Rotation reportedly set.

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Under two weeks to
go, and we now know, barring health setbacks, how the Rangers rotation will apparently
shake out to start the season.

 

Against Toronto on
April 5, 7, and 8: Rich Harden, C.J. Wilson, and Scott Feldman.

 

Against Seattle on
April 9, 10, and 11: Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, and Harden.

 

The Rangers
reportedly said coming into camp that Wilson had to emerge as one of the club’s
best two starters to force his way into the rotation, but that’s not why he
pitches Game Two.  The idea there was
apparently to go right-left-right-left with the first four, mixing up
looks. 

 

One benefit of putting
Harden atop the rotation rather than Feldman (who has had a better camp) is that
Harden’s second turn comes in Arlington (against Seattle) rather than in Cleveland,
and his third turn comes in New York rather than in Boston.   

 

So what, you
ask?  Harden against the Mariners
lifetime: 5-2, 1.90, slash line of .186/.265/.257, 55 strikeouts and 19 walks
in 52 innings.  Solid.  In Cleveland, he’s been unhittable in a small,
six-inning sample, but for whatever reason, he’s walked an Indian per
inning.  Still, hard to ignore the effectiveness
against Seattle and the idea of a strong effort on getaway day.

 

Harden in New York:
3.52 ERA, .268/.354/.411 slash, 12 strikeouts and seven walks in 15.1 innings.

 

Harden in Boston:
17.61 ERA, .355/.522/.839 slash, nine strikeouts and 13 walks in 7.2
innings.  Ouch.

 

The other thing, of
course, is Feldman was one of baseball’s most effective road pitchers last
year, going 12-4, 3.56 away from Arlington. 
Throwing him at the Indians in their yard, in what will be their second
home game of the season (after Wilson pitches their home opener), is attractive.

 

As for the idea of
going right-right with Lewis and Harden, two things: (1) it’s impossible with
an odd number of starters to alternate more than once through the rotation; and
(2) they bring a significantly different quality of stuff.  Or are supposed to, at least.

 

The seven-man bullpen,
then, should be manned by Frankie Francisco, Darren Oliver, Neftali Feliz,
Darren O’Day (the inflammation around a bone in the back of his elbow is not thought
to be serious), Dustin Nippert, and two of the following: righthanders Doug
Mathis, Chris Ray, Brandon McCarthy, and Guillermo Moscoso, and lefthanders
Derek Holland and Ben Snyder. 

 

The guess here?  Mathis and Ray get the gigs, and McCarthy and
Holland get optioned (assuming the former clears – though his type of waivers
is revocable and so if he’s blocked from being optioned to Oklahoma City, he
stays in Arlington and Mathis is probably asked to start a fourth tour with the
RedHawks). 

 

McCarthy and Holland
are slated to get their final A game starts today and tomorrow (while Harrison
and Lewis pitch in minor league games the same two days).  Feliz had his finest outing of the spring on
Monday, touching 97 and commanding his off-speed stuff in a three-inning B game
appearance against Milwaukee.  He’ll work
in relief the rest of the way in camp.

 

Lots of Rule 5 picks
around the league have already been returned to their 2009 clubs, and it seems
that Snyder is probably headed in that direction.  If he were to clear league-wide waivers
(which he must do before being offered back to San Francisco – if another teams
claims him, he becomes its Rule 5 property all season, just as O’Day was with
Texas last year when the Mets tried running him through waivers in April, four
months after drafting him via Rule 5 from the Angels), the Rangers might
attempt to work out a trade with the Giants, sending them another prospect for
Snyder, who would then be eligible to be assigned to a minor league roster in
the Rangers’ system. 

 

If Wilson is in fact
viewed now as a starter, and Michael Kirkman is going to be developed further
as a starter, the Rangers might consider Snyder as someone who, even if not
ready, could fill a need foreseeably soon. 
Zach Phillips and Clay Rapada will presumably work in left-on-left relief
on the farm, and though I doubt Kasey Kiker will be used that way in April, I still
think the bullpen might be where he’s headed professionally.  Still, Snyder might be someone Texas tries to
keep in the system if the club can get him through waivers, which seems likely
(though agreeing on a trade with the Giants will be more difficult).

 

In my last report,
discussing Wilson, I mentioned Feldman, Adam Wainwright, and Ryan Dempster as examples
of pitchers who moved from significant relief roles to the rotation and fared
well.  Another obvious example that I overlooked,
maybe more instructive than any of the others: Kenny Rogers, a high-octane southpaw
reliever in his early big league years before becoming a dependable starter,
seeing his walk rate dip and strikeout rate increase once he moved to the
rotation.

 

Wilson admitted not
having his best stuff on Monday, but after a shaky first inning (preoccupied
with his upcoming first at-bat, maybe?) he allowed only two more hits in the second
through fifth, retiring nine straight at one point.  His changeup played up and he worked at a
quicker tempo than the reliever who used to pace behind the mound and stretch
his arms out and sweep the rubber with his glove between seemingly every pitch.

 

You don’t even have
to ask him whether the fourth-inning, opposite-field double off Barry Zito, a
kindred spirit who Wilson was once asked to help recruit to Texas, will be a
lifelong pride point.  The hit didn’t
count anywhere but in the armchair number three hitter’s head.

 

Tommy Hunter’s
ribcage strain will evidently force him to the disabled list to start the
season, and his ramp-up will presumably resume with a minor league rehab
assignment in early- or mid-April.  And
Ron Washington was clear: this will be a meritocracy, not a situation where an injured
player automatically gets his spot back once healthy.  Hunter (who is conditioning again but not yet
throwing) will have to earn his way back and unseat someone the Rangers believe
doesn’t give them as good a chance to win.

 

Ian Kinsler hit off a tee Monday and is about ready to
resume batting practice and test his ankle around the bases.  He’s aiming for a Monday return to game
action.

 

I think Josh Hamilton is supposed to be back in camp today,
after flying to Dallas on Monday for some dental work.

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia reported improvement in the muscle
spasms in the area of his upper back and neck but won’t return to action today.

 

Warner Madrigal has begun throwing again, coming back from
his latest bout of tightness in his right forearm.

 

Newly acquired catcher Matt Treanor has a March 30 out
clause but isn’t expected to exercise it if not on the 40-man roster by then.

 

According to one local report, 31-year-old journeyman infielder
Nick Green, who had a run last year as Boston’s starting shortstop, could be on
the Rangers’ radar as they continue to evaluate their options for the utility
infielder role.  He’s in Dodgers camp on
a non-roster invite and isn’t a lock to make the Los Angeles club.

 

The Giants are reportedly shopping 27-year-old utility
infielder Kevin Frandsen.

 

It’s an old theme in this newsletter, but one thing that
worries me about attempts to trade for a fringe big leaguer like Ramon Vazquez
is that a team like Pittsburgh may try to hold Texas up for a prospect like
Kiker or Miguel Velazquez, figuring that since they’re tier two prospects for
Texas (but might be virtually untouchable for another club), the prospect-heavy
Rangers can afford to move them for a big league need.  Surely Texas won’t capitulate, but I can see
it getting in the way of a deal.

 

Since being returned to minor league camp, Marcus Lemon has
begun to see action in center field.

 

Another way to look at my recent comment that every team,
even Texas, made a mistake by letting Mitch Moreland fall to the 17th
round in 2007: Like Kinsler, taken in the same round four years earlier, credit
the player for taking to instruction and making himself better, and credit the
organization for one heck of a job seeing what the player could become and getting
him there through development.  It’s not
as if Moreland (Mississippi State) and Kinsler (Missouri) were underscouted,
starring at prominent NCAA programs.  They
fell because teams perceived flaws.  They
thrived because of how they were developed by the Rangers.

 

Several of you asked why I didn’t include Adrian Gonzalez
when I wrote on Sunday: “[Chris] Davis, Moreland, Justin Smoak.  Carlos Pena, Travis Hafner, Mark
Teixeira.  Worth discussing another time?”  The reason is Gonzalez didn’t join the
Rangers system until after Pena and Hafner were gone.

 

The Rangers have released lefthander Glenn Swanson, righthanders
John Slusarz and Chris Matlock, catcher Billy O’Conner, and infielders Mike Hollander
and Denny Duron.  Swanson, whose
tremendous start to the 2007 season was curtailed by an elbow injury that led
to Tommy John surgery, had been experimenting with a new sidearm slot in camp.

 

In addition to outfielder Steve Murphy, lefthander Cliff
Springston and righthander Justin King and outfielder Aja Barto have retired.

 

Scott Lucas has dozens of sensational photos from spring
training on his website.

 

Solid
feature on Michael Young
by Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.

 

The White Sox released outfielder Jason Botts.

 

Detroit optioned righthander Armando Galarraga to AAA – six days
ago. 


After assigning Eric Gagné to minor league camp last week, the Dodgers released
the former closer at his request.

 

The Laredo Broncos of the independent United League released
outfielder Juan Senreiso.

 

Victor Rojas is onto something: www.yakcy.com

 

Slightly off-topic: Best episode of “Lost” – ever? 

 

Things started to line up just a little bit last night (fun
fact: Nestor Carbonell, who plays Richard, is Rafael Palmeiro’s cousin), though
that’s not to say that I have any idea what’s going to happen in the nine remaining
episodes, and that’s just how I want it.  

 

Different story with the Rangers rotation, which started
lining up yesterday as well, but if it’s all the same, I’d prefer that there
aren’t any more twists or turns in these final 11 spring training games.

   

 

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

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

1 Comment

I really think Feldman earned the top rotation spot after his dependability last season. He also pitched some good ball in 2008, but had poor run support. I feel like he is due a little loyalty from the Ranger organization. Now on a different note, I am so ready for some baseball!

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