February 2010

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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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

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

Countdown.

There are moments of cool, like the complicated things you’ve been looking forward to (the return of “Lost”) and the simple things that you never expected (Max drawing box-and-one treatment yesterday after scoring two-thirds of his team’s [six] points).  And then there’s the math.

Whether the objectivity of it appeals to you or turns your stomach, there’s lift in the numbers.  You see it in your daughter’s eyes when that new, intimidating formula clicks.  You (or maybe just I) get a little rush when the checkbook balances perfectly.  You feel the bang when the numbers mount, like at Tuesday night’s WOKC auction, and sometimes when they whittle away.

As the final moments of Colts-Saints tick down to zero tonight, another countdown takes center stage, feeding my numbers buzz.  As Peyton or Drew tells us he’s going to Disney World, football will be headed for dry dock for me, fully stepping aside to make room for the hourglass full of rosin.

Eleven sleeps.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

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

Links and notes.

Well, I made a mistake. 
It happens. 

 

I made a mistake about how much you all contributed Tuesday
night at our Sherlock’s event to support Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer.  When I told you it was $10,470, that was
wrong.

 

It was actually $12,170.

 

That’s pretty great.

 

There’s a video on Sherlock’s Facebook of Annette Leslie’s
meaningful comments about her son Carson, about Michael Young, and about Wipe
Out Kids’ Cancer.  Watch it: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=103764279652365#!/video/video.php?v=103794122982714
 

 

I was motivated to sit down and write up a recap of the
event, but I’m having some computer issues, on top of which it’s really not
necessary for me to summarize things. 
You can watch the entire Q&A portions with Jake Krug, Chuck
Greenberg, and Michael Young, moderated by Chuck Morgan, courtesy of Ted Price’s
video footage, at www.newbergreport.com.  Click “Media/Video” on the top menu.

 

Plenty of recaps out there, too:

 

Eleanor Czajka: http://emcmlb.blogspot.com/2010/02/newberg-report-wipe-out-kids-cancer.html

 

ESPN’s Richard Durrett: 
http://espn.go.com/blog/dallastexas-rangers/post/_/id/4843769/newberg-report-party-is-online

 

A handful of Tweets from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff
Wilson: http://twitter.com/JeffWilson_FWST

 

The Dallas Observer’s Richie Whitt: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/sportatorium/2010/02/chuck_greenberg_is_dare_i_say.php

 

The Fan’s Sybil Summers (video interview with Chuck
Greenberg from the event): http://www.1053thefan.com/
(under “Fan Tube”)

 

Home on the Rangers’ Brandon Wilson: http://homeontherangers.com/2010/02/03/newberg-book-night-and-qa/

 

Texas Summer Heat’s Roger Busby: http://tsheat.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/02/newberg-night-attended-short-hops.html

 

Lone Star Ball message board: http://www.lonestarball.com/2010/2/2/1288723/final-details-for-tonights

 

And Eleanor’s photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/EleanorCzajka/NewbergReportWipeOutKidsCancerCharityEvent#

 

We were sold out of Carson’s book minutes after the event
got underway.  If you weren’t one of the
five who bid on and won a copy signed by Michael Young (those went for $500,
$375, $375, $375, and $275), you can get a copy of “Carry Me” at www.carrymecarson.com, at under
$18. 

 

According to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, 12 or 13 teams showed
interest in righthander Colby Lewis (including at least two, Oakland and
Minnesota, who offered two-year contracts) before he agreed to his two-year
deal with Texas.

 

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is reportedly up to 200 feet
in his long-toss throwing program as he rehabilitates his shoulder.

 

I mentioned back when Oakland signed righthander Ben Sheets
that I expect the A’s to trade him in July or recoup a couple first-round draft
picks next winter when he departs for a multi-year deal.  What I didn’t know at the time was that
Sheets’s contract prohibits Oakland from offering him arbitration in the event
that he’s so good in 2010 that he earns Type A status — so forget the two
firsts, and turn up the likelihood of that summer trade.

 

Catcher Tomas Telis, an 18-year-old switch-hitter who hit
.330/.340/.498 between the Arizona League and Spokane in 2009, will miss the
2010 season due to Tommy John elbow surgery. 
Telis was number 20 on my Top 72 Rangers Prospects list this winter,
after checking in at number 40 a year ago.

 

As T.R. Sullivan points out, Nolan Ryan is fourth best in baseball
in the last 60 years (minimum 125 starts) with a career rate of 9.55 strikeouts
per nine innings.  Fifth best?  Rich Harden, at 9.35.

 

Texas signed shortstop Travis Adair, son of Mariners
pitching coach and former Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Rick
Adair.  The 22-year-old, who has worked
out with the Rangers in the past during Fall Instructional League, was Atlanta’s
13th-round pick in 2008 and spent the last two summers playing short-season
ball in the Braves system.

 

The Rangers also signed third baseman Lee Soto, a huge
disappointment in the Toronto system after signing for $600,000 out of the
Dominican Republic in 2005.  Soto is a
.201/.248/.293 hitter in four pro seasons.

 

Lots of agate to cover:

 

Minor league deals: outfielder Frank Catalanotto (Mets),
outfielder Kevin Mench (Washington), outfielder Freddy Guzman (Philadelphia), lefthander
John Koronka (Dodgers), and lefthander Jimmy Gobble (Colorado). 

 

San Diego named Jeff Pickler a pro scout.  The Mets named Mark Brewer pitching coach at
AA Binghamton.

 

The Gary Southshore Railcats of the independent Northern
League signed righthander Bear Bay.  The
Kalamazoo Kings of the independent Frontier League signed shortstop Kyle
Higgins.  The Sioux City Explorers of the
independent American Association signed lefthander Jared Locke.

 

Righthander Doug Brocail retired.

 

Righthander Akinori Otsuka, according to NPB Tracker’s
Patrick Newman, could miss the 2010 season after undergoing his third elbow
surgery.

 

The Rangers’ four first-round and supplemental first-round
picks in July sit at 15, 22, 44, and 48. 
The final two picks will drop one spot each if Rod Barajas signs a big
league deal with a club other than Toronto. 

 

Joe Siegler is looking for your obscure Rangers photos for
his uniform number project: http://www.rangerfans.com/archives/2010/02/uniform_numbers.html

 

Finally, I really encourage you to check out the video on
the website from Tuesday’s event.  If you
want to see this team win, I guarantee you there are a handful of moments from
the event that will give you chills.

 

And if that’s not enough to get you fired up?

 

The truck leaves today.

 

It’s February

Month for those
three Hallmark words:

“Pitchers &
Catchers”

 

 

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

The Awards Dinner and Fan Fest.

The Awards Dinner/Fan Fest weekend is always a predictable rush, a 24-hour marathon that hammers home that it’s time to for baseball season.  You go into it knowing you’ll see and hear things that get you fired up, and sometimes choked up, but you can’t always predict what those will be.

I still laugh every time I think about that lousy Elvis impersonator (not hired to perform – just a fan walking around in that get-up) asking during the 2001 Fan Fest (I think it was called something different then) for broadcaster Bill Jones’s autograph . . . on Jim Sundberg’s baseball card.

In 2002, prospects Hank Blalock and Justin Duchscherer putting their artistic touches on each other’s promotional photos . . . Craig Monroe showing up for his Newberg Report autograph time slot even though he’d been claimed off waivers by Detroit the day before . . . and Jeff Zimmerman, both his remarkable Awards Dinner introduction of the recently retired John Wetteland and his moment on Saturday when he accidentally smudged his own signature on a fan’s 8 x 10 glossy photo and promising to mail him a new one (and keeping his promise).

In 2003, hearing what had just happened to Space Shuttle Columbia as I arrived at Fan Fest.

Juan Marichal’s 2004 Awards Dinner speech just ended.

Juan Dominguez’s demeanor that same night was shockingly strange.  Almost emotionless, but not in a shocked or petrified way.  More like the Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year was brooding.

Last year: I won’t forget T.R. Sullivan’s moving award presentation to Josh Hamilton, or Vernon Wells showing up to present Michael Young (and his wife Cristina) the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

I may or may not remember that the 2010 Awards Dinner/Fan Fest weekend was also when Erica scored her first basket in a league game or when my law firm, having outgrown our space, moved to a new building, but I will remember that there were what had to be twice as many fans in the Omni Fort Worth Hotel banquet room as the event has had in years, that the highlights of the night were at the beginning (a spectacular, up-tempo season preview highlight montage that I’m sure was a Chuck Morgan, Rush Olson, and Hugo Carbajal creation) and the middle (Dale Hansen’s wheelhouse roast of Jim Reeves – and Nolan Ryan’s rebuttal on Revo’s behalf) and the end (Annette Leslie’s spot-on remarks about Michael Young, and Young’s perfect words right afterwards to close the evening).

I also appreciated the idea – whoever in the organization gets the credit – for seating Clayton Kershaw next to Michael Young at the head table.  Was there a subtle design at work (other than putting a childhood Rangers fan next to a childhood Dodgers fan)?  Who knows?  I liked it.

Every one of us knows all about Martin Perez the player by now.  Let me tell you this:

He’s going to be the Elvis Andrus of the pitching staff when he gets here.

And I don’t just mean between the lines.

The star quality (magnetic, but not pretentious) is unmistakable.  You noticed it Friday night if you were there.

Every year there’s one minor leaguer at the Newberg Report set-up at Fan Fest who I gain a whole new appreciation of.  This year’s winner of the Chad Hawkins/Ben Kozlowski/Justin Hatcher Award goes to Mitch Moreland.  That man is Big League.

Until you spend an hour with guys like Justin Smoak and Tanner Scheppers, you’d never imagine that they’re just a couple of normal dudes.  Normal dudes who are very good at baseball.  Rock-solid, regular guys.  

The crowds were huge – wonder how much bigger they’d have been if it weren’t 27 degrees (which felt at times like 27 below).

A few of Eleanor Czajka’s photos from our set-up: http://picasaweb.google.com/EleanorCzajka/FanFest2010NewbergReportBooth#  

Grant Schiller’s writeup from the weekend: http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/2010/01/fan-fest-review.html

Memorable moments aside, the significance of the weekend was, like it is every year, its place on the calendar and its clarion call to the baseball fan to get geared up.  Michael Young nailed it:

“When you get to this point with FanFest and the banquet, that’s when it starts to hit.  It’s baseball season.  It’s about time to get ready. . . . This is a great time to be a Ranger.  I see great times ahead for the organization.  As players, we feel this organization is set up to be good this year and it’s set up to be good for the future.  This organization is ready to take off and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Seventeen sleeps.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

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

Ogando, Beltre reportedly cleared for return to States.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – migh–

Not so fast.

According to multiple local reports, the U.S. State Department has notified the Rangers that Dominican righthanders Alexi Ogando and Omar Beltre have been provided waivers to permit them to apply for work visas, and all immigration restraints to their entry into the United States have been removed.  Their five-year eviction for participation in a marriage fraud scam looks like it’s coming to an end, and it appears they should be admitted to the country.  Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine reportedly played a significant role in the process from the organization’s side.

Ogando and Beltre were unquestionably top-tier prospects, and it obviously remains to be seen whether, at age 26 and 28, respectively, pitching dominantly for five years against largely overmatched Dominican Summer League competition will translate stateside.  But there’s a reason Texas kept both on the restricted list for three years (adding Ogando to the 40-man roster before doing so in his case) rather than moving on, as all other clubs have long since done with the other 30 Dominican players around the league caught up in the scandal.  (Apparently, the players were promised – and in some cases not even paid — $5,000 by a Dominican crime syndicate to agree to a sham marriage to women they didn’t know, after which the women would gain entry into the United States with their newly acquired visas, obtain divorces shortly after arriving, and in some instances would then sell their visas on the black market.)

The two prospects reportedly spent the last year making public service speeches to educate Dominican citizens about these human trafficking scams, an effort apparently not overlooked by the State Department.  Charisse Espinosa, agent for the two, gets credit for coming up with and helping execute the concept and the plan.

Beltre, whom Texas signed for a hefty $650,000 in 2000, and Ogando, purchased by the Rangers from Oakland for $12,000 in the minor league phase of the 2005 Rule Draft – and promptly converted from outfield to pitcher, both offer nasty stuff on the mound, touching the upper 90s with remarkable strikeout-to-walk numbers (though those can be skewed in the DSL, as we know).  Just to get a sense of things: last year, in 18.1 DSL innings, Ogando struck out 31 and issued one walk, with a typographical 10 groundouts for every flyout.  Beltre, in 7.1 DSL innings, allowed no earned runs and fanned 10 while walking three.  Flip to the back of any Bound Edition from the last few years – those numbers weren’t aberrations. 

Jon Daniels suggests the two will probably begin the season in Frisco or Oklahoma City.

It will be interesting to see what the roster implications are.  In order to participate in camp, both righthanders will need to be reinstated from the restricted list, and since both are already on the 40-man roster (and would never be exposed to waivers at this point – far too risky), two players are going to need to come off the roster to make room for them.  Righthander Luis Mendoza and infielder Joaquin Arias’s lack of options (and longshot chances to make the Opening Day roster) could make them the primary candidates.

Few doubt Ogando and Beltre would have been big leaguers several years ago had they not been denied stateside entry in 2005 and ever since.  Now it appears that they’re going to get their chance.

===========================================================

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

 

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