Big league focus.

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There have been
years, too many of them, when this morning I might have written an entire
report about Jurickson Profar’s pro debut and made a big deal out of the fact
that the leadoff hitter (Ryan Strasborger) and three-hole hitter (Andrew Clark)
in between whom he hit last night are each five years older, and that the big Tri-City
righthander that Profar doubled off of (Mequite Poteet, McLennan CC, and Lamar
University product Ricky Testa) is six years older than the shortstop from


But this isn’t the
morning for that, and not the season for me to feel compelled to devote this
space on the things that Scott Lucas expertly covers each day, as a way of
distracting myself from an epidemic rash of bad big league pitching, poor execution
offensively, or an outbreak of lousy baserunning or routinely booting the ball.   


There have been seasons, recently, where once we got to June
every report I sent out might have had notes, and not necessarily at the tail
end, pointing out that Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine are candidates for
the Orioles job, or that the Dodgers released lefthander John Koronka, or that the
Yuma Scorpions of the independent Golden League placed outfielder Masjid Khairy
on irrevocable waivers.


Instead, Texas has won six straight on the road, has nailed down
13 of 17 in June, owns a 2.5-game division lead on the Angels, and is clicking
on just about all cylinders.  That’s a
lot more fun to write about.


Did Frisco lefty Martin Perez get drilled last night?  Yes.  Eight
runs (seven earned) in an inning and a third. 
Cause for alarm?  Johan Santana,
in his final full minor league season, had starts in which he allowed 8, 8, 6,
6, 6, and 6 runs.  In his final month of
that 1999 season, he made seven starts and one relief appearance, posting a 7.65


And he was a year older than Perez.


And pitching two minor league levels lower than Perez.


Don’t panic.


I’m not suggesting you should ignore what’s happening on the
farm, obviously.  If these stories about
Texas showing legitimate interest in Roy Oswalt (who was mentored by Nolan Ryan
and played for manager Jackie Moore and pitching coach Mike Maddux in his own
final minor league season) have some substance, keeping close tabs on what
Blake Beavan and Beau Jones and Engel Beltre and Matt Thompson are doing would
be smart.  If the Rangers can get out of
court in time to pursue the top tier of what the trade deadline has to offer, they’re
not going to trade Justin Smoak and Tommy Hunter and Alexi Ogando to get a deal
done.  There will be minor leaguers
involved.  Not by themselves.  But they’ll figure in.


It’s always worthwhile to pay detailed attention to what’s
going on in Hickory.  Some years it
serves an extra purpose, as a distraction. 
Others, like this year, it provides context.   


Supplemental first-rounder Mike Olt signed for slot yesterday,
and pretty soon he’ll settle in at third base for Spokane, situated 40 feet to
Profar’s right.  I look forward to every
word of Scott’s reports every day, and in mid-June they get an extra boost when
we can read about Randol Rojas and Miguel De Los Santos and Nick McBride and Guillermo
Pimentel at Spokane, and Jake Skole and Kellin Deglan and Luis Sardinas and
Juan Grullon with the Arizona League squad, whose season kicks off Monday


But it’s all backstory right now, less notable than Scott Feldman’s
2.89 ERA in his last three starts or Josh Hamilton’s 1.354 OPS in June – or the
fact that Vladimir Guerrero sits at .327/.397/.577 for the month and yet is
being out-OPS’d by Julio Borbon (.423/.456/.615) over the same stretch.  Hickory lefthanders Robbie Erlin and Robbie
Ross are having spectacular seasons, but that’s less important than what Darren
Oliver is doing.


Perez and Tanner Scheppers each struggled last night, but
right now I’m more concerned about Elvis Andrus’s .143/.211/.143 slash line,
with 10 strikeouts in 35 at-bats, since he put those ridiculous highlights in
his hair a week and a half ago.  I don’t
care about the hair.  I care that his
.304 average has dropped to .282 in those eight or nine days, and he’s looking
a little out of sync.


And I’m trying to figure out why Ian Kinsler, who has hit in
eight straight (.379/.472/.448) with as many walks as strikeouts, still doesn’t
look right to me at the plate.


This season, thankfully, has given us plenty so far to
celebrate and to worry about and to focus on, moving bankruptcy proceedings and
the spring training story of the manager’s 2009 off-field mistake somewhere away
from the center of our attention. 


I’m interested in Erlin’s Hickory start this evening and on
McBride’s start in Spokane, in whether Michael Main can maintain this
Bakersfield run he’s on in Game One of the Blaze’s Saturday twinbill, and in how
Brandon McCarthy fares in his return to AAA action tonight, his first action in
two weeks and first start in two months.


But none of it matters as much right now as Colby
Lewis-Scuffy Moehler tonight, or C.J. Wilson-Felipe Paulino tomorrow.   


Am I interested in how Profar fares tonight against 25-year-old
Tri-City rehabber Josh Sullivan, who was in the minor leagues when Profar was starring
in the Little League World Series at age 12? 
Of course.  Am I eager to see
whether catcher Jorge Alfaro shows up on the AZL roster when that club begins
play Monday?  Absolutely.


But for now, it’s all about what’s going on in Arlington, and
that’s what you want to be able to say heading toward mid-season, the All-Star
Break, and what could be a very interesting trade deadline season.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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