The efficient C.J. Wilson.

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In each of C.J. Wilson’s
last two starts in Rangers Ballpark, he threw 61 pitches.  In the first, he threw 35 strikes.  In the second, he threw 34 strikes.  Nearly identical.  In those categories, at least.  In the others?






























Those two starts
were 1,701 days and worlds and worlds apart. 
As a relief pitcher, for all the positives Wilson brought to the mound,
he averaged 17.6 pitches per inning last year, 18.9 the year before, 17.2 the year
before that.  Too many for any pitcher,
totally unacceptable for someone wanting to start.


Last night: A dozen
pitches per inning.


I wrote this on
September 4 last year (and I don’t have the motivation right now to recalculate
to include the season’s final month):


Wilson pitching on no
days’ rest in 2009 (16 appearances): 10.80 ERA, 5.4 walks per nine innings,
slash line of .344/.417/.531.


On one day of rest (20
appearances) : 2.37 ERA,  6.2 walks per
nine, .147/.310/.235.


Two days’ rest (12
appearances): 0.66 ERA, 3.3 walks per nine, .250/.333/.354.


Three or more days’
rest (12 appearances): 0.00 ERA, 0.6 walks per nine, .170/.185/.189 (one walk
and one extra-base hit in 54 plate appearances).


It looks like Wilson is gonna dig pitching on four days of
rest, huh?


That was a wow effort, completing a knockout camp for Wilson.


A little more than a month after that final Wilson home
start of 2005, he entered the seventh inning of a 5-3 win over Felix Hernandez
and Seattle, giving up a run and getting two outs in a game that featured two
other rookie pitchers: starter Josh Rupe, who allowed two runs over five
innings in what was his big league debut, and reliever Scott Feldman, who
pitched a scoreless sixth – maintaining a perfect ERA six appearances into his


Imagine if you knew on September 16, 2005, watching that
game, that five seasons later Rupe would be starting the year in AAA again,
that Wilson would have become the pitcher that he’s become, and that Feldman,
the former 30th round pick who had Tommy John surgery months after
being drafted and who had his arm slot changed almost as many times as his role,
would be signing a contract on the eve of the season, guaranteeing nearly $14
million over the next three years, or more than $22.5 million over four.  Almost impossible.


The first outward commitment that the organization showed in
camp to Feldman, who went 17-8 for this club in 2009, came a week ago when it
was announced that he, and not Rich Harden, would get the club’s Opening Day start.  The second came yesterday with the news of
the contract, a team-friendly deal if he’s anywhere near the pitcher over the
life of the deal that he was last year but also one that sets Feldman up for
life, even if he were to never replicate 2009. 
If the 27-year-old wins 35 games the next two years, don’t be surprised
to see the club to rip up the deal and offer a new, longer-term commitment.


The Rangers talked yesterday about Feldman’s history as a strike-thrower
and a winner, his versatility and his durability, but what they kept coming
back to was that they had determined early in camp, with Kevin Millwood gone,
that Feldman was the guy they believed could lead the staff going forward, not as
much in the sense of getting the ball April 5 as in providing an example to
Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter and a dozen others over the next few years.  “He represents what we want to see in our
pitchers,” said Jon Daniels, who made a point of the fact that every time management
had sat down for a similar press conference in recent years, locking up a homegrown
product who had developed into a core player, it was a hitter sitting between
the manager and general manager for the photo opportunities.  Feldman is the first pitcher in years to
occupy that seat, and he occupies a lot more than that now, if you listen closely
to what the front office is saying.


Ryan Garko is a lifetime .381/.438/.429 hitter in Rangers Ballpark.  And a .313/.392/.495 hitter against left-handed
pitchers for his career.  He strikes out
only 50 times for every 400 big league plate appearances.  Primarily a first baseman, he hasn’t caught
in the big leagues but came up as a catcher prospect (and in fact won the 2003
Johnny Bench Award as the NCAA’s top catcher in his final season with Stanford),
making him at least an emergency option behind the plate. 


Basically, he’s what Texas would love to see Max Ramirez turn
into.  And at $550,000, at only a
slightly greater cost.  There are
incremental bonuses that start to kick in if Garko reaches 325 plate
appearances.  It’s a longshot that he’ll
be needed that often.


So the Rangers now have Garko in Texas and Ramirez at AAA,
neither of whom would be around presumably if the club had instead traded for
Mike Lowell, who would have cost Texas $3 million, if not more.


Will Garko be the hitter that Lowell will be in 2010?  Maybe not. 
But maybe.  Will he be the clubhouse
factor that Lowell would have been here? 
No.  But he’s a lot less
expensive, allows Texas to give Ramirez everyday at-bats at Oklahoma City to
try and resurrect his trade value, and it’s not out of the question that at age
29 he provides Texas as much in the limited role he’ll be asked to handle as
the 36-year-old Lowell would have. 


You might recall that Texas was apparently hot after Garko at
last year’s trade deadline.  From last
July 28’s Newberg Report:


to [Joel] Sherman [of the
New York Post], the Rangers
“were convinced [late yesterday] they were the front-runners to get Ryan Garko
from the Indians” and “were surprised when he ended up going to the Giants


By the way, Garko’s wasn’t the revocable type of waivers
that Brandon McCarthy, for example, had to clear in order to be optioned.  Seattle placed Garko on irrevocable waivers. 


Texas sold righthander Luis Mendoza to Kansas City for an
undisclosed amount.  Probably not much,
just a sum that allowed the Royals to secure Mendoza – who is just as out of
options for them as he was for Texas – without having to sweat the waiver claim
process.  The 26-year-old is a perennial
winter ball star whose considerable stuff hasn’t translated to big league
success – or even AAA success, really. 
He’s Kansas City’s enigma now.


The trade of Mendoza and outright of Ben Snyder brings the
roster down to 38 players, but that doesn’t include Alexi Ogando or Omar
Beltre, who will need to be reinstated to the roster this weekend in order to
effectuate their options to the farm. 
Joaquin Arias survives, but when Ian Kinsler returns, he’s the expected
casualty, not only from the active roster but the 40-man version as well, as he’s
also out of options.  He’ll probably pinch-run
for Vladimir Guerrero late in a game or two until Kinsler is back, after which
chances are he’ll end up with another organization.


Some incidentals:


Watching Andres Blanco take infield is a treat.


The cover story in this week’s Dallas Observer is an
excellent feature on Chuck Greenberg
Read it.  (And note this comment: “It’s
my job to get this franchise to operate like a big-market team.  The resources are here, and it’s our job to
cultivate them.  If we do that there’s no
reason we can’t spend our money along the lines of, maybe not Boston and New
York, but what they do in Anaheim and Philadelphia.”  The Angels and Phillies both had payrolls in
the $113 million range last year, about $45 million more than Texas.)

ESPN’s Buster Olney has two Rangers on his list of 10 players “who had great
spring trainings”: Wilson (number three) and Michael Young (number five),
calling the latter “the Texas metronome.”


ESPN’s Keith Law projects 87 wins for Texas, enough to prevail
in the American League West – but sees the Rangers losing to the Yankees in first
round of the playoffs.  (Would we take that
in lieu of whatever’s behind Door No. 2? 
Yeah, probably.)


Vladimir Guerrero told the Dominican newspaper El Dia
that he thought when he reported to camp with Texas that it was possible that
the Rangers would sign righthander Pedro Martinez.


Frisco’s pitching staff will include Martin Perez, Tanner
Scheppers, Ogando, and Blake Beavan, among others.  The organization plans to have Ogando start
and Scheppers relieve at the outset, though the thought is that they’re being groomed
for the opposite roles.  Innings will be
carefully monitored for both.


ranks the Rangers’ minor league talent second in baseball,
next to Tampa Bay’s.  Oakland was 11th,
Seattle 12th, the Angels 26th. 


Positional rankings: According to BA,
Justin Smoak is baseball’s top first base prospect, Neftali Feliz and Scheppers
check in at number two and number 10 among right-handed starters, Martin Perez
is the number two left-handed starter while Robbie Ross (17) and Kasey Kiker
(19) make the list as well, Jurickson Profar is number 13 at shortstop, and Mitch
Moreland is the number 17 outfielder.


Texas released minor league righthanders Kelvin Arendell, Reinier
Bermudez, Jared Hyatt, Jorge Quintero, Jae-kuk Ryu, Jared Schrom, and Bobby
Wilkins; lefthanders Keith Campbell and Winston Marquez; catcher John Otness;
and outfielders Santo DeJesus (once known as Juan Polanco), Kyle Rhoad, and Tim


Boston righthander Junichi Tazawa, whom the Red Sox signed
after the 2008 season despite offering the 22-year-old less than Texas did,
will miss the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery.


Outfielders John Mayberry Jr. and Justin Maxwell failed to
win jobs in Philadelphia and Washington, and both were optioned. 


Pittsburgh traded righthander Virgil Vazquez, like Mayberry
and Maxwell a former Rangers draft pick, to Tampa Bay, but he’ll go to AAA as relief
insurance, as will righthander Joaquin Benoit, who lost his competition with
righty Mike Ekstrom for the Rays’ final bullpen spot.

Hank Blalock was beaten out by Reid Brignac for the final spot on Tampa Bay’s
bench.  Will Blalock stick with his
declaration that he’s not interested in being a AAA player?  He reportedly has until Sunday to accept his
minor league assignment (according to the
St. Petersburg Times),
and has semi-retracted his Wednesday comments, saying he has no plans to retire.  We’ll know soon enough if he’ll be Durham
Bulls teammates with Benoit.


Oakland reassigned righthander Jason Jennings to minor
league camp.  Cincinnati released
righthander Kip Wells.  Arizona
outrighted Jose Marte.


Jon Daniels and his crew of pro scouts don’t get enough
credit for the trade on the eve of the 2008 season that sent Marte, a decent
prospect at best, to the Diamondbacks for righthander Dustin Nippert, who was
out of options.


Philadelphia released outfielder Brad Wilkerson.  Kansas City released righthander John Bannister.  The Angels released lefthander Daniel Haigwood.  Washington released lefthander Mike Venafro. 


Righthander Jamey Wright made the Cleveland staff.


The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association once
again signed lefthander Joel Kirsten.


More importantly:


Elvis Andrus missed last night’s exhibition and will miss
today’s due to inflammation on the outside of his left wrist, but he’s expected
to be ready for Monday’s opener.


Nelson Cruz was scratched last night with a bruised right
thumb he suffered in Thursday’s game but should be in Monday’s lineup – and he might
play today.


And Darren O’Day was pronounced ready to go (assuming no residual
discomfort today) after testing his right elbow bone bruise in a 26-pitch, simulated
game effort yesterday. 


The timetable on Ian Kinsler’s return remains uncertain, but
the other timetable, the one we’ve been talking about for a couple months (that
have felt a lot longer), is quite clear:


Two sleeps.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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