his last four) in
particular have gotten hot at the right time.  The two 21-year-olds are
pitching well in AA, the level at which rebuilding teams generally start to
zero in on prospects as trade targets.  Moscoso is 3-2, 1.85 in six starts
and a long relief appearance for Oklahoma. 

 

Would you
trade Poveda and Mitch Moreland for Willingham?  Would you expand it to
include Moscoso for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard?

 

I sure
would (not that I’m sure the Nationals would), but I get the sense that a lot
of the opinion-makers in this market have decided that trading prospects for
veterans would be an unwelcome departure from the Plan — no matter who the
prospects are, or the veterans — and the minute a trade like that one goes
down, you’ll see columnists comparing Poveda to John Danks, Moreland to Adrian
Gonzalez, Moscoso to Armando Galarraga, Willingham to Randy Velarde, and
Clippard to Kevin Gryboski.

 

How did you
feel when Texas
traded Ricardo Rodriguez for Vicente Padilla?

 

It’s going
to be a fascinating week.  The end of July always is.

 

We all
believe that as good as this season has been, better days for this franchise
are ahead.  But if you’re one of those who’s been convinced that trading
prospects for veterans in the next six days would be foolish, by definition, I’d
encourage you to stay away from the generalizations that you’re being fed and
keep an open mind.  Don’t let it kill your optimism, and don’t get
brainwashed into thinking that such a trade would automatically kill any sort
of franchise momentum.

 

Instead, it
could mobilize an additional, more immediate, very welcome type of momentum.

 

 

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

 

 

Mathis: Darn well worth it.

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Texas vs. Boston: 5-1

 

Texas
vs. Angels: 7-2

 

Texas vs. Seattle: 6-3

 

Texas vs. Tampa Bay:
3-0

 

Texas
vs. White Sox: 4-2

 

I said this on Twitter an inning into Doug Mathis’s effort
tonight: “[Dustin] Nippert may pitch for 8 teams before he’s done.  He’ll play for a bunch of bad teams.  Doug Mathis, on the other hand, will pitch
for winners.”

 

I have very little doubt that, when Texas is engaged in trade talks over the
next week and a half, Mathis’s name will come up.  His ceiling may be that of a back-of-the-rotation
guy, and he’ll never be the centerpiece of an impact trade, but someone is
going to try and make him the Kason Gabbard of a multi-player Rangers package this
month.  I doubt they’ll succeed. 

 

I don’t mean to overlook what Nippert did tonight.  He came up absolutely huge, and has more raw
tools than Mathis and maybe half his pitching staff teammates.  When Nippert executes with that toolbox, like
he did tonight, he can be a quality big league pitcher that dominates from time
to time.

 

But when Mathis pitches like that, with command and pace and
movement and aggressiveness, he’s the one I have an easier time envisioning
when I blur my eyes and imagine what the 2011 pitching staff will look
like. 

 

Other Twitter comments from tonight, for those of you not “following”:

 

“Rangers offense forcing more 20 pitch innings…where did
this come from?  More, please.”

 

“I’ve never said ‘I heart’ anything.  But I heart our shortstop.  At age 20, he may be the team’s truest ‘baseball
player.’  What a future.”

 

The Angels anger me.  Time
for the Rangers to take tomorrow off, get some rest and take some vitamins, and
then go punish Kansas City
for their late-inning ineptitude against the Halos.

 

Stated another way, it’s time for us to go beat up on a bad
team the way we’ve smacked some of the league’s best teams around this season.

 

 

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

 

Twittering Texas 4, Boston 2.

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I’m not going to make a habit of this, but the circumstances
were right tonight, and I did the Twitter thing from my seat at Rangers
Ballpark.  It went something like this:

 

FIRST INNING: 1st: hunter 11
pitches, Beckett 22…like seeing D.Anderson getting more aggressive sending
runners…make ‘em make a play

 

SECOND: Papi getting
aggressive on the bags? Like that too

 

FOURTH: Hunter’s G/F tonight
will be deceiving; lots of bad contact in the air

 

FIFTH: In the 15 years
before 07, Hunter is a top 5 prospect for this org; now — 12ish? 15?
Impressive as hell

 

SIXTH: Someone oughtta
research this: lowest pitches per inning in a start vs super-disciplined Boston this year

 

SIXTH: That
20-something-pitch inning: my bad, that’s on me; one other thing – (I’m gonna
choose not to reprint the rest here)

 

SEVENTH: Another great Anderson send

 

EIGHTH: Yeah sabermetricians:
Texas
pitching no better this year; mm hmm

 

EIGHTH: Hamilton just a little better than Beckett, just
like TB thought 10 years ago

 

EIGHTH: In 10-year career,
Dave Anderson never played against Boston;
coaching game of his life tonight vs Sox

 

NINTH: Liiiiiiikes me some
2009 C.J.

 

If you’re on Twitter and want to follow me, I’m at
@newbergreport.

 

Also, I’ll announce a few new raffle and auction prizes for Newberg
Report Night soon – they include an autographed Nolan Ryan baseball, an
autographed Kevin Millwood batting practice jersey, a miniature batting helmet
signed by six Rangers players, an 8 x 10 team photo signed by 14 players, and
an autographed 8 x 10 Michael Young photo.

 

 

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

 

Francisco to DL.

According to multiple local reports, Frankie Francisco will miss the Red Sox series with a case of walking pneumonia.  He’s being placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to his last appearance on July 11, making him eligible to return to action on Saturday, the club’s second game in Kansas City.  C.J. Wilson stands to be tonight’s closer, if needed, despite throwing 28 (super-awesome) pitches last night.

The Rangers will recall righthander Willie Eyre to replace Francisco.  I’d speculated in last night’s report that Eyre could be on his way to town, but that was before knowing that Francisco wasn’t even available to pitch in the 12-inning win, in which the bullpen provided eight innings of shutout ball.

Of less immediate note but interesting nonetheless is today’s promotion of lefthander Corey Young, last summer’s 12th-round pick, from Bakersfield to Frisco.  If you’ve been on the mailing list for any length of time, you know Young is a favorite of mine to shoot through the system quickly.  His Blaze ERA was 2.29 (46 strikeouts and 18 walks in 39.1 relief innings) with an impressive 2.00 G/F, and left-handed Cal League hitters managed a .130/.254/.130 slash line off of him in 54 at-bats.  (Yes, the identical batting average and slug mean he hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit to a left-handed hitter all season.)

Righthander Beau Vaughan goes back to Oklahoma City to make room for Young and to replace Eyre in the RedHawks’ bullpen.

Jamey

An Ian Kinsler breakthrough?

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As little confidence as I had in Ian Kinsler all night, I promise
you: I thought to myself as he stepped in against R.A. Dickey in the 12th, this
could work out very well.

 

As a prospect Kinsler exploded through the Rangers system on
the strength of a solid all-around game, with one freakish tool: maybe the
fastest hands of any hitter developed by this organization in two decades.

 

With Dickey summoned to face Kinsler, I didn’t expect a home
run.  But I envisioned a single down the
left field line that would end the game, bringing Jarrod Saltalamacchia in from
second and an entire team out of the dugout. 
Kinsler hasn’t been seeing the ball well, and hasn’t been in a mechanical
rhythm at all for a long time now.  But with
a knuckleballer on the hill, he’d have no choice but to adjust his approach, to
read the ball, to drill it down to basics.

 

To trust his hands.

 

I thought we were going to get a rope to left, the kind that
he collected about two or three times a night in his storybook 2004 with Clinton
and Frisco.  And I thought it would be
the kind of hit, the kind of moment, that might unlock something in Kinsler
going forward. 

 

We got more than that.

 

And hopefully we’re going to start getting a lot more of it.

 

Watch the replay.  Watch
how quiet the swing mechanics are on the game-winner.  He let those plus plus hands do the work.

 

Awesome work by the bullpen
tonight (eight shutout innings, two hits, two walks, nine strikeouts),
highlighted by C.J. Wilson bringing closer stuff to the mound, Doug Mathis
looking very sharp in bridging things from Derek Holland to the back third of
the game, and Dustin Nippert digging deep. 

 

For what it’s worth, neither Willie
Eyre nor Warner Madrigal nor Neftali Feliz pitched for Oklahoma
City tonight, and it’s conceivable that Mathis goes out for one of
them to give the bullpen a fresh arm for the Boston opener Monday night.  If it’s Feliz, it will require not only that
Mathis (in all likelihood) be optioned, but also that a spot on the 40-man
roster be cleared.  Shouldn’t be a huge
problem – the club certainly has an idea of how that spot will be cleared for
Feliz eventually.  But don’t be surprised
if it’s Eyre or Madrigal who gets the call for now.

 

And don’t be surprised, if my
non-sabermetric hunch has any legs, if Kinsler starts to look like Ian Kinsler again.

 

 

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

 

Looking for throwback Kinsler and Hamilton.

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Prepped by every
writer in town, if not by our own eyes, we were all looking for the same thing
last night, aside from a win to get this 13-of-16-at-home started off right: a hint
that Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton were poised, one after four days away from
the game and the other after a corner turned at the All-Star Game, to put
disappointing first halves behind them and reignite a sluggish offense.

 

In spite of
a 5-2 deficit through three innings (and a brutal second-inning 0-2 call by
plate umpire Jim Wolf that cost the Rangers two runs), I was in a good baseball
mood.

 

In the
first inning, on the second pitch he saw, Kinsler did what he hasn’t done much
of since April, blasting a pitch on the ground, through the box, for a crisp
single.  (As for his steal of second and
taking of third on the errant throw from catcher Joe Mauer, that’s just Kins
being Kins.  That part of his game hasn’t
wandered.)  Kinsler leads baseball in fly
balls hit (his 158 is well ahead of Bengie Molina’s 144 and Vernon Wells’s 133),
and that’s not a category you want an offensive igniter and disruptive baserunner
anywhere near the top of. 

 

Hamilton homered inside the right field foul
pole linearly.  The ball exploded off the
bat and would have been a terrible punt, devoid of any hint of hang time.  The shot had 2008 written all over it.

 

Kinsler led
off the third by once again taking a pitch, and following with a smash to
center field, caught on a line for an out. 
Great-looking swing.

 

Two batters
later, Hamilton
worked a 3-1 count and rifled a single to center.  Hard.  Great
at-bat.

 

The inning
ended in the next at-bat, and Texas
remained down, 5-2, but I was starting to think about a second-half offensive
resurgence for this lineup.

 

But then
Kinsler popped out to center with a man on first in the fifth.  OK.  It’s
a process.  Everyone gets outdueled from
time to time.

 

After a Michael
Young shot to third that Elvis Andrus turned into a single by beating Joe Crede’s
throw to second, Hamilton
shot a grounder through the infield to center, scoring Andrus and making it a
5-3 game.  All three runs had come
courtesy of Hamilton’s
bat, reminiscent of any number of 2008 games.

 

In the
bottom of the seventh, Kinsler swung wildly at a two-strike pitch that nearly
hit him, a tailing Bobby Keppel fastball that was a foot inside. 

 

Hamilton
led off the eighth looking at strike three from lefthander Jose Mijares, capping
off a 3-for-4 night without further heroics.

 

In the
ninth, Kinsler, the would-be tying run, ended the game walking back to the
dugout as Mauer squeezed a pop-up behind the plate.

 

Those first
two Kinsler at-bats looked so good.

 

MUTRIHOF
(8-2, 3.83) gets a chance to help even the series tonight against Twins
righthander Scott Baker (7-7, 5.42). 
Kinsler is a lifetime 2 for 7 with a walk off Baker, both hits for
singles.  I’d very much like to see a
couple more singles and a walk tonight.  Grab
the extra bases on foot rather than with the bat.  Leave the slugging to Hamilton, for instance,
who in one career game against Baker (April 26 last year) singled the opposite
way, doubled the opposite way with the bases loaded, and walked with a man on.

 

Lots of
good stuff from the farm last night.  I won’t
steal Scott’s thunder by running it all down, but of relatively immediate interest
are two things:

 

Neftali
Feliz came in on the eighth inning of Oklahoma
City’s 9-7 win (with the RedHawks down at the time,
7-3), and threw 17 pitches, 11 for strikes. 
He retired Round Rock’s 4-5-6 hitters in order, on a strikeout swinging,
a grounder to first, and another strikeout swinging.

 

Notably, it
was Feliz’s first time to pitch on a second straight night.  On Thursday he’d given up a single to start the
eighth before holding Express first baseman Mark Saccomanno on well enough to
allow catcher Kevin Richardson to gun him down on an attempted steal, then
coaxed a popout to second and a groundout to shortstop.  Ten pitches, six strikes.

 

Two quiet
eighth innings.  Having passed the
consecutive nights test, pretty soon Feliz is going to be showing up, maybe not
immediately in the eighth inning but soon thereafter, wearing a cap with a “T”
on it.

 

Chris Davis,
through five innings last night, drew a walk, struck out on a hit-and-run, and grounded
into a double play started by the shortstop. 
Not a great start to his game, but I added the placement of the double
play grounder for a reason.

 

In Davis’s next three at-bats, Davis doubled to left.  Doubled to left.  And doubled to left.

 

Davis is now hitting .395/.455/.684 since
returning to AAA, not only with hits in eight of his nine games but in fact
just about two hits per game in those eight. 
He’s obviously seeing the ball well and has something straightened out
mechanically, as he’s going the opposite way again, just like he did with
regularity in 2008.

 

When I tune
into Rangers-Twins tonight, I’ll be looking for a little more of that “just like
he did with regularity in 2008,” from the leadoff hitter and the number three
man.

 

 

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

 

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