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Well, your Opening Day starter appears to be ready to go.











 Feldman (W, 3-1)










Now that’s a tuneup.


Sure, it’s just one game, but when it’s turned in by the guy
whose next stroll to the mound will be when the games first count, there’s a certain
peace of mind it provides.  We don’t yet
know if the second baseman will be ready to go on April 5, or if the right-on-right
sidearm specialist will be, but it sure looks like the number one starter is.  Scott Feldman needed only 89 pitches to
complete seven scoreless, throwing another 20 pitches afterwards in the bullpen
rather than on the mound just so that Chris Ray and Frankie Francisco could tune
up themselves with an inning each.


Another player who seemed to deliver some peace of mind
yesterday was infielder Andres Blanco, acquired Saturday from the Cubs for a
player to be named later or cash (a deal to be consummated by July 1, by the
way, according to’s Carrie Muskat – there’s reportedly no pool of
players to choose from; if the clubs can’t agree on a player, the deal is
closed with cash).  It’s easier for a
starting pitcher to make a statement in just one day in March, but Blanco came
close himself, singling twice in four trips from the leadoff spot (he’s now 8
for 13 [.615/.643/.692] between Cubs and Rangers camp) and, more importantly,
making a dazzling 6-3 play in the hole from shortstop.


Ron Washington on the utility infield job before yesterday’s
game: “Because no one is trying to seize the opportunity, that makes it
difficult.  I’m looking to see who can
play baseball.  That means understanding
what a situation is asking you do to and doing it.  That’s not asking much.”


One of the nagging things about Joaquin Arias’s game is
that, despite his obvious tools, his body language rarely seems to suggest an
opportunity-seizing sense of urgency, and as for that last part, playing to the
situation, Arias seems to fall short of that, too.  You see a guy playing for his big league life
get caught stealing in a situation where he shouldn’t have been running in the first
place, for instance, and the immediate thought is that the manager isn’t going
to trust that guy enough to use him. 


Trust plays a big part when it comes to the bench.  Using a role player in the late innings often
means the game is on the line.  Using him
to give a starter the occasional day off is by definition a downgrade in the
lineup.  You have to trust the player to hold
things together.  The Rangers have given
Arias years of chances to earn that trust, and he has one week left to do so before
he’ll suit up in Arlington or hit the waiver wire.


At this point, it might be that the only way Arias wins a
job is if Ian Kinsler has to start the season on the disabled list, in which case
Texas would elect to go with two middle infielders rather than one plus a
corner man like Matt Brown or Max Ramirez. 


But even if that were the case, Arias may have trouble fending
Gregorio Petit or Esteban German off for that second job.  The frontrunner for the first, after just one
day of work, seems to be Blanco.  He turns
26 on April 11, and at the moment it sure looks like he’ll be celebrating it on
getaway day in Arlington. 


April 11 is also the day that Kinsler and Darren O’Day would
be eligible to come off the disabled list if that’s where they’re headed, as
long as they don’t appear in an exhibition game this week.  If they do play this week, the 15-day DL
assignment can’t be backdated past the day they show up in a game.


Feldman will throw live batting practice on Wednesday (or
Thursday, depending on which story is accurate), putting him in line for next Monday’s
Opening Day assignment.


The 27-year-old made the point that the Opening Day start is
cool and all, but this is actually the first of his career (five years with
some big league service) to begin the season anywhere in the Rangers rotation.


The man who will take the mound before Feldman: Roger
Staubach, tabbed by the Rangers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. 


Jarrod Saltalamacchia (neck spasms) played five defensive innings
in a minor league game yesterday and could play in the big league game today.


According to a local report, if Mike Lowell (now dealing
with a bruised left knee) is no longer a consideration for an upgrade at the
backup corner infield job (over Brown or Ramirez), other names that could fit
are Kevin Millar, Wes Helms, Fernando Tatis, Geoff Blum, and Willie Bloomquist,
but the final two probably make too much money (though each makes about half of
the $3 million that Boston originally expected Texas to assume of Lowell’s $12 million


Jayson Stark of ESPN writes that the Rangers are “looking
for a veteran starting pitcher.  The
question is, would they move [David] Murphy?  He’d be a pretty good outfielder for a team
looking for an extra outfielder.”  That doesn’t
make any sense.  Any starter that Texas
could get for Murphy would be a back-of-the-rotation type, and the Rangers aren’t
in need of one of those.


San Francisco signed righthander Matt Cain to a contract
extension yesterday (maintaining his $4.25 million salary this year, bumping
his $6.25 million club option in 2011 to $7 million, and tacking on $15 million
in 2012, plus a $1 million signing bonus payable in 2011).  That cooks my idea from three weeks ago (“that
[Chris] Davis or [Justin] Smoak gets traded this July, maybe with Derek Holland
or Matt Harrison, plus Wilmer Font or Engel Beltre, to the Giants for
righthander Matt Cain . . . and right-handed corner bat Mark DeRosa (set to
earn $12 million in 2010-2011”), to the delight of many of you.


So dial back to a few ideas I came up with back in February:


“If (when) Kansas City is 20 games out in mid-July, despite
a second straight Cy Young-quality season from Greinke, I’d call the Royals and
offer them Holland, Font, [Alexi] Ogando, [Mitch] Moreland, and Engel Beltre
for [Zack] Greinke and a middle reliever or veteran bench piece (whichever
makes more roster sense at that point).”


Or “Smoak, Font, and [Kasey] Kiker for Brandon Webb.”  (Remember, we’re talking about July, so this
assumes Webb is healthy.)


Or “[Omar] Poveda and Engel Beltre for (righthander) Chris
Young, or – if the decision is made to move Feliz into the rotation – Harrison,
Font, and Engel Beltre for Heath Bell, who is under control through 2011 (a
year longer than Frankie Francisco is).” 
(Obviously Poveda is now out of the mix. 
Make it Joe Wieland.)


A fourth: Michael Kirkman, Ogando, Ramirez, and Moreland to Florida
for Ricky Nolasco and left-handed reliever Renyel Pinto. 


A fifth: if Josh Willingham remains a National at
mid-season, Moreland and Kiker for the outfielder.


Boston released lefthander Brian Shouse.


A week from today, they count.  Today, Matt Harrison takes the hill against
Colorado, hoping to wrap up his excellent camp with as strong a statement
effort as the one Scott Feldman turned in yesterday.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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