Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the throwback.

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Back on July 11, buried in a report I sent after midnight
following a win over Seattle,
I wrote: “I’m worried about Jarrod Saltalamacchia.” 


It wasn’t so much what he’d been doing at the plate – he was
4 for his last 19 but that wasn’t the cause of my concern – instead it what was
going on behind it.


For about a week at that point, I was feeling sympathy pains
as Rangers pitcher after Rangers pitcher was having to bend all the way down or
lunge in one direction or another to catch Saltalamacchia’s return throw after
a pitch not put in play – not physical pain but the feeling of being taken out
of rhythm, like a spot shooter fumbling a skip pass behind the three-point
line, or a punter having to field the snap off the turf. 


A month later, an errant Saltalamacchia throw back to the mound
cost the Rangers a run, though fortunately the club was able to overcome it and
pull out a win yesterday.  But Saltalamacchia
wasn’t there calling the final pitches of the game, having been replaced not
long after his wild first-inning throw five feet wide of Tommy Hunter allowed
an unearned run to score. 


The removal of Saltalamacchia from the lineup was not
punishment but instead a concession to what’s being described as a “dead arm,” a
scary proposition for a catcher under any circumstances, but going into a set
of three in Los Angeles, a huge series against a club that happens to be second
in baseball in stolen bases, it carries added significance.  Texas
plays a day game after a night game on Saturday, and if the club doesn’t want
Taylor Teagarden catching both games, a roster move will need to made even if a
disabled list move isn’t planned for Saltalamacchia – unless the plan is to have
Saltalamacchia catch Kevin Millwood, who doesn’t hold runners particularly well.  Could be a track meet that day.


There’s not an obvious solution if the club wants to have
another catcher in uniform.  Max Ramirez
is apparently close to a return to action but hasn’t caught a game in more than
six weeks.  He’s the only other catcher
on the 40-man roster, which means someone would have to be taken off the roster
in order to get Manny Pina (who will need to be added to the roster this winter
in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft) or Kevin Richardson or Emerson
Frostad up here.


(The next roster casualty, whenever it’s needed, is almost
certainly going to be Joaquin Arias.  He’ll
be out of options after this season, and even if he’s successfully removed from
the roster and outrighted, he’ll have six-year free agency rights this winter
if off the roster.  After his very
disappointing showing over the past week, I think it’s reasonable to expect
that Arias has played his final game as a Ranger.)


In the meantime, Julio Borbon is with the team (he was able
to make the 85-mile drive to Oakland from Sacramento, where Oklahoma City had been
playing) and is reportedly set to be activated in time for tonight’s Angels
series opener, as Nelson Cruz is still sidelined with a sprained left ankle and
the Rangers have accordingly been playing with a short bench.  Cruz evidently won’t go on the disabled list,
meaning a reliever (Doug Mathis?) will likely hop back on the Texas-Oklahoma City
shuttle for the time being.


I’m sick of talking about injuries.


While I’m worried about Saltalamacchia, I’m getting less and
less so about Josh Hamilton.  He’s been squaring
up for about a week now, even if his 5 for 20 stretch doesn’t leap off the
page.  He’s going the other way,
reminiscent of 2008, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up with an August
that looks more like last season’s Josh Hamilton than the version we’ve seen this
season.  That would be huge for this


(That last sentence was real insightful, huh?)


Fascinating story from the local beat reporters yesterday,
pointing out that Hamilton recently weaned himself off of an Attention Deficit
Disorder medication, and as a result has felt his energy level and appetite –
and 10 of the 20 pounds he’d lost – come back.


Just as Hamilton
hints at returning to form, Reds righthander Edinson Volquez saw his 2009
season end and his 2010 season jeopardized as he underwent Tommy John surgery on
Monday.  Jonah Keri wrote an
excellent story for Sports Illustrated

on the strange turns the Hamilton-for-Volquez(-and-Herrera) trade has taken.


Millwood’s recent inactivity due to a pulled glute isn’t
going to endanger his chances to lock in his 2010 contract.  He needs 42 more innings to vest, and at his
rate of 6.2 innings per start, that equates to seven more starts in Texas’s final 55 games. 


Millwood = good vest. 
Milton Bradley = bad vest.  When Bradley
appeared in his 75th game of the season a couple weeks ago, his $12
million 2011 option locked in.  The start
of his Cubs career has been a near-disaster.


Hank Blalock since the All-Star Break: .195/.195/.299.  Correct: zero walks (and 24 strikeouts), in
77 plate appearances.


Michael Young since the Break: .405/.463/.757.  Twelve of his 30 hits have gone for extra


Young needs 64 hits in the Rangers’ remaining 55 games to
reach 200 for the year.  He’s on pace for
208 hits if he plays every day the rest of the way. 


Andruw Jones through May 29 (23 games): .303/.443/.605, 19
walks, 17 strikeouts. 


Jones since then (40 games): .186/.277/.486, 18 walks, 32


My opinion: They have very different games, diametrically opposite
in some ways, but if Scott Feldman were on the late 1990s Rangers clubs, with
that offense, he’d have won a Rick Helling-esque 20 games just as Helling did
in 1998. 


Don’t rule out the possibility that Tommy Hunter eventually becomes
that guy.


Hunter was runner-up for AL Rookie of the Month honors in
July (behind White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham).  Young was second to Angels outfielder Bobby
Abreu for AL Player of the Month.


No, the fastball that Neftali Feliz grooved for Adam Kennedy
wasn’t the pitch he wanted to throw.  Still:
Feliz has faced 12 big league hitters, retiring 11 of them.


Six strikeouts in 3.1 innings.


Forty-four pitches, 33 strikes.  A number of them changeups and breaking


As Ron Washington said after Feliz’s debut on Monday, the
velocity and the strikeouts are impressive, but no more so than the percentage
of pitches the 21-year-old is throwing for strikes.


When Texas
returns home a week from today, they’ll have the Red Sox in town.  The first time Feliz emerges from the bullpen
and jogs in towards the mound, that building is going to erupt.


Brandon McCarthy’s AAA rehab assignment kicks off tomorrow
with what’s expected to be a two- or three-inning appearance for Oklahoma City.


The revocable August waivers process is in full swing.  San Diego
righthander Chad Gaudin and Washington
infielder Anderson Hernandez were both traded yesterday.  They won’t be the most prominent big leaguers
traded this month.


The deadline for Texas
to sign first-round pick Matt Purke (and all other unsigned draft choices other
than supplemental first-rounder Tanner Scheppers) arrives in 10 days.  The August 17 deadline doesn’t apply to
Scheppers, who exhausted his amateur eligibility by pitching in the independent
leagues this spring.


The Rangers have nominated Young and C.J. Wilson for the
national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service by an Athlete,
presented by NFL Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott’s non-profit organization.  You can vote for Wilson and Young at the All
Stars Helping Kids website (www.allstarshelpingkids.org)
and via text message through November 15.


has hired former Rangers director of minor league operations John Lombardo as a
pro scout.


Rangers team physician Keith Meister handled the recent arthroscopic
surgery on Arizona
righthander Brandon Webb’s shoulder.


I’m not sure there’s anything Dr. Meister will be able to do
for Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s shoulder.  It
seems that what might be needed in his case is a bunch of rest, but the team
doesn’t have that luxury. 


It’s far from the only problem on the team, and not even
near the top of the list, but Saltalamacchia has got to get things right with
his throwing, physically and mentally.  I
know it borders on taboo to mention the names of Mackey Sasser and Mike Ivie (and
Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel); hopefully there’s nothing more
than a minor shoulder issue at work here that a lighter workload can help get
sorted out.  It’s tough to watch right now. 





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(c) Jamey Newberg




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