Roster crunch pushed back six weeks.

Last year the Rangers went to camp knowing that a handful of non-roster invitees were near-locks to make the Opening Day roster, even if they didn’t anticipate in mid-February that Elvis Andrus, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Eddie Guardado, Jason Jennings, and Kris Benson would all make the club.

For several reasons, the 2010 non-roster crew coming to camp – pitchers Willie Eyre, Geoff Geary, Kasey Kiker, Clay Rapada, and Tanner Scheppers; catchers Emerson Frostad, Toby Hall, and Kevin Richardson; infielders Matt Brown, Esteban German, Ray Olmedo, and Justin Smoak; and first basemen-outfielders Mitch Moreland and Chad Tracy – is not likely to claim any more than one roster spot, if that, and so it’s not necessary to spend much time picking apart the current 40-man roster to see who is on thin ice between now and the season opener.  Even if another non-roster player or two were to be added (a right-handed hitter? a catcher? one more 4-A swingman?) – at this time last year, Guardado had just been signed and the club was yet to sign Benson or Brendan Donnelly – there still won’t have to be as heavy a roster adjustment made at the end of camp as there was in 2009.

(Last year’s roster casualties, for what it’s worth: Frank Catalanotto [released]; Kason Gabbard, Travis Metcalf, and Joe Koshansky [designated for assignment, the latter two lost on waivers]; and Eric Hurley and Joaquin Benoit [shifted to the 60-day disabled list].)

There’s been much speculation about the tenuous hold that righthander Luis Mendoza and infielder Joaquin Arias might have on their roster spots, given their lack of minor league options and the unlikelihood either will make the Opening Day roster, but we learned from the Rangers this week, via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, that decisions on those two won’t have to come as soon as many of us (myself included) had thought: Though righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando are expected to be in camp when it opens next week, they won’t need to be reinstated from the restricted list to the 40-man roster until the end of spring training.

That’s good news for Mendoza and Arias (or bad news, depending on how you look at it), and definitely good for Texas, who essentially goes to camp with a protected roster of 42.

By the way, credit Assistant GM Thad Levine, Senior Director of Player Personnel A.J. Preller, and Assistant Director of International Scouting Mike Daly for taking lead on behalf of the Rangers in the ultimately successful effort to free Beltre and Ogando back up for a return to the States.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, Baltimore would consider trading right-handed-hitting corner infielder Ty Wigginton during camp, with the Orioles having signed Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada.  Interested?  Prior to 2009 he’d been a consistent lefty-killer (and very comfortable hitting in Rangers Ballpark), but I think at his salary ($3.5 million), I’d just as soon wait to see if Mike Lowell (at an adjusted $3 million) is healthy and would definitely prefer outfielder (and perhaps first baseman) Rocco Baldelli, who is sure to command less than either on the free agent market.

Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports suggests that the Rangers “could benefit from signing free agent catcher Rod Barajas” but are “either (A) at their payroll limit or (B) unable to increase payroll in an ownership transition without approval from both the selling and buying groups.”  Yorvit Torrealba, another rumored catcher target earlier this winter, signed yesterday with San Diego.

Morose also passes along that one amateur scout tells him that super-turbo-uber-LeBron-o-prospect Bryce Harper may not go any higher than fifth overall in June’s draft – and that LSU righthander Anthony Ranaudo should go before the 17-year-old Harper.  Ranaudo was the Rangers’ unsigned 11th-round pick in their productive 2007 draft.  

Also unsigned in that draft was Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz (12th round), who, along with Ranaudo, earned First-Team Pre-Season All-America recognition from Baseball America, based on voting by big league scouting directors.  The Rangers’ unsigned 36th-round pick in 2008, Vanderbilt righthander Jack Armstrong Jr., was a Third-Team selection.

ESPN’s Jorge Arangure reports that Texas is among a handful of teams interested in Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz, a left-handed-hitting 25-year-old who defected last summer.

Cleveland signed righthander Jamey Wright to a non-roster deal, and according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Indians are also kicking the tires on Hank Blalock (and Russell Branyan and Jermaine Dye).  Florida signed righthanders Derrick Turnbow and Jose Veras to non-roster deals.  Seattle signed catcher Guillermo Quiroz to a non-roster deal.

According to multiple reports, Houston infielder Jose Vallejo severed tendons in the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand while slicing meat at his Dominican Republic home in December.  He could miss the entire 2010 season.  

Former Rangers third base coach Steve Smith is a contestant in the new season of The Amazing Race.  Seriously.

Two more recaps of last week’s Newberg Report Bound Edition Party, at which you all donated more than $12,000 to Wipe Out Kids Cancer: from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Grant Schiller.

For those of you planning to order the 2010 Bound Edition by check, please note my new office address (we moved to a new building last week):

Jamey Newberg
Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
Thanksgiving Tower
1601 Elm Street
Suite 4100
Dallas, TX  75201

One week from today is the final day of the off-season.  I’d guess that Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando are more eager for the 18th to arrive than I am, but probably not by a whole lot.  I’m ready.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

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