March 2010

Surprise report, v.1.

It’s a game of inches.  

I’m not sure what would have happened had we not left the house at 5:45 a.m., had we not arrived at the airport at 6:20, had we not checked in and arrived at the security check line at 6:30, nearly an hour before our 7:25 a.m. flight.  

They Know Why We Fly, but they must not know when Spring Break is, because they had only one guy in place to check boarding passes and ID’s for the hundreds of us lined up for security checks.  He deserves a merit badge for moving the line as fast as he did, but it still took us 30 minutes to get through the line.

But that was OK, because it was just 7:00, our gate was 50 feet away, and departure wasn’t until 7:25.  No sweat.

Except that as we walked over to the gate, we heard, “. . . Last call before we give your seats away to standby passengers.  Last call for Smith, Newberg, . . . “

Really?  Really??  When you check in, at the airport, an hour before your flight, if you don’t show up at the gate (because of backed up security checks) until 25 minutes before departure, they’ll give your seats away?

It takes a lot to torque me off on a trip to Surprise, but if we’d shown up at the airport an hour before our break-of-dawn flight instead of 65 minutes early, and had our seats taken away from us, then the 3-14-10 Newberg Report would have put this particular airline on a short list that includes Todd Zeile, Dish Network, Luis Alicea, Flip Boone, and Nickelback.

Instead, it all worked out — barely — and instead of a bunch of vitriol you’re subjected only to seven wasted paragraphs that you didn’t sign up for.  

I was pretty tired yesterday so there’s a 10 percent chance I’m wrong about these things:

1. I think I saw Reds third baseman Scott Rolen hanging out with his kids at the pool at our hotel.

2. I think I saw Indians AAA pitching coach (and 129-game winner) Charles Nagy at dinner (bemoaning Cleveland’s 5-0 loss to Texas earlier in the day).

3. I think I saw Johnny Whittleman wearing a Whittleman 49 jersey during afternoon BP on the back fields.

I’ve been to more than 20 spring trainings.  There are a handful of moments I still remember as being the very first thing I saw on that particular trip.  Donald Harris bloodying his own lip on a foul ball in BP in 1990 in Port Charlotte.  Dodgers rookie Raul Mondesi making a throw to the plate that you could have hung clothes on in 1994 in a game against the Astros in Kissimmee.  John Bannister blowing Royals uberprospect Billy Butler away on three fastballs in 2005.

And five years later, on that same field where I saw Bannister-Butler, the southeast of the four surrounding the Eagle’s Nest on the back fields in Surprise, I saw a guy who I’ve been expecting for several years now to have that breakout season take another predictably dazzling round of BP.  I don’t know if Johnny Whittleman is going to have a big summer, but there’s no question he had a big winter.  The 23-year-old put on what had to be 20 extra pounds of good weight this off-season, and he looks like Troy Aikman out there.

He’s still got to field his position better at third, and still needs to show more consistent power and aggressiveness at the plate, and he knows that.  But if his off-season workouts are any indication of how dedicated he is to taking that next step, this may finally be his year.

I saw less than one hour of work Saturday afternoon before they packed things in to wrap up the first day of full squad minor league workouts, but in that time, between throws with Max, a few other things caught my eye as well:

1. Jorge Alfaro’s BP session was the most inconsistent one I saw, but also full of wow.  The 16-year-old catcher from Columbia is the definition of raw offensively (wish I’d taken a photo of the talk he and hitting instructor Luis Ortiz were having between turns at the plate — Alfaro wants it), but mature physically and extremely talented.  I can’t wait to see him show off his defensive tools, based on how the great Jason Parks described his work behind the plate.  

2. Watching 23-year-old dirtdog Vin DiFazio take batting practice while 17-year-old wunderkind Jurickson Profar fielded fungoes at shortstop made me think of how different their paths have been, and how much I root for both of them.  That’s two players who want to be great, not an insignificant trait.

3. Absent from minor league camp were two other diametrically opposite players.  One was outfielder Steve Murphy, who has retired.  The 25-year-old was the Northwest League MVP in 2005 after being drafted by Texas in the 14th round that summer out of Kansas State, and by 2007 he was an everyday AA player.  The former high school teammate of John Mayberry Jr. didn’t come into pro ball with much fanfare, but had several years as a productive minor leaguer.  The other was Emmanuel Solis, who signed at age 17 out of the Dominican Republic for more than $500,000 but never has produced.  An experiment was underfoot last year to move the third baseman to the mound, but he’s not on the camp roster as far as I can tell.  

It had been three years since the Rangers had been rained out of a spring training game when they were washed out last week, and it had been three years since the club had twirled a shutout before yesterday’s blanking of the Indians.  Brandon McCarthy pitched in the March 4, 2007 gem and in yesterday’s as well.  I didn’t see any of the game, but McCarthy reportedly relied on a fastball with tremendous life to set three hitters down on strikes in his three innings of work (three hits, one walk), and Darren Oliver (one inning), Luis Mendoza (three innings), and Guillermo Moscoso (two innings) followed with six innings of one-hit ball.  

Third baseman Matt Brown doubled off a lefty and tripled off a righty.  

Chris Davis singled in three trips and sits at .522/.560/.739 with only four strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

Ian Kinsler will be held out of action for at least a week with a high right ankle sprain.

There’s a little speculation brewing in local reports that Neftali Feliz is less than a lock to break camp with the big club, particularly if he doesn’t begin to command his secondary stuff.  If Feliz gets optioned, it won’t so much be because of strong efforts from bubble candidates like Mendoza and Moscoso or flashes of awesomeness from newcomers Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando, who are certainties to start the year on the farm — it will be strictly because  of the state of Feliz’s development and how to handle it best.  

Kevin Millwood’s second Orioles outing was no better than his first: five earned runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings.

Mike Lowell is supposed to see game action for Boston tomorrow.  Red Sox officials are praising his early work at first base.

Washington released Eddie Guardado.

Jason Botts is 1 for 12 in White Sox camp.  Omar Vizquel is 2 for 15.  A slimmed down Andruw Jones, on the other hand, is 5 for 14 (.357/.471/.500) with as many walks (three) as strikeouts, and two stolen bases in two tries.

The Pirates are reportedly not guaranteeing infielder Ramon Vazquez a job even though he’s guaranteed $2 million.  A trade is expected, and for obvious reasons the Rangers are being mentioned in Pittsburgh reports as a possible destination.  Keep an eye on this one.

Jayson Stark’s Grapefruit League travels produced a list of the hardest throwers he’s seen in Florida this month, topped by Stephen Strasburg and Daniel Bard, each of whom touched 98, and six others who hit 97 — including Tampa Bay’s Joaquin Benoit.  (Interestingly, at least four Rangers pitchers I can think of off the top of my head would have made that list had Stark made
it over to Arizona the last couple weeks.)

Benoit told reporters, on the subject of new Rays teammate Hank Blalock: “I’ll tell you what.  If he’s healthy, he’s gonna be unbelievable.  He swings hard at everything, and he’s not the kind of guy that swings hard and misses.”

Hmm.

Blalock on why he chose Tampa Bay: “I didn’t have any other choice.  That’s why I’m here.”

Nice touch: Texas got minor league infielder Travis Adair into a game last week as a “Just In Case” against Seattle — whose pitching coach is his Dad, Rick Adair.  Travis worked a walk in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance.

Colorado signed righthander Rick Bauer and lefthander Scott Rice to minor league deals.

The Laredo Broncos of the independent United League released outfielder Juan Senreiso.  The Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League signed righthander Joselo Diaz.  The Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League signed first baseman-outfielder J.T. Restko to a contract extension.

Full day of baseball ahead.  Catch you tomorrow.

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32 Things.

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Fewest walks in
league,

Best batting clip
in AZ

Who cares about
wins?

 

About time for me to get myself out to Surprise, but before that
to share with you this year’s version of the annual “32 things I’m looking
forward to seeing”:

 

1.     
Tanner Scheppers.  Huge.  Quickly.

 

2.     
Alexi Ogando.  Omar
Beltre, too.  But Ogando has a better
chance to make me come away from Surprise with the same feeling I got after seeing
Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, and Scheppers for the first time in camp.

 

3.     
Outfielder Miguel Velazquez, who was limited physically when
I saw him at Fall Instructs.  I’ll squint
a little to see if he’s a young Nelson Cruz for me, as he is for many others.

 

4.     
In 2007, I was eager to see the trio of Summer 2006 Latin
American bonus babies (Wilmer Font, Carlos Pimentel, and Geuris Grullon) so I could
begin to differentiate them.  This year’s
group: Chad Bell, Paul Strong, Shawn Blackwell, Nick McBride, and Andrew Doyle.  (Robbie Erlin has already separated himself
for me – can he do in his first full season what Robbie Ross did in his?) 

 

5.     
Sixteen-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro.  Macumba, too, primarily to see where the bat is. 

 

6.     
For some pitching phenom to get absolutely spanked – then to
see how he responds in the following inning.

 

7.     
Vladimir Guerrero and Chris Davis batting practice sessions.

 

8.     
When I saw 16-year-old Jurickson Profar at Fall Instructs,
he was a man among boys playing with and against kids a couple years older.  Will he stand out in camp, too?  Bet on it.

 

9.     
If I make it to any big league games, Mitch Moreland against
someone with a vested pension.  Justin
Smoak, too, but Moreland is the gotta-see-this guy right now.

 

10.  That
0 percent chance of rain that weather.com is promising.

 

11.  The
new Matt Harrison.

 

12.  The
new Wilfredo Boscan and the new Johnny Whittleman and the new Neil Ramirez. 

 

13.  Elvis,
of course.  Hopefully not a new one.

 

14.  Is
there a newness that Blake Beavan’s ready to unleash?  If so, that could be big.

 

15.  Ron
Washington’s interaction with Joaquin Arias. 
Clint Hurdle’s interaction with everyone. 

 

16.  Nolan
Ryan’s watchful back-fields gaze: Where is it trained?

 

17.  Lefthander
Miguel De Los Santos, assuming he’s in camp. 
Is it real?

 

18.  I
want to see how Danny Gutierrez is handling his challenge.

 

19.  Matt
Brown taking infield.

 

20.  Colby
Lewis, v.2.

 

21.  Matt
Thompson, a serious breakout candidate.

 

22.  Take
a look at the service time of the Rangers’ various late-inning relief
options.  Chris Ray could be an important
piece of the bigger puzzle.  (Aside:
Kevin Millwood pitched for the second time last night, and got drilled again:
five earned runs on nine hits and a walk over 2.2 innings.)

 

23.  Tommy
Mendonca, in drills and in games.  Engel
Beltre, in games.  At the plate.  Julio Borbon, on defense.

 

24.  Michael
Main.  It’s time.

 

25.  The
very different comic stylings of Wayne Kirby and Don Welke.

 

26.  Max
Ramirez.  It’s obviously a massively huge
time for him.

 

27.  I
still have a little interest in seeing if Cristian Santana can take the next
step.  A little.

 

28.  Whatever
it is that holds Max’s attention this year. 
And some cool memory with the kids that comes anywhere close to Erica’s
interview of Josh Hamilton last year or Ron Washington’s fungo to 3-year-old
Max two years ago.

 

29.  How
C.J. Wilson and Neftali Feliz respond if and when their rotation auditions end. 

 

30.  How
Derek Holland responds if he’s reassigned to minor league camp while I’m there,
not as a punishment but in an effort to get him stretched out as a starter
while the remaining rotation candidates begin to fall into their usage routines.

 

31.  Writing.  Lots and lots of writing.  (Now’s a good time to tell your pals who make you
forward reports to them from time to time to go ahead and sign up themselves.  Free, and easy, like Feliz cheese: Just go to
the website and click “Mailing List.”)

 

32.  Martin
Perez.  There are a handful of young blue-chip
arms in this organization, some with big league experience and some without it,
who are locks to figure in over the next few years while the core of the
Rangers lineup is still intact.  None,
however, has as clearly visualized a role as Perez.

 

See you from sunny Surprise.

 

 

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Splitting Edwar Ramirez.

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I checked this
morning on newly acquired righthander Edwar Ramirez’s career splits, just for
grins.  The samples are all small, given
that the reliever pitched just one full season for the Yankees and parts of two
others, but facing nine batters in Rangers Ballpark, he got seven of them out,
allowing two singles and no walks while fanning three in those 2.1 innings of
work.

 

He’s been pretty
good against the Mariners and Athletics (at least those who suited up between
2007 and 2009), firing 10 scoreless innings (three hits [all singles] and 13
strikeouts, though an unsightly seven walks).

 

But keep the changeup
artist off the mound against the Angels: 6.2 innings, 14 earned runs (18.90
ERA) on 16 hits and six walks (.485/.548/.909), eight strikeouts. 

 

In the bigger picture,
the key objective with Ramirez will be to cut his walk rate (5.13 per nine
innings) so that the club can feel confident taking advantage of his
extraordinary strikeout rate (10.62 per nine) in high-leverage situations.  Or any situations at all.

 

Randy Galloway said on his radio show yesterday that he asked
five Rangers officials who the club’s first baseman will be in 2012: Chris
Davis or Justin Smoak? 

 

According to Galloway, the leading answer: Mitch Moreland.

 

I have some thoughts on that, but without going into much
detail today, the half-baked scenario cooking in my head is that Davis or 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 (who has a $4.25 million
salary plus a $6.25 million club option for 2011 that could escalate to $8.15
million) and right-handed corner bat Mark DeRosa (set to earn $12 million in
2010-2011). 

 

Nolan Ryan was on Galloway’s show yesterday and singled out
righthanders Joe Wieland and Matt Thompson as back field arms who have
impressed him this week.  Wieland was an
instant favorite of Ryan’s when the sturdy 20-year-old arrived two summers ago.

 

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked baseball’s farm
systems, with the Mariners coming in at number 23, the Angels at 20, the A’s at
seven (after last year’s number one nod), and the Rangers at two, behind Tampa
Bay.  Goldstein on the Texas system,
which he ranked number two last year as well:

 

Why They Are
Here:

 No system in baseball can match a
left/right pitching prospect combination like Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez,
and there’s just an embarrassment of riches after than when it comes to young
arms.  The system is actually below
average when it comes to hitting prospects, but Justin Smoak is a future
three-hole hitter, and Jurickson Profar could explode.

 

Where They Will
Be Next Year:

It will be tough to repeat this high of a ranking, as Feliz will be gone, while
Smoak could be as well.  Two first-round
picks will certainly help, but overall, we’re looking at a net loss 12 months
from now, albeit not the kind anyone should be complaining about.

 

Four spring games for Matt Brown, three throwing errors from
third base.

 

Hank Blalock’s out clause with Tampa Bay allows him to ask
for his release if he’s not on the roster as of April 1.  The Rays would have a defined period of days at
that point to add him to the roster or let him go.

 

Richard Durrett turned in a
solid, lengthy feature on Jon Daniels
at the ESPN Dallas website.  Check it out.

 

 

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Harrison breaking from the pack.

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The moment that
stuck out for me last night as we recorded the latest edition of Rangers
Podcast in Arlington was when our guest Eric Nadel recounted something Fergie
Jenkins told him in Pompano Beach in 1979, Nadel’s first spring with the
Rangers.  It went something like this: “All
this stuff you’re seeing in these spring training games?  Ignore it. 
It’s spring training.”

 

It’s good advice, but when the results belong to players clearly
competing for a job, they probably can’t be discounted completely. 

 

In other words, when you view the work put in so far by Matt
Harrison (outstanding), Brandon McCarthy (inconsistent), and Derek Holland
(sputtering), the three primary candidates for the number five spot in the rotation,
it’s hard not to view Harrison as the leader at this point.  There’s nearly a month to go, and things can
change, but Harrison is off to an encouraging start.

 

And this isn’t just about a couple innings of work.  Harrison came to camp 30 pounds more fit, fully
recovered from thoracic outlet syndrome, toting an extra three ticks on the
radar gun (now touching 97).  As Nadel
points out in the Podcast, results aren’t as important in a competition like
this one as consistency, stuff, command, and efficiency, and right now Harrison
appears to be ahead of McCarthy and Holland in all four categories.

 

Josh Hamilton had two singles in three trips yesterday, his
first game action of camp, and made two uneventful plays in left field. 

 

Tanner Scheppers wowed onlookers on Thursday pumping upper-90s
heat in a swift, perfect seven-pitch inning against the Royals, keeping his power
curve in his pocket.  He unleashed the
curve in a “B” game yesterday, throwing three of them, all for strikes, two of
them going for strike three. 

 

The Scheppers fastball gets lots of attention (ranked by Baseball America
among the top five in minor league baseball), but
BA
also says that, in a system with a number of plus curves (Martin Perez, Danny
Gutierrez, Jake Brigham), it’s Scheppers whose bender is the best.

 

BA
also projects Scheppers to be the Rangers closer in 2013.  Don’t bet against him figuring in somewhere
near the top of the rotation instead. 

 

Lots more from BA‘s Prospect Handbook -
here’s the publication’s top 30 Rangers prospects:

 

1.         Neftali
Feliz, RHP

2.         Justin
Smoak, 1B

3.         Martin
Perez, LHP

4.         Tanner
Scheppers, RHP

5.         Jurickson
Profar, SS

6.         Kasey Kiker,
LHP

7.         Robbie Ross,
LHP

8.         Mitch
Moreland, 1B-OF

9.         Danny
Gutierrez, RHP

10.       Wilmer Font,
RHP

11.       Max Ramirez,
C

12.       Joe Wieland,
RHP

13.       Luis
Sardinas, SS

14.       Engel Beltre,
OF

15.       Leury Garcia,
SS

16.       Michael
Kirkman, LHP

17.       Blake Beavan,
RHP

18.       Tommy
Mendonca, 3B

19.       Guillermo
Moscoso, RHP

20.       Omar Poveda,
RHP

21.       Michael Main,
RHP

22.       Miguel
Velazquez, OF

23.       Pedro Strop,
RHP

24.       Neil Ramirez,
RHP

25.       Jake Brigham,
RHP

26.       Tomas Telis,
C

27.       Wilfredo
Boscan, RHP

28.       Craig Gentry,
OF

29.       Andrew Doyle,
RHP

30.       Richard
Alvarez, RHP

 

BA‘s
assessment of the organization’s best tools:

 

Best Hitter for Average          Justin
Smoak

Best Power Hitter                   Justin
Smoak

Best Strike-Zone Discipline    Justin
Smoak

Fastest Baserunner                  Leury
Garcia

Best Athlete                            Greg
Golson (published, obviously, before he was traded to the Yankees)

Best Fastball                           Neftali
Feliz

Best Curveball                        Tanner
Scheppers

Best Slider                              Robbie
Ross

Best Changeup                        Kasey
Kiker

Best Control                            Blake
Beavan

Best Defensive Catcher          Leonel
De Los Santos

Best Defensive Infielder         Leury
Garcia

Best Infield Arm                     Leury
Garcia

Best Defensive Outfielder      Craig
Gentry

Best Outfield Arm                  Greg
Golson

 

It’s interesting how Perez, considered by most experts to be
one of the two best lefthander prospects in baseball, isn’t even listed atop
any of the “best pitch” categories.  The depth
of this standout system is unquestionably on the mound.

 

BA‘s
projected 2013 lineup:

 

Catcher                        Taylor
Teagarden (same as last year’s 2012 projection)

First Base                    Justin
Smoak (same)

Second Base               Ian
Kinsler (same)

Third Base                   Michael
Young (same)

Shortstop                     Elvis
Andrus (same)

Left Field                    Josh
Hamilton (last year: Julio Borbon)

Center Field                Julio
Borbon (last year: Engel Beltre)

Right Field                  Nelson
Cruz (last year: Hamilton)

Designated Hitter       Chris
Davis (same)

No. 1 Starter               Neftali
Feliz (same)

No. 2 Starter               Martin
Perez (last year: Derek Holland)

No. 3 Starter               Derek
Holland (last year: Perez)

No. 4 Starter               Scott
Feldman (last year: Michael Main)

No. 5 Starter               Tommy
Hunter (last year: Matt Harrison)

Closer                          Tanner
Scheppers (last year: Blake Beavan)

 

After several years of multiple changes in the projected
lineup, there’s some stability now in terms of how the position players project
three years down the road. 

 

BA
ranks 88 Rangers prospects position by position, and while I won’t run all of
those down (I’d encourage you to buy the book, whose Rangers chapter was
written by Aaron Fitt), I’ll tell you for example that, after the left-handed
starters who show up in the top 30 (Perez at 3, Kiker at 6, Ross at 7, Kirkman
at 16),
BA
ranks further southpaw starters this way: Robbie Erlin, Chad Bell, Richard
Bleier, Tim Murphy, Paul Strong, and Edwin Escobar.

 

According to BA, righthander Matt
Nevarez is the number 15 prospect and infielder Jose Vallejo is not among the
top 30 in the Astros system, which is ranked last overall among the 30
organizations.

 

Neither catcher Manny Pina nor outfielder Tim Smith is among
Kansas City’s top 30 prospects.  Gutierrez,
obtained by Texas for those two, is the number nine Rangers prospect, though
he’ll start the season under a 50-game league suspension after testing positive
for a prescribed ADHD medication called Adderall that he didn’t obtain a
therapeutic use exemption for in advance. 
The Royals are ranked 17th overall, while the Rangers are number two.

 

Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was eligible but not ranked
among the Phillies’ top 30 prospects.

 

Righthander Thomas Diamond is not listed among the Cubs’ top
86 prospects.

 

Righthander Graham Stoneburner, the younger brother of
Rangers minor league infielder Davis Stoneburner, is the Yankees’ number 21
prospect.  Not sure where Golson would
have fit; he was still with Texas at the time the book was printed, and not
among the top 30 Rangers.

 

BA
revealed yesterday that the 17-year-old Profar, who has yet to play a
professional inning, got Top 100 Prospect votes on three of the four ballots (each
of which included 150 players) though he failed to crack the overall top
100.  He was number 74 on one voter’s ballot.  Ross was also listed on three ballots,
getting a high vote of number 96.  Font
was number 57 on one voter’s ballot – and not listed among the top 150 on the
other three.  Also listed on one ballot: Kiker
(number 112) and Moreland (130).

 

Smoak got treatment for his sort left hip flexor yesterday
and hopes to play today.

 

Hank Blalock is back in Port Charlotte, where he first made
noise a decade ago as an uber-prospect on the verge of becoming a perennial contender
for batting titles.  The 29-year-old has signed
a minor league deal with Tampa Bay for $925,000, with an extra $350,000 based on
plate appearance incentives.  Those bonuses
may be hard to come by unless Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria gets hurt, or unless
Blalock is able to take at-bats away from Pat Burrell.

 

While it’s not confirmed, there’s speculation that Blalock
has an out clause if he’s not added to the active Rays roster at some point
late in camp.  Makes sense.

 

Click here
to listen to Kevin Goldstein’s Monday morning segment with Ben & Skin on
ESPN Radio.  The 11-minute topic: Why Goldstein
doesn’t think Elvis Andrus was very good in 2009.  There’s a little Smoak talk in there as
well.  Good stuff.

 

I’ll shoot you an email once Ted Price gets last night’s
Podcast episode uploaded.

 

 

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Choice B.

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This time of year there’s
one email I get twice as much as any other: “Got any tips for a first-time trip
to Surprise?”  My answer every time is generally
the same.  “Get yourself to the back
fields at 10 a.m. every day.”

 

If you’re at Rangers
camp now, and you’re taking that advice, you’re going to have some company
today.

 

Josh Hamilton is
reportedly pushing for a spot in the Rangers lineup in the 10 a.m. “B” game (weather
permitting) against the Royals, as the majority of the starting lineup prepares
to travel half an hour south to Goodyear to take on Cleveland in the club’s regularly
scheduled game.

 

And slated to get
the Texas start in that “B” game: Tanner Scheppers.

 

Not that there won’t
be interest in seeing how righthanders Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscoso, and
Luis Mendoza fare against the Indians, but after Scheppers, who has yet to
throw a pitch that counts since signing as the Rangers’ supplemental
first-round pick last summer, sat 96-98 in a perfect seven-pitch inning against
Kansas City on Thursday, not even showing his plus curve, his follow-up effort should
be a stopdown for lots of folks this morning – even if Hamilton (who took
batting practice against Omar Beltre and Warner Madrigal on Saturday and went yard
to the opposite field off each) weren’t possibly slated to lead off each of six
innings as the Texas DH.

 

Lefthanders Michael Kirkman and Zach Phillips are scheduled
to follow Scheppers in the “B” game.

 

The quiet surprise of camp so far?  Maybe Matt Harrison, who reportedly sat 93-95
with a plus cutter yesterday, firing two perfect innings and getting all six of
his outs on the ground.

 

If Harrison – don’t forget, younger than Moscoso, Madrigal, and
Doug Mathis – takes the next step this year, and if Jarrod Saltalamacchia builds
off what’s been a solid early camp, and both move toward establishing themselves
as core players, think about what the discussion about the Mark Teixeira trade will
sound like.

 

Rangers pitchers through three games: 1.73 ERA, 15
strikeouts and two walks (over 26 innings), 43 groundouts and 15 flyouts, no
home runs.

 

In those 26 innings, Texas pitchers have permitted five earned
runs.

 

Which is one fewer than Kevin Millwood gave up in just
two-thirds of an inning yesterday.  Ten Detroit
hitters: one home run (leadoff hitter Clete Thomas), one double, five singles,
one walk, two flyouts (and a balk tossed in as well).  Doesn’t mean a lot, but that’s a pretty ugly Orioles
debut.

 

Julio Borbon was held out of action on Saturday with a sore
right forearm muscle, suffered while diving for a ball on Friday.  Not expected to be serious.

 

Isolated moments in spring training may not mean a whole lot,
but it’s fair to assume that Matt Brown’s second throwing error in three
half-games at third base (each, as I recall, leading to an unearned run) isn’t
going to be written off by Ron Washington. 
Leury Garcia’s error yesterday was as costly, but not as critical in the
bigger picture.

 

Scott Lucas delivers a
lengthy essay on Michael Young’s chances to reach 3,000 hits
.

 

Tampa Bay is reportedly on the verge of signing Hank Blalock
to a non-roster contract, making him a candidate to back up Carlos Pena at
first base, Evan Longoria at third base, and Pat Burrell at DH.  Not a lot of opportunity there defensively,
but Burrell is someone Blalock could conceivably start to take more than just platoon
at-bats away from.

 

Righthander Jason Grilli, in camp with Cleveland on a
non-roster deal, tore his right quadriceps while running sprints and could miss
the season.

 

The forecast for Cactus League rain is stronger today than
it is for North Texas, but if the weather holds up, you can tune into
Texas-Cleveland on KRLD 1080-AM at 2:05 Central time.

 

 

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

 

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
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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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.

 

 

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

 

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
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and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Apologies.

Since arriving in camp, outfielder Brandon Boggs, recovering from a shoulder injury, has been allowed to do everything but slide.

For the last week or so, I’ve pretty much allowed myself to do nothing but slide.

Sorry for the half-baked-ness the last few days.  I should have time for a full-length report tomorrow morning.

Tune into The Fan (105.3 FM) for today’s first Cactus League pitch, at 2:05 p.m.  Rich Harden takes the ball to open the bottom of the first, and Colby Lewis, Doug Mathis, Ben Snyder, and Pedro Strop are slated to follow.

P.S./Off-Topic:  In the meantime, my buddy Devin Pike asked if I would pass this along: Red Carpet Crash, The MungleShow and BigFanBoy.com present the best place in Dallas to watch the 2010 Academy Awards on Sunday, March 7 – at the Historic Lakewood Theater.  We’ll have the biggest night in entertainment on a massive 55′ HD screen, and you’re invited to watch it with us, along with local actors, filmmakers and a few surprise guests.  Play along with our Ballot Challenge, which has prizes for every Awards category – the player with the most correct guesses will win a pair of Star Passes to the Dallas International Film Festival (a $1500 value).  Admission is free, with VIP tickets available for $10.

Watch Out for Juan Moreno.

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1024×768


As a reminder to myself that it’s pretty much all downhill
from here, that all good things going forward may turn out to be flukes, if not
mirages . . .  on this, the day I turn
41, I throw down a photo of the lefthander who was the greatest flop in Newberg
Report projection history:

 

juanmoreno.jpg

Watch Out for
Juan Carlos Vegas Moreno.  Number 41.

 

He might be
creepin’ up on ya.

 

Now
get off my lawn.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

http://www.mercadolibre.com/org-img/vip3/layer/loading_small.gif

Chippy.

I
shouldn’t overreact to what Julio Borbon, Engel Beltre, Matt Brown, and Mitch
Moreland did in yesterday’s intrasquad game, or what Rich Harden, Pedro Strop,
Tanner Scheppers, or Alexi Ogando did (especially given, in the case of the
latter two, who was in the game offensively for the opposition by that time),
and I won’t.  (Got that out of my system yesterday in my shadow-Twittering
of Evan Grant’s play-by-play.)  But I will say one thing.

 

If
the early reports out of Surprise, not just yesterday afternoon but in the days
leading up to it as well, about Moreland are a fair indication of what’s
going on, this could be a very, very, very good thing for the Rangers.
 This year.

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