July 2009

How to vote Ian Kinsler onto the AL All-Star team.

MLB has announced that Ian Kinsler was beaten out by Dustin Pedroia in All-Star balloting for the starting second base nod (by roughly 73,000 votes), and was not chosen for a spot on the team by players and coaches, who instead selected Aaron Hill as the reserve second baseman. 

Kinsler is, however, one of five players in contention for the final spot on the American League team, along with Carlos Pena, Adam Lind, Brandon Inge, and Chone Figgins. 

That roster spot will be selected via fan balloting that is now underway and concludes this Thursday at 3:00 p.m.  You can vote online (via texasrangers.com or mlb.com), or by mobile phone if you’re a Sprint, Nextel, or Boost subscriber.  To vote for Kinsler by mobile phone, text A3 to 1122.

Jamey

Good hitting beating good pitching.

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In the 19 games that
followed the New York-Boston trip at the beginning of June, Texas faced these starting pitchers:

 

Casey Janssen

Brian Tallet

Ricky Romero

Hideki Kuroda

Randy Wolf

Chad Billingsley

Wandy Rodriguez

Russ Ortiz

Brandon Backe

Randy Johnson

Matt Cain

Bary Zito

Max Scherzer

Dan Haren

Jon Garland

Walter Silva

Kevin Correia

Chad Gaudin

Sean O’Sullivan

 

In the four games since
that run, the Rangers’ opposing starters have been:

 

Joe Saunders

Jered Weaver

Scott Kazmir

David Price

 

If you were taking on the
Rangers, you might take Billingsley, Rodriguez, Cain, and Haren from that first
group over the foursome Texas has just finished facing, but it wouldn’t be a
slam dunk (Kazmir has struggled this season but is a career Rangers-slayer).

 

But taking the first
group as a whole, you also have a handful of journeymen, veterans on the tail
end (if not released since the above match-ups), and rookies far less heralded
than Price. 

 

The Rangers’ offense in
games started by the first group: .212/.277/.365.

 

In the
Saunders/Weaver/Kazmir/Price games: .307/.389/.606.

 

Texas was 7-12 in the first grouping,
falling from 4.5 games up in the division to 2.5 games back.

 

The club went 4-0 in the
next grouping (which included two games started by Rangers rookies who’d never
won a big league start), and is back to a tie atop the West.

 

Will Josh Hamilton’s
return to the lineup help?  Of course.

 

But has his absence been a
legitimate excuse for the offensive ineptitude that highlighted the Rangers’ three-week
slide?  Far from it.

 

It’s beyond obvious to
suggest that if the offense is finally re-finding its stride, and if the pitching
continues to give this club workmanlike efficiency, and if the defense doesn’t
slump (it shouldn’t, but if Chris Davis is taken out of the lineup we’ll notice
a difference), then there’s no reason Texas
can’t stick around in the race all summer.

 

I still think the bullpen
needs another righthander (though maybe less so than a couple weeks ago), but at
this point it’s fair to expect help to arrive internally, considering the lack of
teams who have fallen into the seller category and the emergence of a handful of
righties at Oklahoma City who could help soon. 

 

Orlando Hernandez (five
innings, one hit, one walk, six strikeouts) is likely to get the first look, if
for no other reason than his minor league deal permits him to leave for another
opportunity if he’s not added to the big club by July 20.  He’s worked on a day of rest twice and two
days once for the RedHawks.  Expect to
see him used on consecutive days soon.

 

Neftali Feliz (4.2
innings, one run on three hits and one walk, four strikeouts in three relief
appearances): same issue.  His work has
come on three days’ rest, two days, and two days.  He last pitched on Wednesday.  Chances are Hernandez will be tested on
back-to-back days before Feliz is.

 

In Warner Madrigal’s last
16 Oklahoma City
appearances, he’s issued zero walks and set 21 hitters down on strikes.  Over that stretch, he’s allowed four runs (2.08
ERA) on 13 hits in 17.1 innings, saving eight games in eight opportunities.  Is he earning some trust back?

 

Hernandez would cost the removal
of someone else from the 40-man roster, as would Feliz (another reason
Hernandez might get a look before Feliz does). 
Same with Dustin Nippert, who is presently on the 60-day disabled list but
pitching well as Texas
gets him not only back into pitching rhythm but also into a starter’s
routine. 

 

Would Nippert be a better
option to reinforce the rotation than, say, San Diego’s
Correia, in whom Texas
is reported (by Peter Gammons) to have shown interest?  It’s an interesting question.  Correia is making $750,000 as a second-year arbitration
player, will have one more season before he’ll be eligible to take free agency,
and had an impressive 5-3, 3.57 run in 10 May and June starts (including eight quality
starts, culminating with a strong seven-inning, nine-strikeout, one-walk effort
in Arlington on June 27), but who does he replace in the rotation?

 

Kevin Millwood and
Vicente Padilla (whose start in Anaheim
Tuesday night needs to be a lot better than his June 29 home effort against the
Angels) and Scott Feldman are locks. 
Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland are coming off excellent starts against
what had been a hot Rays lineup, and Matt Harrison should be back soon.

 

Is Correia a better bet
than three of Harrison, Hunter, Holland,
and Nippert?  Maybe.  But Correia would cost Texas at least one legitimate prospect.  Nippert will cost the exposure of the 40th
player on the roster to waivers – or maybe just a transfer of Brandon McCarthy to
the 60-day DL himself – and the other three internal options will cost Texas nothing.

 

Texas has shown some interest in struggling Yankees
starter Chien-Ming Wang, says Sports
Illustrated
‘s Jon Heyman, but he left his start yesterday with a shoulder
strain and is back on the disabled list.

 

Oklahoma City outfielder Brandon Boggs
dislocated his left shoulder on routine catch on Friday.  No word yet on how much time he’s expected to
miss. 

 

RedHawks catcher/DH Max
Ramirez has been sidelined since Tuesday with continued wrist soreness.

 

The Rangers released Frisco
left-handed reliever Joe Torres, who had an impressive 28 strikeouts in 22
innings, a 2.36 groundout-to-flyout rate, a .235 opponents’ average, and a 3.68
ERA in 17 RoughRiders appearances, but two things roadblocked any thought of
him helping the Rangers this season: 22 walks in those 22 innings, and the
effectiveness at AAA of fellow southpaws A.J. Murray (1.19 ERA, no home runs, 2.37
G/F, 24/12 K/BB in 30.1 innings, no extra-base hits in 42 at-bats by
left-handed hitters) and Mike Hinckley (2.17 ERA).  Those two were clearly going to get looks
before the 26-year-old Torres if the need for another left-handed bullpen arm were
to arise.

 

Outfielders Mitch Moreland
(.330/.397/.535 between Bakersfield and Frisco) and
Tim Smith (.342/.406/.476 between Bakersfield
and Frisco) both found spots on Baseball
America
‘s Mid-Season Minor League All-Surprise Team.

 

Right-handed reliever
Brendan Donnelly, who got a camp look with Texas,
opted out of his minor league deal with Houston to
sign a big league deal with Florida.  Donnelly posted a 1.75 ERA in 24 relief
appearances with AAA Round Rock (23 strikeouts and seven walks in 25.2 innings,
no home runs) and has joined the Marlins’ pen.

 

Yes, with 20-year-old Elvis
Andrus in place, shortstop may be the position at which Texas
arguably has the least long-term planning to do, and yet the top two 16-year-olds
the Rangers reportedly signed in the last few days as the international signing
period opened – Curacao’s Jurickson Profar and Venezuela’s Luis Sardinas – are shortstops. 

 

The two situations are
unrelated.

 

For a depressing story about
how this organization did a poor job planning ahead at another premium position
in the decade or so before Jon Daniels took over as general manager, click here.

 

Another questionable Rangers
decision came in 2005, when the club drafted Stanford outfielder John Mayberry
Jr. with the 19th pick in the first round, with Fresno State
righthander Matt Garza among others still on the board. 

 

Tonight Texas faces Garza, who has a 1.98 career ERA
against the Rangers (and a 2.08 ERA in Rangers Ballpark). 

 

But Scott Feldman (3.00
ERA) has been effective in his career against the Rays as well, and maybe more
importantly, the Rangers offense – at least over the last four days – seems to
have found a long-lost rhythm at the plate, no matter who is standing 60 feet,
six inches away.

 

 

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

 

Sardinas reportedly signed.

From
Baseball America minutes ago:

 

Multiple sources confirmed that the
Rangers have signed 16-year-old Luis Sardinas, a switch-hitting shortstop from Venezuela.

No terms of the deal are available,
but the bonus is believed to be at least $1 million.  Sardinas, who is 6-foot, 150 pounds, was one
of the best defensive shortstops on the market this year from Latin
America with excellent hands and good range.  The Rangers are also expected to sign
Jurickson Profar a righthander/shortstop from Curacao.

Smoaklahoma.

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Chris Davis played 46 AA games in 2008, and after 186 Frisco
at-bats (.333/.376/.618) triggered a promotion to AAA.

 

Justin Smoak has played 50 AA games in 2009, and after 183 Frisco
at-bats (.328/.449/.481) has triggered a promotion to AAA, according to
multiple local and national reports this morning.

 

Davis needed 31 AAA games (111
at-bats) to prove he was ready for Arlington.

 

Smoak’s Frisco OPS (.930) wasn’t quite as gaudy as Davis’s
(.994), but given the dramatic difference in base-reaching, a skill that the
current Rangers offense craves far more than slug, I’m guessing Smoak won’t
need 111 Oklahoma City at-bats before the decision is made that it’s time to
fit him for the big league uniform that he modeled 10 and a half months ago at
the press conference announcing his signing with the Rangers as their
first-round draft pick.

 

The RedHawks travel home from Iowa today to host the Omaha Royals.  In uniform will be Josh Hamilton, as he
continues his rehab work en route to a return to the Rangers lineup.

 

Smoak will be Hamilton’s teammate tonight, and while the
type of fine-tuning he’ll be doing as a RedHawk isn’t the same as Hamilton’s,
his timetable to get to Arlington, one way or another, and join Hamilton in the
Texas lineup, just sped up a bit. 

 

 

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

 

Profar reportedly signed

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com: “Word has
been confirmed that the Rangers have signed Jurickson Profar, a former Little
League World Series star from Curacao.  The 16-year-old Profar is one of the top
prospects to sign on international signing day.  He is a pitcher and a shortstop who led Curacao to the Little League World Series title in 2004.”

 

This is big news.  Profar has said he prefers shortstop, and the
speculation the last few days is that the Rangers would be inclined to let him
stay there.

Texas 9, Los Angeles 7.

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The smarter team tonight, on the basepaths and in the
dugout, wasn’t the one that the national scribes (and a cross-section of the
local ones) like to credit for having a leg up on the field in those
areas. 

 

The team that’s 5-1 this season against the other isn’t the
one they all would have expected.

 

Neither team would die tonight.  Until one of them did.

 

Frosty Rivera has been my baseball nemesis for about three
years now, and tonight I think he vested a two- or three-year extension on that.

 

On the other hand, I’ve been hard on Hank Blalock for a
while now, and tonight he earned a reprieve. 

 

That’s a game I won’t forget for a while and that Max may
not forget ever.  His memorable night
started with a 2-1 pitch to Torii Hunter that ended the top of the first,
6-to-3-to-Max, as Chris Davis hauled in the Omar Vizquel throw for the third
out and tossed Max the ball from 30 feet as he jogged toward the dugout. 

 

Six innings later, as a 7-1 lead was whittled down to 7-4,
Max stood for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and placed his hand over his
heart. 

 

There’s no chance my wife and I were going to correct him.  The only possible response to our four-year-old’s
move was to join him, hand over heart. 

 

It wasn’t until about 11:00, when we were halfway home from
the Ballpark, having heard the radio replay of Eric Nadel’s inspired call of Blalock’s
game-ending blast – his second homer of the game but only the first walkoff round-tripper
of his career – that Max finally conked out in the car.  It was three hours past his bedtime, but he’d
been running strong on adrenaline from the way that game played out, and
ended. 

 

When we pulled into the garage and I opened the car door to
lift him so I could carry him to his bedroom, he was fast asleep, but still
clutching that baseball that Kevin Millwood, Vizquel, and Davis had recorded a
major league out with before it was relayed his way. 

 

So here we are, a half-game back, having treated the Angels’
best two starters badly.  Tomorrow the
team rests as it awaits Tampa
Bay’s Friday arrival,
while the front office likely opens the July 2 international signing period
with a bang. 

 

A good day of baseball, surprising in many respects, except perhaps
in the eyes of a four-year-old, a kid who has become so accustomed to the great
moments that this game has to offer that maybe they’re hardly surprising at
all.

 

 

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

 

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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