Grand Opening.

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Rites of spring
training

Nadel calls a Jimmy
Jack

Season has begun

 

Fun to do bad
things

Borbon creating
havoc

Makes the
offense go

 

Harden and Scheppers

Seven
groundouts, and no flies

Present and
future

 

Prospect bats
pitch in

Moreland, Brown,
Tracy, Gentry

Is this ’86??

 

Thirteen Ranger
runs

But was pitching
the real story?

Seven hits, one
walk

 

A ton of interesting things to touch on from Texas 13,
Kansas City 3, from Rich Harden’s efficiency despite working in the upper 80s,
to Matt Brown’s sizzling day at the plate (and clunky one at third base), to
Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando tripping efficient upper-90s, to Hit Dog Mitch
Moreland, to an offense that racked up more walks (five) than strikeouts (four),
and a pitching staff that fanned just five itself but issued only one walk, to
a Jarrod Saltalamacchia cannon blast that came on a two-strike count, to an
attack that put 20 runners in scoring position – and converted on eight of
them, to Julio being Julio. 

 

Still, a 10-run win to open Cactus League play is no more indicative
of what this team is going to achieve in 2010 than a left fielder’s prediction
of 96 wins, or a team president’s forecast of 92. 

 

What to make of the win total guesses?  Not much. 
You don’t go into a game in late May and say, “Hey, we’re a 91-win team,
so we ought to beat those guys tonight,” or, riding a three-game win streak, “We’re
supposed to be a .500 club, so no big deal if we give a couple games back this weekend.”

 

It’s about winning the next game on the schedule, no matter
what the pre-season predictions say, and doing it more times over the course of
the season than at least 10 other teams in the league.

 

A 10-run win counts the same as a one-run win, and neither
counts at all when it happens in March. 
But, yeah, as meaningless as yesterday’s game was, that sure was some
meaningless greatness.

 

(Want some video highlights from the game?  Check out www.foxsportssouthwest.com,
where I’m also providing spring training notes most days this month.  Scroll down the “Latest Headlines” on the right
side for the Newberg Report entries.)

 

There was nothing more exhilarating yesterday than listening
to Scheppers and Ogando make what amounted to their pro debuts on the
mound.  Despite both being converted
position players, the two couldn’t have more different backgrounds, with
Scheppers closer to pro ball in a sense than any fellow draftee last summer (having
pitched in the independent leagues) and Ogando arguably further away from the
minor leagues than any prospect in baseball, having been banished from stateside
entry due to his getting caught up in a visa fraud scandal five years ago just
as his transition from hitter to pitcher was about to kick off.

 

Scheppers retired the Royals in order in the sixth, needing
just seven pitches to get three ground ball outs, five of which were fastballs
that registered between 96 and 98, all for strikes, mostly low in the zone.  Ogando worked at 95-99 in the eighth, and his
one strikeout came on an 89-mph change. 

 

Saltalamacchia’s majestic three-run blast in the second inning,
which nearly cleared the berm in right center field, came off Royals
righthander Kyle Davies, whom Saltalamacchia caught twice in 2006 with AA Mississippi
(on August 1, when he went 2 for 2 with two walks, and caught two no-hit
innings from Davies and five no-hit innings from Matt Harrison; and again on
August 11) and twice in 2007 with Atlanta (on May 27, when he hit his first big
league home run [off Cole Hamels]; and on June 6). 

 

Ron Washington told reporters this week that Saltalamacchia
and Taylor Teagarden are “dead even” in the battle to win the starting catcher
job.  Teagarden should get today’s start
at catcher, with Scott Feldman, Dustin Nippert, C.J. Wilson, Neftali Feliz, and
Kasey Kiker among those slated to pitch. 
Zack Greinke gets the Kansas City nod.

 

Despite getting a considerable amount of work in camp at
first base, Max Ramirez came off the bench to reliever Saltalamacchia behind the
plate yesterday.  Ramirez caught Scheppers,
Ben Snyder, Ogando, and Pedro Strop, who combined to allow one unearned run on
three hits and no walks in four innings, fanning three.

 

More scheduled pitching assignments: Tommy Hunter and Harrison
tomorrow.  Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo
Moscoso, and Luis Mendoza on Sunday. 
Colby Lewis (one perfect 11-pitch frame yesterday) and Derek Holland (whose
knee sprain is evidently no longer an issue) on Monday.  Harden and Mathis on Tuesday, when Darren
Oliver is set to make his spring debut.  Today’s
foursome then gets split, with Wilson and Feliz going on Wednesday and Feldman
and Nippert pitching Thursday.

 

One beat writer suggests that Feliz “has not yet started
throwing well,” which may stall his rotation candidacy enough that it never
really materializes in camp.

 

Righthanders Chris Ray and Warner Madrigal have thrown
bullpens, and Holland and righthander Omar Beltre have thrown live batting
practice.  Progress for each of them.  Righthander Eric Hurley threw a side but isn’t
expected to see any exhibition game action this spring.  Righthander Omar Poveda had Tommy John
surgery Wednesday and will miss the 2010 season.

 

Josh Hamilton didn’t play Thursday, still nursing his
bruised left shoulder.  He’s resumed conditioning
drills, hit off a tee yesterday, and is apparently shooting for game action
early next week.  He says throwing is
causing more pain than swinging a bat right now.

 

I’m not sure I’d seen this reported anywhere a year ago, but
according to a note this week from Jon Heyman of
Sports Illustrated,
Hamilton turned down a four-year, $24 million contract offer from the Rangers
last year, one that would have covered him through his arbitration seasons.

 

For now, Nelson Cruz is hitting sixth, one spot ahead of Chris
Davis, but the plan, assuming Davis earns it, is to have the two flip spots
before the season begins, allowing Washington to break up the trio of Vladimir
Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, and Cruz with a left-handed hitter to force more late-inning
bullpen moves.

 

When Rangers officials (including Jon Daniels, Washington,
and A.J. Preller) flew down to the organization’s Dominican Republic Academy last
month, they had Cruz, Elvis Andrus, Borbon, Feliz, and Strop address a group of
Rangers minor leaguers.  An offshoot of
that program was, according to ESPN’s Jorge Arangure, a meeting between Washington
and Cruz in which the manager challenged his right fielder to take on a greater
leadership role in Arlington this season.

 

The stories about Andrus’s level of focus in camp lasted one
news cycle.  I sort of like that it
became a story.  Probably good for him.

 

Two local reporters have suggested this week that the
Rangers would like to keep Snyder (who retired the two left-handed hitters he
faced yesterday) even if the Rule 5 pick doesn’t make the Opening Day staff (there
may not be a job open if Wilson and Oliver both start the season in the
bullpen) and could approach San Francisco with a trade offer to allow them to option
the lefthander to the minors, but both reports are missing a key fact: Snyder would
first have to clear league-wide waivers before Texas could negotiate such a
trade. 

 

Speaking of March trades: (1) one local report suggests Texas
remains interested in Arizona utility infielder Augie Ojeda; (2) there’s also
some sentiment that St. Louis could make middle infielder Julio Lugo available and
that the Rangers could be interested; and (3) Nick Cafardo of the
Boston Globe
believes Minnesota could get in on Mike Lowell if he proves in Red Sox camp
that he’s healthy.  Lowell took batting practice
on Monday, without incident.

 

Tim Marchman of Sports Illustrated
ranked
baseball’s general managers
on Thursday. 
Daniels was number eight.  Said
Marchman:

 

General
managers are always going on about the virtues of building a strong farm
system, and what they generally mean is that they want to win major league
games so they can keep their jobs.  Daniels
has actually built a preposterously good system (Justin Smoak, Neftali Feliz,
Derek Holland) over the last few years, bringing in talent every way you can,
and now has his team positioned to contend for the next several years.  That he has kept the major league team
perfectly respectable on modest payrolls while overseeing this rebuilding
project is really very impressive, and with a good run over the next couple of
years he could well move up on this list.

 

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus released his Top 101
Prospects list this week.  Feliz checked
in at number three (behind Nationals righthander Stephen Strasburg and Braves
outfielder Jason Heyward), Martin Perez was number 15 (the top lefthander next
to number 10 Aroldis Chapman), Justin Smoak was number 17 (the top first
baseman next to number 11 Chris Carter), and Scheppers was number 68.

 

Andy Silverman (Executive Vice President, Sales) and Dale
Petroskey (Executive Vice President, Marketing and Community Development) are
leaving the Rangers organization. 
Silverman will join the Marlins, who are opening a new ballpark, as
their Vice President for Sales and Service. 
Both have been good friends to the Newberg Report, and are true
professionals.

 

I’m happy for Victor Rojas but saddened that he’s leaving
MLB Network for the Angels television booth, where he’ll handle play-by-play
duties.

 

The Marlins and Rays have each reportedly made offers to
Hank Blalock, but in each case they are apparently minor league deals. 

 

Minor league deals: righthander Jason Jennings (Oakland), righthander
Wes Littleton (Seattle), and third baseman Travis Metcalf (Colorado).

 

Outfielder Rocco Baldelli, rumored over the winter to be a
potential Rangers target, is taking a special assistant’s position in the Tampa
Bay front office.  He’s not ruling out an
eventual return as a player but is limited at the moment by a shoulder injury.

 

Seattle outfielder Milton Bradley on his miserable 2009
season with the Cubs: “Two years ago, I played, and I was good.  I go to Chicago, not good.  I’ve been good my whole career.  So, obviously, it was something with Chicago,
not me.”

 

The Rangers are wearing a patch on their uniform sleeves this
spring to honor the late Bobby Bragan.

 

We need to have a bunch of framing done at our law firm
(paintings, diplomas, etc.).  If that’s something
you do and you’re interested in the job, let me know.

 

No broadcast of today’s game (a rarity this spring).  No big deal, right, since these games don’t count?

 

Can’t wait for a box score.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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