Some Saturday scraps:

As Taylor Teagarden stepped in against Rays closer J.P. Howell in the final at-bat of last night’s game, Josh Lewin said the following:

“No history of Teagarden facing Howell . . . introducing themselves to each other right here, with the game on the line, ninth inning.”

But there was a little added texture to the at-bat.

Howell was the ace of the University of Texas staff in 2003 and 2004, two College World Series seasons in which Teagarden split catcher duties with Curtis Thigpen.  It stands to reason that Teagarden caught Howell more than any other pitcher in college.  

In fact, the final college game Howell pitched – 19 days after Kansas City made him its supplemental first-round pick – was on June 26, 2004, the first game of a best-of-three between the Longhorns and Cal State Fullerton for the College World Series title.  Howell, who went 15-2, 2.13 with 166 strikeouts in 135.1 innings in 2004, got the assignment, and the sophomore Teagarden caught him.  (Thigpen played first base.)  

Howell, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-team All-American, lasted five innings, giving up three unearned first-inning runs, and UT fell, 6-4, setting up the following day’s title-clincher for the Titans.  Howell’s penultimate college start had come eight days earlier, a 13-2 Horns win over Arkansas that featured eight hit batsmen – including Teagarden twice.  

I don’t know if Howell had as filthy a changeup in college as the one Teagarden swung at to end the game last night, but there might have been a some added head game action going on in that at-bat.  Lewin was correct in saying Teagarden had no history facing Howell, but the pitcher and catcher had plenty of history with each other.

As mentioned above, Howell was a supplemental first-rounder in June 2004 (and Thigpen was Toronto’s second-round pick), while Teagarden returned to Austin for his junior year in 2005, helping lead UT to a national title that culminated in a sweep of the University of Florida in the Omaha final.  Holding a comfortable 6-2 lead in the title-clincher, the Horns went quietly in their final at-bat of the season, as Teagarden (who had earlier singled, doubled, and added a sacrifice bunt, capping off a .353/.389/.588 run in the club’s five College World Series games) grounded out to third to lead off the bottom of the eighth.  Florida’s pitcher was Darren O’Day.

O’Day pitched 8.1 scoreless innings in Omaha in that College World Series, scattering three hits and no walks while fanning six.  He’d gone undrafted earlier that month (and was undrafted the following year as well, despite having another outstanding season).  Yet he reached the big leagues in 2008, blowing through the Angels system after signing as a free agent out of college in 2006.

Teagarden got to the big leagues in 2008 as well, after going to the Rangers in the third round of the 2005 draft.  

Like O’Day and Teagarden, Tommy Hunter reached the big leagues in 2008, just a year after the Rangers drafted him in the supplemental first round.

But Hunter was also drafted in 2005, 439 picks after Teagarden had been selected.  No team thought the Florida closer O’Day was worth spending one of that draft’s 1,501 picks on, but one team thought enough of Hunter to call his name in the 18th round, though it would fail to persuade Hunter to forgo his commitment to the University of Alabama.

That club was Tampa Bay, the team that Hunter faces tonight.

So, there’s that.  A lot of information you’ll never need.

A National League scout said this to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, regarding Neftali Feliz: “He’s this year’s K-Rod (who arrived on the scene late in 2002 to help the Angels win their first World Series).  No matter who it is up there, he strikes you out.  He’s got one of those arms that could throw a marshmallow through a battleship.

Feliz has 11.2 big league innings to his credit.  He’s faced 39 hitters.  Not one has walked.  

In fact, only four hitters have worked a three-ball count of any type, and the only one to start off at 3-0 (Minnesota’s Carlos Gomez) ended up as one of Feliz’s 17 strikeout victims.

The 21-year-old has allowed four hits (a home run and three singles), and he sits with an opponents’ slash line of .103/.103/.179.  The only run on his ledger was the result of the Adam Kennedy homer in his second appearance.  He’s inherited eight runners and allowed just one to score (Vicente Padilla property Mark Ellis, who was on second base when Kennedy went deep).

(K-Rod in 2002: 5.2 big league innings, no runs, three hits [all singles], two walks, 13 strikeouts.  And then another 18.2 post-season innings: five runs [four earned], 10 hits [two home runs], five walks, 28 strikeouts.)  

Since 1954, five pitchers have walked no batters in their first seven big league appearances (spanning at least one inning each).  Feliz is one of them.  

Nobody has reached eight.

Feliz was also the first pitcher in major league history to allow just one baserunner over his first four appearances with as many as seven strikeouts.  Feliz had 13.

Reliever Jason Grilli will reportedly be activated today or tomorrow.  He threw a hitless, scoreless rehab inning for Frisco on Thursday, walking one and striking one Tulsa Driller out.  

Kevin Richardson cleared waivers and has been outrighted back to Oklahoma City.

I wonder, come September 1, when there’s a third and maybe fourth catcher on the expanded roster (perhaps two of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Richardson, and Max Ramirez), whether we might start to see Ivan Rodriguez take some at-bats away from the monumentally struggling Andruw Jones.

Padilla signed with the Dodgers.  He’ll start for AAA Albuquerque today before joining the Los Angeles rotation.  

Brandon McCarthy starts tonight for Oklahoma City, as he continues his rehab assignment and works toward a possible September return to Arlington.

Joaquin Benoit threw off a mound Monday, for the first time in nearly a year.  He threw around 30 fastballs.

In a Baseball America survey of American League managers, Elvis Andrus was judged to be the league’s second-best defensive shortstop, next to Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett.

Justin Smoak and Kasey Kiker (USA), Luis Mendoza (Mexico), and Mike Bianucci (Italy) have been selected to play in the 2009 Baseball World Cup, which starts September 9.  

Oklahoma City reliever Beau Vaughan interviews
teammate Brandon Boggs

Kansas City released Travis Metcalf.  He hit .219/.285/.345 for AAA Omaha, with nine home runs and 47 RBI in 110 games.  

The Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League released first baseman Nate Gold, and the 29-year-old has decided to retire.  

A couple interesting signing bonuses as the deadline for draftees to sign arrived last week: 17th-round lefthander Paul Strong (a UC-Irvine commit) and 24th-round righthander Shawn Blackwell (a Kansas commit) were each reportedly paid $300,000, which is late-third, early-fourth-round money for the two high school pitchers.

Said by Rangers first-rounder Matt Purke on Draft Day: “I don’t think [signing] will be difficult.  It might take some time but I want to play baseball and I want to play for the Texas Rangers.  I think the negotiations will end up being pretty easy. . . . We’re going to work hard to get something worked out.  I told them that I would negotiate and do what I can to be in a Rangers uniform.  I think we’ll get a deal done.  I want to be wearing the red, blue and white.”

Texas reportedly offered Purke $4 million to sign (a figure that has been disputed in some stories since the August 17 deadline passed without a deal).  The first three picks in the draft (Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, and Donavan Tate) each signed for more than $4 million, as did the ninth pick (Jacob Turner, who signed for $4.7 million).  The number 12 pick, Aaron Crow, hasn’t signed and still could, as he’s in the Tanner Scheppers boat, having pitched in the independent leagues.

Purke was taken with the 14th pick.  The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th, and 13th picks each signed for less than $4 million.

The Rangers have won seven of their last nine series, splitting one and losing one.  Tommy Hunter, who beat last night’s starter, Scott Kazmir, back on July 3 to earn his first big league win, has the first opportunity tonight to make sure this series doesn’t go into the loss column.


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(c) Jamey Newberg
Twitter  @newbergreport

1 Comment

You bring information about baseball that no one else brings. I love the stories behind the story. Most just concentrate on the obvious. That’s why I read your blogs daily and curse you when there’s not a new one in print.

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