Big Game Hunter.

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Want another piece of evidence that it’s a new day and age for
Rangers baseball?  The club’s number seven,
eight, and 10 starters in 2009 (Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, and Dustin Nippert)
have started the club’s last three games. 
In those starts, they’ve thrown 22.2 innings – 21.2 of which were
scoreless.  All told (including Nippert’s
five-run third on Tuesday), that trio struck out 23 hitters in those 22.2
innings, walked three, and allowed only 15 hits (13 singles and two
doubles).  They averaged 13 pitches per
inning (12 if you take out the bad Nippert inning), and threw 70 percent of
their pitches for strikes. 

 

Rare has been the season when Texas didn’t need well over 10 starters this
deep into the year.  Even rarer, I suspect,
has been a year in which the reinforcements have been this good.

 

Since Hunter joined the Rangers rotation for good on June 28,
he leads the American League with a 1.97 ERA (over eight starts).

 

Repeat: Since June 28,
Tommy Hunter leads the AL
in ERA.

 

The Rangers lead the American League with eight shutouts.  Are second in the league in team ERA (4.15).  Have issued the third-fewest walks (360).

 

On August 7, I wrote: “I’m getting less and less [worried]
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.”

 

Two more doubles and a single for Hamilton last night – two of the hits going
to the opposite field – and he now sits at .359/.435/.538 for the month of August. 

 

Frame of reference?  Hamilton had only one
month in 2008 with as high a batting average (September’s .366), only one month
with as high an on-base percentage (September’s .443), and only two months with
as high a slug (April’s .604 and May’s .617). 

 

And another thing: Hamilton
has more walks this month (six) than strikeouts (five).  He’s never had a month like that before in
the big leagues.

 

Over the last five weeks, eight of 10 runners that Jason Jennings
has inherited have come around to score.

 

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Texas
and Tampa Bay have been among the most aggressive clubs
in terms of claiming players on revocable August waivers, mostly hitters in the
Rangers’ case.  To date, none of the
claims have been awarded, as the clubs floating the players have pulled each of
the players back. 

 

In a note that may or may not be related, ESPN’s Buster
Olney reports that the Mets pulled Gary Sheffield back a couple days ago after
he was claimed by an unidentified club.

 

Once a player is placed on August waivers and pulled back,
he cannot be traded for the duration of the season.

 

Ian Kinsler was hit by the third pitch of the game in his first
rehab effort for Frisco last night.  He
moved to second on a walk and to third on a walk, and scored on a double play
ground ball.  Kinsler walked in his
second trip.  He popped out to shortstop his
third time up, and flew out to center after that.  He played second base and made several plays
without incident before being lifted after the top of the seventh.  (Not a health issue.  Likely just a stamina concession, a ramp-up.)

 

Lefthander Martin Perez got the start in the game, making
his AA debut in a 10-9 RoughRiders loss that saw Frisco score five times in the
ninth.  It wasn’t pretty.  In what was his worst outing as a pro, Perez allowed
three runs in the first, one in the second, and three in the third before exiting
with two outs.  The 18-year-old permitted
eight hits (including one home run), a walk, and a wild pitch, fanning three.  Two Drillers baserunners stole second on his
watch.

 

It doesn’t change Perez’s blue-chippiness.  And the silver lining is that the Rangers -
for the first time, really – get the chance now to see how the mature teenager
responds to a little baseball adversity.

 

Brandon McCarthy’s Oklahoma
City rehab outing last night: three scoreless innings,
three singles, one walk, two strikeouts. 
Sixteen pitches per inning, 69 percent for strikes. 

 

The best Pacific Coast League fastball, according to league managers
in a Baseball America poll?  Neftali Feliz’s, of course.  The league’s best defensive first baseman:
Justin Smoak.

 

Kevin Youkilis will not appeal his five-game suspension by
the league for charging the mound against Detroit
and, as a result, will miss the entire weekend series with the Rangers in Arlington.

 

The Rangers signed North Carolina
high school righthander Nick McBride, the club’s fifth-round draft pick in June,
persuading him to forgo a scholarship to East Carolina
University.  Texas has now signed each of its first nine
picks with the exception of first-rounder Matt Purke, whose deadline to sign is
Monday, and supplemental first-rounder Tanner Scheppers, whose deadline will reportedly
be one week before next June’s draft.

 

Scheppers’s agent, Greg Genske, reportedly told clubs the 22-year-old,
who is working out in California,
would be auditioning for about a half dozen Japanese teams.

 

Yet one more way I’m not exactly like Nolan Ryan: In a July Dallas Morning News chat session, Ryan
said he threw a softball 309 feet in high school.  I threw a softball 295 feet my sophomore year
in college.

 

(Oh, and since about a dozen of you asked after the confusing
open to my Sunday report – no, I didn’t reinjure my shoulder.  I’ll be indebted if you’ll just join me in
praying for a spot of short-lived, heavy rains this Sunday morning [not enough
to endanger that afternoon's Rangers-Red Sox finale, of course].  If our concerted effort can make something
out of that puny 10 percent chance and we can get my league’s best-of-three championship
washed out, I’ll be able to play when it’s rescheduled.) 

 

(Thanks.)

 

Milwaukee
recalled outfielder Jason Bourgeois as part of its dramatic slew of roster
moves yesterday.  The 2000 Rangers
second-rounder debuted in the big leagues last year, getting three White Sox
at-bats.  Colorado purchased righthander Adam Eaton’s
contract from AAA Colorado Springs, where he’d gone 3-3, 2.67 in 10 starts and
two relief appearances.

 

San Diego
released righthander John Hudgins.  Florida signed righthander Esteban Yan and Baltimore signed
outfielder Freddy Guzman to AAA contracts. 
The Mets released righthander Brandon Knight so he could accept a deal
to play in Korea.

 

Hudgins, an early Newberg Report favorite, was the Rangers’
third-round pick in 2003, Grady Fuson’s second draft for the club.  Fuson, who had also used an Oakland pick on
the righthander three years earlier (when Hudgins was coming out of high school),
praised the Stanford ace from day one as a pitchability and command monster, a
smart pitcher whose modest low-90s radar gun readings worked because of his
mound savvy and his ability to pound the strike zone with all his pitches and
chew up innings. 

 

In his first full minor league season, Hudgins dashed
through the system, jumping from High A to AA to AAA and promptly looking like
he’d be a hit from that pitching-rich 2003 Rangers’ draft class, along with
John Danks and Wes Littleton (and 30th-rounder Scott Feldman, of
course).

 

Tommy Hunter arrived in 2007 with some similarities in his
profile.  Strike-thrower.  Plus makeup. 
Chance to come quickly.  Hunter
was the Rangers’ fifth pick that summer, but as a supplemental first-rounder in
a pitching-heavy crop that boasted Blake Beavan, Michael Main, and Neil Ramirez
as fellow round one picks. 

 

Hunter made the same progression that Hudgins did in his
first full season, moving from High A to AA to AAA, but Hunter did him one
better, getting to Arlington for three late-season starts before a return to
the farm to start the 2009 season. 
Hudgins never did get to the big leagues with Texas, running into arm trouble in 2005, his
second full season.  He was traded in May
2006 to San Diego
- where Fuson was part of the front office by that time – along with fellow
2003 draftee Vincent Sinisi, in exchange for Guzman, who coincidentally joins Hudgins
four paragraphs up, along with a minor league pitcher named Cesar Rojas.

 

Hunter one-upped Hudgins by reaching a fourth level in his
first pro season, and he’s more than one-upped him in his second.  Hudgins split the 2005 season between AA and
AAA, the same thing Hunter had done in 2009 before returning to Texas for two
stints, the second of which is now six and half weeks old and won’t end until
the Rangers season is over.  Whereas Hudgins
hit a ceiling with the Rangers (and now with the Padres), Hunter has already
made it clear that the optimistic upside that the franchise suggested he had on
Draft Day may have sold him short.

 

That dude is a pitcher.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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