Leap.

This is the fourth Leap Day in the life of the Newberg Report, which has lasted through three Rangers General Managers, four managers, three ownership groups, three Darren Oliver stints, and two Julio Santana’s, and is older than the word “blog.”

The February 29, 2000 Newberg Report passed along breaking news that the Rangers had made their first foray into the Cuban defector market, signing 24-year-old second baseman Spider Diaz and 25-year-old third baseman Osmani Garcia.  After having offered righthander Danys Baez $3.5 million several months earlier, before Cleveland gave him $14.5 million over four years, Texas landed Diaz and Garcia for a combined $75,000.  Diaz lasted one year in the system (mostly at High Class A), and Garcia played parts of both of his two Rangers seasons at the AAA level.

Also noted in that report was that Spike Lundberg had filed the latest installment of his Back Fields Diary.

The lead in the February 29, 2004 Newberg Report was that lefthander A.J. Murray needed shoulder surgery.  Tucked toward the end were notes that: (1) Juan Gonzalez was a no-show on the first day of Kansas City Royals camp in Surprise; (2) a company called Ameriquest was the frontrunner to acquire the naming rights to The Ballpark in Arlington; (3) C.J. Wilson had posted a Back Fields Diary entry; and (4) I wished Progresso pizza sauce, Marathon bars, and pineapple pink grapefruit juice were still around.

The February 29, 2008 Newberg Report was only 78 words long:

Nolan Ryan has officially signed his contract to serve as Rangers team president, and the deal is for four years.  Tom Hicks also extended general manager Jon Daniels’s deal by two years, so that his, like Ryan’s, now extends through the 2011 season.

This comment comes from Ryan: “We think Jon is very capable as a GM.  And we want to establish a working relationship that is going to be a long-term relationship.  He’s thorough, passionate and intelligent.”

A lot of filler until the Ryan/Daniels note.  So what’s out there today that has any substance?

The rotation sequence for the start of exhibition play has been announced as Colby Lewis (Scott Feldman in relief), Derek Holland (Alexi Ogando in relief), Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, and Neftali Feliz.  But local reports suggest not to assume anything from that arrangement – for one thing, the club may prefer not to show lefthanders Holland and Harrison back to back.

One local report suggested Feliz’s BP session against Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, and Nelson Cruz wasn’t great, while others reported that the club was encouraged, especially with the progress of his changeup (and the righthander’s attitude about working as a starter).

Feliz and Darvish could pitch Friday in an intrasquad game.  Darvish is scheduled to face the Padres on March 7, a game that originally wasn’t among those which would be broadcast back to Texas (in fact, it was going to be the only one of the Rangers’ first eight games without TV, radio, or a webcast) – but that game will now in fact be webcast.

It will also be televised in Japan.

I saw footage of Darvish getting in his customary left-handed work the other day.  It’s crazy how smooth his southpaw mechanics look.  And Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker notes that he’s touched 86 from the left side, which is sorta depressing, since that’s the highest I was clocked in high school, when I thought I threw pretty hard – with my throwing arm.

Ogando’s getting early raves.  Michael Kirkman, too.

Lefthander Joe Beimel (elbow) and righthander Matt West (shoulder) missed throwing sessions, with varying degrees of meaninglessness between which my preference for the extinct Progresso stuff probably sits.  For now, maybe a little more concern is warranted as far as the veteran Beimel is concerned.  But maybe not.

According to a note that Jeff Wilson had in Baseball America, the Rangers have told righthander Tanner Scheppers that they’re not looking at him as a starting pitcher any more.  He’s probably behind West but has all the potential to take a step forward and make himself a key bullpen factor soon.

Bengie Molina (Angels), Kenny Rogers (Tigers), and Kenny Lofton (Indians) are in camp with their former clubs as special instructors.

Joe Strauss (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) writes that the Cardinals – one of the two teams (along with Texas) that Roy Oswalt apparently wants to pitch for – increased their offer to the righthander from $3 million to $5 million before he decided to wait until someone gets more desperate, either later in the spring or sometime during the season.

My Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived in the mail.  The publication ranks the Rangers farm system number 2 in baseball (behind the Nationals), and that was before the signing of Darvish (whom BA considers a prospect for the purpose of their rankings).  Texas was ranked number 15, number 4, number 1, and number 2 the previous four years.

BA has the Mariners at number 9 (up from 18), the Angels at number 18 (down from 16), and the A’s at number 26 (up from 28), though that was before the Gio Gonzalez trade or Yoenis Cespedes signing.

BA’s Top 100 prospects features Darvish (4th overall), Jurickson Profar (7), Martin Perez (31), Mike Olt (43), Leonys Martin (79), and surprise entry Christian Villanueva (100).

Also receiving votes were Neil Ramirez (who appeared on all eight ballots, which each went 150 players deep, and was as high as number 60 on one ballot), Cody Buckel (two ballots, high of number 126), and Jorge Alfaro (one ballot, high of number 131).

The Rangers and Padres (along with the A’s and Cardinals) led with six players each on the Top 100, not including Ramirez (who was among nine players who just missed the list) or Padres lefthander Robbie Erlin or righthander Joe Wieland (each of whom landed on seven ballots).  The Rangers, Cardinals, and Yankees each had six players on the list whom they’d originally signed, most in the league.

Washington lefthander Matt Purke and Boston righthander Anthony Ranaudo missed the Top 100 but were named on six ballots each.

BA’s John Manuel puts Profar in a mix along with Washington’s Anthony Rendon, Seattle’s Taijuan Walker, and Minnesota’s Miguel Sano for candidates to be the game’s top prospect a year from now.

The Spokane Indians are auctioning off a bunch of game-used jerseys, including those of Profar, Olt, Alfaro, Robbie Ross, and Rougned Odor, with bidding underway and set to close Friday at 4:00 Central.  Click here for more details.

The Eric Nadel Birthday Benefit, benefiting CONTACT (a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people facing daily life-challenges) and To Write Love on Her Arms (a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide), will feature singer-songwriter Daphne Willis on May 24 at The Kessler.  Tickets are only $10 and $20.  You can find more details here or at www.thekessler.org.

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