May 2010

Nothing to see here, folks.

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Don’t go jumping to conclusions,
but I thought this was interesting.

 

Derek Holland was in
control of a 3-2 lead over Omaha through five innings last night. 

 

He’d scattered two runs on four hits, all singles.  Punched out eight, the best strikeout rate he’d
had in any of his six starts.  Issued just
one walk. 

 

The two runs came on a bunt single and infield hit in the
third inning (after which Holland struck out ex-big leaguers Alex Gordon and
Scott Thorman to end the inning).  The result:
his ERA rose to 0.93, which is still the best in the 16-team Pacific Coast
League.  He’s second in the league in
strikeouts.

 

His fourth inning was quiet (strikeout, strikeout, groundout
to first base).  So was his fifth
(strikeout, popout to second base, single to center, strikeout).

 

He’d thrown 83 pitches, his lightest pitch count since throwing
82 in Oklahoma City’s opener on April 8. 
A very solid 57 of those pitches went for strikes.  He’d faced 20 Royals, the fewest opponents he’s
faced all season.

 

He’d coaxed five groundouts, just one flyout.  But not really.  The one “flyout” was that pop to second.

 

But his night was done.

 

I haven’t seen that there was any rain, or a dust storm in
Omaha, or a light standard that blew out. 
I don’t think there was any sort of extended game delay that would have prompted
the club not to send Holland out for the sixth. 
His RedHawks teammates didn’t freeze him up in the dugout with a long
top of the sixth, sending just four hitters up.

 

Was Holland pulled after five effective innings and 83
pitches in a 3-2 game to make sure fellow lefthander Clay Rapada (one inning), AAA-debuting
righthander Tanner Scheppers (two innings), and closer Pedro Strop (one inning)
could get a prescribed amount of work in? 
Doubtful, considering Holland’s chances to help the big club would seem
to be more of an immediate consideration than those of the other three.

 

Was he lifted because he was hurt?  Haven’t seen anything to lead me to believe so.

 

Was he being protected because he’s going to be starting for
Texas in five days?  Surely not.  Scott Feldman wouldn’t be in danger of losing
his rotation spot, even if he hadn’t rounded back into form last night by
retiring the final 12 A’s he faced.  And
Feldman surely isn’t injured.  There’s no
way Texas would have sent him back out there for seven innings after he’d given
up seven runs through four frames if there was a physical issue – and Holland’s
night was over well before Feldman was stretched to seven in the West Coast
game.

 

Was Holland’s assignment cut short because the Rangers want
him ready to start on short rest this Saturday? 
No chance, not after the way Rich Harden pitched on Monday.

 

Is Holland about to be traded?  Of course not.

 

There’s obviously an explanation, surely something not worth
the 450 words I’ve coughed up so far.  Maybe
Holland developed a blister.  Maybe he was
fighting the stomach flu.  Maybe that circuit
did blow on a bank of lights in Rosenblatt Stadium and delayed the game 45
minutes.

 

But in these days of over-analysis and, as T.R. Sullivan
noted on the radio pregame show last night, too much focus on the minor
leagues, yeah, I guess I went there. 

 

Don’t expect a Newberg Report news flash updating this
non-story.  But I did find it interesting.

 

 

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Twitter 
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Enrichment.

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Firsts on May 3:

 

1.      Tommy Hunter made his 2010 debut, throwing a
sharp three innings (no runs on two singles and one walk in three innings, 26 of
38 pitches for strikes) in a start for Oklahoma City.

 

2.      We saw a pair of concentric rainbows in the East
sky around 7 p.m.

 

3.      Justin Smoak blasted a big league home run
from the right side.

 

4.      A multi-hit game for Craig Gentry, who was
key tonight.

 

5.      Neftali Feliz recorded saves on back-to-back
days.

 

6.      I enjoyed watching Rich Harden make a Rangers
start.

 

I enjoyed
watching that very much.

 

Command.  Control. 
Velocity.  Efficiency. 

 

First-pitch
strikes two-thirds of the time.  Sixteen
swinging strikes (which is 16 more than in his last start). 

 

Harden looked
like the guy who went 18-9, 2.98 lifetime as a home pitcher in Oakland-Alameda
County Coliseum, not the one who’d been so difficult to watch as a Texas Ranger
until tonight.  Harden came into tonight’s
game with 23 walks in 23.2 innings. 
Tonight: zero walks in seven frames. 
Before tonight, he’d thrown 57 percent of his pitches for strikes.  Tonight: 71 percent.

 

In fact, only
two A’s hitters worked a three-ball count off Harden all night.  (Well, one: Daric Barton did it both times.)

 

To sum it up:
In each of Harden’s last five starts, including tonight’s, he has faced between
23 and 25 hitters.  In two of those
games, he lasted 3.2 and 4.1 innings. 
Tonight, he logged 7.0. 

 

Tremendous
effort, any way you look at it.  That’s
the guy Texas was excited to land in December.

 

Jon Daniels made a
point before the game that, despite all the moves the Rangers have made over the
season’s first four weeks, many of which have been fairly drastic, the club has
not made one roster move involving a pitcher. 
It’s a stunning thing to say about a Rangers club.

 

Rich Harden made it emphatically
clear tonight that he wasn’t going to make a pitching move necessary.



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Twitter 
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Looking ahead.

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Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis, in a crystal ball
feature foretelling the 2013 season, writes this:

 

The Rangers should be
in complete control in the AL West.  With
Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers and 2010 first-rounders Jesse
Hahn [Virginia Tech] and Brandon Workman [University of Texas] in the rotation,
plus Neftali Feliz closing games, they’ll finally have enough pitching.  Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus will run wild at
the top of the lineup and Justin Smoak will drive them in, so Texas won’t have
any problems scoring runs either.

 

The Callis article
reflects a commonly accepted premise among those who write about such things
nationally, a belief that the Rangers, with the ripening of its top-ranked farm
system, is about to settle into a run of contention.  The one thing I think Callis misses (other than
the easy “finally have enough pitching” comment that continues to get thrown
around by some) is that, by 2013, if not 2011, a two-sentence note detailing the
strength of the Rangers club is going to include a couple very big names in uniform
elsewhere right now. 

 

The Rangers Baseball
Express ownership group will be in place at some point, hopefully soon, and the
Texas payroll will start to look a lot different.  No doubt, much of the increase will come
internally, as young players reach arbitration status and arbitration guys
reach free agency (imagine where C.J. Wilson’s contract is headed – the Rangers
are likely to try extending him into his 2012 free agency season soon, but if
he’s even willing to do that, an extension beyond 2012 is probably not in the
cards), but I’d be surprised if the Greenberg-Ryan group didn’t take a Step Five
approach
with Jon Daniels and Thad Levine and add a couple impact players between
now and then.

 

Hahn and Workman
would be great, but Zack Greinke and Grady Sizemore?  Better. 
Much better.

 

But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.  It’s a testament to the strange tendency of
the Ron Washington Rangers – and the 2010 mediocrity of the AL West – that three
weeks of ugly have given way, a month into the season, to a run of good
baseball and a perch atop the division, as Texas gets set to face second-place Oakland
for six of the next 10 (bisected by a four-game set at home against Kansas City
that will feature a Friday matchup between Wilson and Greinke – with the
basketball season over, the postgame fireworks show shouldn’t be the sole reason
that one ought to approach a sellout). 

 

There will be talk the next few days about Washington managing
against the Athletics, an organization that went to the playoffs five times in
his 11 seasons on the coaching staff, but what I’m more interested in is Rich
Harden pitching in Oakland tonight.  In
49 career appearances (47 starts) in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Harden is
18-9 with a 2.98 ERA, with 285 strikeouts (8.8 per nine innings) and 107 unintentional
walks (3.3 per nine) in 293 innings, and a glittering .216/.293/.329 opponents’
slash line.

 

All that work came in the green and gold.  Tonight will be Harden’s first time to step
on that mound in the bottom of the inning.

 

In Colby Lewis’s Friday night gem, he threw a first-pitch
strikes to 74 percent of the Mariners he faced. 
According to ESPN, seven of his 10 strikeouts came on his slider, which he
had complete command of all night, and Seattle was hitless in 12 at-bats when
putting his fastball into play – dropping the league to a .169 average against his
fastball.  Breaking command is such a
good thing.

 

Scott Lucas’s daily farm reports are bringing you lots of encouraging
news on Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia lately, but you really ought to
be paying close attention to what Bakersfield outfielder Engel Beltre and
Hickory outfielder Miguel Velazquez are doing.

 

Taylor Teagarden caught for the RedHawks Saturday and DH’d
yesterday.  He struck out four times in
seven hitless at-bats, drawing one walk.

 

From Vladimir Guerrero, according to Franklin Mirabal of Impacto
Deportivo
: “In Anaheim they treated me well, but in Texas I’ve found
a lot of friendships, a lot of Latin players, and that [make] me happy here.  Right now, I don’t think about retiring.”

 

Hank Blalock is hitting .343/.408/.433 for AAA Durham.  He’s not showing much power but he’s getting on
base, a tradeoff I’m sure we would have been happy with the last few years
here.  He’s hoping to force a look in
Tampa Bay that way Joaquin Benoit (one scoreless inning as a Ray since his 17-strikeout,
three-walk effort in 9.2 Durham innings) did.

 

You should read this tremendous
interview of Eric Nadel
(who got an opportunity to call some of the
nationally televised Rangers-Mariners game on Saturday) by Baseball Prospectus’s
David Laurila.

 

Seattle released outfielder Eric Byrnes, a move I’m glad
didn’t come three days earlier.

 

Dodgers righthander Vicente Padilla is on the disabled list
with irritation of the radial nerve in his right forearm and should miss all of
May.  His ERA in four starts is
7.06. 

 

Kansas City got righthander Luis Mendoza through waivers and
outrighted him to AAA.

 

The Angels claimed infielder Kevin Frandsen off waivers from
Boston and optioned him to AAA.

 

The Kalamazoo Kings of the independent Frontier League signed
righthander Bobby Wilkins.  The Yuma
Scorpions of the independent Golden Baseball League signed outfielder Cody
Nowlin.

 

Nowlin was the Rangers’ second-round pick in 1998, nestled between
first-rounder Carlos Pena and third-rounder Barry Zito, who went on to star elsewhere.  The next stop for both Pena and Zito was
Oakland, which was the first stop for Rich Harden, and I would be grateful if
he, like the other two, dished out a little disappointment to his former
organization that he’s now getting it done somewhere else.

 

 

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Twitter 
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May underway.

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If there are 10 true
aces in the American League, Seattle has two of them.  And the Rangers have put one of the more
disappointing March’s and April’s in recent franchise history behind them by winning
back-to-back matchups against Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez on the road, tossing
Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison (two pitchers thought a month ago to have
mid-to-back-of-rotation ceilings) out there to counter.

 

The result: Texas is amazingly back to .500 (12-12).

 

And in second place in the AL West, half a game behind Oakland,
with C.J. Wilson facing Doug Fister this afternoon, a battle between two of the
bigger starting pitcher surprises in the league over the first month. 

 

Whether or not Texas completes the Seattle sweep, it’s a
series win to start off May, and series wins are what you shoot for.  As the club heads into the second month of
the season, the idea will be to replicate what the Rangers did under Ron
Washington in May 2008 (19-10) and May 2009 (20-9), not what they did in May 2007
(9-20).

 

 

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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