Good baseball.

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I was flipping through a month-old issue of Sports Illustrated yesterday that had in
it an excerpt from Selena Roberts’s book on Alex Rodriguez.  The excerpt was subtitled “A-Rod in Texas” and detailed the
ugliness of A-Rod’s first season as a Ranger, on and off the field.  Roberts noted that, as of June 8, 2001, 59
games into the first season of the $252 million man’s 10-year contract, Texas was 27 games out
of first place. 

 

As of that date, the Rangers’ team ERA was 6.06, and
opponents were hitting an obnoxiously healthy .309/.375/.499.  The club was as bad as it had been the year
before, despite A-Rod’s arrival.  That week
was marked by the drafting of Mark Teixeira and a decision by pitching coach
Larry Hardy to demote himself back to bullpen coach.

 

And yet before last night, if you were to listen to talk
radio or read certain columnists the last few days, you’d probably be fighting off
a message that the 2009 Rangers, nearing the end of June, were as buried as the
2001 club that was 20-39 on June 8, following a home loss to Houston in front
of more than 47,000 fans.

 

With last night’s all-cylinders win (I’m choosing to ignore
that disgusting ninth inning), Texas is back to within 1.5 games of the Angels’
division lead, and yet will need tonight’s series finale, with Kevin Millwood (2.64
ERA) facing Jered Weaver (2.65 ERA), first place against second place, to
surpass in three nights the attendance that the club drew on that night eight years
ago when it was 27 games back.

 

There’s no reason not to have 30,000 in the building tonight.  Ace on ace, a chance to go 5-1 for the season
against Los Angeles, the final home game against
the Angels until mid-September, an opportunity to go into an off-day with what
ought to be a rested bullpen as Tampa
Bay gets ready to come to
town.

 

But before you pack up your crew to get to Arlington tonight, make sure to place your
All-Star votes today.  Ian Kinsler’s (.267/.344/.521)
lead over Dustin Pedroia (.289/.370/.382) for the American League nod at second
base has shrunk from 200,000 votes to a scant 6,830, and balloting closes tomorrow.  If you go to TexasRangers.com (specifically, here) and
vote the maximum 25 times, you’ll get two free tickets to a future Rangers
game.

 

(Milton Bradley voted 25 times in Sports Illustrated‘s recent
poll of 380 players
as to which manager they’d least like to play for.  Lou Piniella “won” with 26 percent of the
vote.)

 

It appears that Elvis Andrus is going to finish third in the
shortstop vote (behind Derek Jeter and Jason Bartlett), and it’s not out of the
question that it’s going to be the lowest finish for him for many years.  Can’t rule out that he gets a shot to suit up
this year, actually.

 

Loved the five home runs and the five stolen bases last
night, but under the surface I dug this just as much:

 

Thirty-one foul balls in 3.2 innings off of Joe Saunders
(who hadn’t lost in a month).  Eight of
them in David Murphy’s first two trips.

 

That’s good baseball. 
That’s how you help dispose of a good starting pitcher in heat like this
early in the game, and get to a bad bullpen. 

 

“He kind of provides an element we don’t have a lot of:
speed, contact, doesn’t strike out, puts the ball in play.”  Jon Daniels said that about Julio Borbon when
he was called up on Monday, but last night – at long last – it could have been
said about the Rangers attack as a whole. 
More of that, please.

 

Borbon ought to be in the lineup to make his defensive debut
tonight, but it’s going to be interesting to see which of Murphy, Marlon Byrd, or
Nelson Cruz – each of whom was really locked in last night – will sit against
Weaver to make room.  Or will Hank Blalock
not get the start against the righthander? 
That wouldn’t go over real well with the veteran, who has already bristled
a bit about his playing time. 

 

That, of course, is to say nothing of Josh Hamilton’s return
within a week.  (Hamilton went 1 for 4 with a walk and a stolen
base as Frisco’s DH on Monday.  His rehab
tour continues with Oklahoma City
tonight as the RoughRiders host tonight’s Texas League All-Star Game.)

 

Happy 29th Birthday to Cruz, who is a
.214/.214/.214 lifetime hitter against Weaver in 14 extra-base-hitless at-bats.

 

Then again, Cruz was a .200/.200/.467 hitter against Saunders
before last night’s 1 for 2 with a home run.

 

The bullpen over the last five games: 16 innings pitched, one
earned run, 10 hits, one walk, 16 strikeouts.

 

There are some pitchers in Oklahoma City making a case to be up here.

 

Righthander Dustin Nippert in his three rehab appearances
with Frisco and one with the RedHawks the past two weeks: 14 innings, one run,
five hits, four walks, 11 strikeouts.  If
you think he’s being ramped up to step into a back-of-the-bullpen role, you
might want to think again: his four outings have lasted two, three, four, and
five innings, and he’s now on a five-day schedule.

 

Meanwhile, righthander Guillermo Moscoso in his return
effort for the RedHawks after being optioned back to the farm: five shutout innings,
two singles, no walks, two strikeouts.

 

Righthander Neftali Feliz in his two relief appearances for Oklahoma City: 3.2
innings, one run on three hits and a walk, three strikeouts.  It’s not time yet: he has yet to pitch on consecutive
days; in fact, he has yet to pitch on one day’s rest. 

 

Righthander Orlando Hernandez in his three RedHawks relief
appearances: three innings, one run on one hit (a solo homer) and one walk,
five strikeouts.

 

Get this: Righthander Warner Madrigal issued seven walks in
his first seven AAA appearances this year, spanning 10 innings.  In his ensuing 15 games pitched (16.2
innings), he hasn’t walked anyone – and fanned 21.  Overall, he has a 2.03 Oklahoma City ERA and is holding opponents
to a good-looking .181/.235/.309 line. 

 

Lefthander A.J. Murray had an ERA of 0.71 in June, and is at
1.27 overall for the RedHawks.  Left-handed
AAA hitters are hitting .216/.310/.216 off him.

 

Lefthander Mike Hinckley in nine June relief appearances:
1.80 ERA.  In his overall time with the
RedHawks, lefties are hitting .194/.324/.290 off him.

 

A Detroit Tigers blogger named Eddie Bajek attempted a year
ago to reverse-engineer the Elias free agent ranking formula, and if his
snapshot rankings are accurate, Vicente Padilla could be a Type A free agent
after the season if he continues to pitch like he has.  Type A’s, if they are offered arbitration in
the off-season but sign elsewhere, net the clubs that lose them a first- or
second-round pick plus a supplemental first-rounder.

 

Some local reports indicated over the weekend that German
Duran had already signed a new minor league deal with Texas after being placed on release waivers,
while others reported that he wouldn’t be clear to do so until today.  The latter is more likely, but in any event
it seems clear that Duran will remain in the system.

 

Incidentally, the reason Duran was placed on release waivers
rather than designated for assignment and then placed on outright waivers is
that you can’t do the latter with an injured player.  Duran is recovering from an appendectomy.

 

Baseball America‘s
online cover story
this morning is on Hickory lefthander Yoon-Hee Nam
, who sits at 7-1, 1.73
in four Crawdads starts and 15 relief appearances (57 strikeouts in 52 innings,
30 hits and 17 walks).

 

Eric Nadel underwent successful a procedure to strengthen
the attachment of the retina in his right eye on Monday, and will return to the
radio booth tonight.  He is expected,
however, miss next week’s road trip to Anaheim
and Seattle, as
he’s not supposed to fly yet.

 

Napoli: Italian for “bad
beard.”

 

Texas has signed its
second-round pick, Fresno
State third baseman Tommy
Mendonca.  He debuted for Spokane last night, striking
out looking as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter in a 6-5, 10-inning Indians loss to
Tri-City.  Mendonca was the Western
Athletic Conference player of the year this season, hitting .339/.447/.721 with
27 homers (third most in the country) and 78 RBI in 62 games.

 

Last year’s second-round pick, lefthander Robbie Ross, got the
start for Spokane
in the game, fanning nine in 5.1 innings. 
In 15.1 pro innings, all in the last week and a half, Ross has punched
out 24 while issuing only three walks (though he does lead the Northwest League
with four home runs allowed, in what is the third-highest workload in the
league).

 

But Ross and every other mortal bows down in one sense to
Dominican Summer League lefthander Miguel De Los Santos (who I had on my
breakout list in the 2007 Bound Edition, before he fell victim to Tommy John surgery
that season), who has thrown 15.2 innings in the month-old season, striking out
41.  You might recall from my June 13
report that he had one strikeout not go for an out (dropped third strike), so
it’s seven outs rather than just six that the 20-year-old has recorded on balls
in play.  But come on: 47 outs, 41
strikeouts, two hits (.038 average), nine walks, one run. 

 

Yes: 41 strikeouts, two hits.

 

He’s good at baseball.

 

For what it’s worth, lefthander Martin Perez and righthander
Jake Brigham are no longer pitching in tandem for Low A Hickory.

 

The Rangers’ 32nd-round pick, Florida high school outfielder Reggie
Williams Jr., was named a first-team All-USA player by USA Today.

 

Remember when righthander Dan Haren pinch-hit for Arizona against the
Rangers last week and struck out after failing to get a bunt down off of C.J.
Wilson?  Haren – who homered and doubled for
the Diamondbacks last night – homered off Wilson
when the two were college opponents.

 

Lefthander Kason Gabbard in three starts for AAA Portland in
the Boston
system: 0-3, 19.64 (16 runs on 14 hits, 14 walks, and three hit batsmen in 7.1
innings).  Ouch.

 

The Dodgers’ AA affiliate at Chattanooga signed a new second baseman last
week: 29-year-old Ramon Nivar.

 

Righthander Brandt Walker, the Austin high schooler whom
Texas used its 21st-round pick on in the 2006 draft (four rounds
before popping Derek Holland) but failed to sign, was Houston’s eighth-round
pick out of Stanford three weeks ago.  He’s
already signed and is pitching in relief for Tri-City in the New York-Penn
League.

 

The baseball that Grant Schiller is donating for auction at Newberg
Report Night on August 2, which already included the signatures of Michael Young,
Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Kevin Millwood, Scott Feldman, David Murphy, Taylor Teagarden,
Derek Holland, Jeff Zimmerman, Jeff Russell, and Travis Metcalf, now also
includes Josh Hamilton.

 

The international signing period opens tomorrow.

 

In the meantime, the latest huge game in the most
fascinating Rangers season in years is tonight.

 

 

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

 

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