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Birthdays, and an invite.

Happy Birthday to my friends Suzy and Robin, and to erstwhile Rangers pitchers Logan Verrett (9 innings) and Bruce Chen (10 innings), and to Dirk Nowitzki, who turns 37 today.

Logan (righthander) and Robin (defensive end) both played at Baylor, 20 years apart.

Suzy and Bruce played for a combined 11 big league franchises.

Me and Dirk?  We have sons named Max.

There are so many other things Dirk and I have in common:

  1. One sister
  2. Rangers fan
  3. Radiohead
  4. Lifelong friendship with Grubes
  5. One-legged fadeaway [except for me]

And now the list grows by one.

We’ll face off on Saturday, June 27 – you know, much as the Rangers/Cardinals World Series was the Adrian Beltre vs. Gerald Laird Classic – in the Dirk Nowitzki 2015 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game at Dr Pepper Ballpark, home of the Frisco RoughRiders.

Among those expected to play in the game (the proceeds of which will benefit the children’s charities of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and Heroes Foundation) are Dirk, Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Nick Van Exel, Michael Young, Kevin Mench, Mike Bacsik, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Cole Beasley, Joseph Randle, Dan Bailey, Terrance Williams, Tyler Seguin, and Ben and Skin.  Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, Rick Carlisle, and Michael Finley are also expected to be on hand.

Dirk, Nash, and Fin back together.  First time in more than a decade.

Gates open at 4:30.  There will be a Special Olympics All-Star Softball Game at 4:45.  The nine-inning baseball game begins at 6:00.  I will likely get hurt at some point before the postgame fireworks show (if not before the first pitch).

Tickets are on sale here.  Take note: Last year’s game sold out.

The Rangers play in Toronto at noon that day, so you won’t be missing any baseball by coming to Dirk’s Game that night.

(Of course, you may see just about zero “baseball” if you do show up.  Except when Michael Young is doing Michael Young things.)

Dirk might even sing this at the end of the ballgame, which would be all kinds of awesome.

But not if the Michael Young Crew can help it.

Seriously: You should go.

Left on left.

What do Adrian, Delino, Mitch, Josh, Derek, Martin, Matty, Yu, you, and me have in common?

We all watched one heck of a baseball game last night.

Left over from that group was a lineup that featured Adam Rosales hitting fifth and Joey Gallo hitting third against a lefthander, one who happens to be in the discussion annually as baseball’s best pitcher.

Adam and Joey did just fine.

It was actually a night for lefties, as Clayton Kershaw had strikeout stuff but was touched for runs in three of his six innings, each off a left-handed bat, as Rougned Odor 8-4’d a fielder’s choice to score Prince Fielder in the second and singled Rosales home in the fourth, in between which Gallo followed a Wandy Rodriguez ducksnort and two strikeouts by hammering a Kershaw slider into the Chavez Ravine stratosphere, a 439-foot blast that, according to ESPN, checks in as the second-longest home run (by two feet) that Kershaw has surrendered in his 1,471.1 big league innings.

I’ll understand if “Captain Marble” doesn’t settle in as one of Gallo’s nicknames going forward, but you ought to take a minute and take in Vin Scully’s call of the Gallo bomb, starting at 1:20 in on this video.

“This is probably the most frustrating game I’ve ever pitched,” Kershaw said afterwards, having given up more than three runs at home for the first time in 31 starts and losing an interleague game for the first time in four years.  It probably didn’t sit well with the man with three Cy Youngs in the last four years that all four runs Texas put on him were driven in by 21-year-old hitters, from the left side.

Or that, in his first game to ever pitch against his hometown team, he lost to a club that put that lineup out there behind a 36-year-old who had been released twice in the last 13 months.

The lefty Rodriguez started 20 of 27 Dodgers off with a strike but pitched through a lot of stress, managing to wiggle out of it regularly until single/home/double/screaming-lineout-comebacker/single chased him in the sixth, and suddenly the 4-0 lead built by a shocking lineup and a scrap heap starter was 4-3 and the underbelly of a beleaguered bullpen was being entrusted with the final 3.2 innings.

Jon Edwards, Sam Freeman, Tanner Scheppers, and Keone Kela held Los Angeles hitless the rest of the way.

The lefty Freeman (five batters, five outs, two on strikes) was especially good, and Scheppers induced a huge double play to close out the eighth, before the Dodgers tried getting in Kela’s head by asking the umpire to remove his compression sleeve but then succumbed relatively meekly as the 22-year-old recorded the first of what will probably be a large number of Major League saves.

A kid from LA recorded the save, a kid from Dallas recorded a hold, a kid from LA recorded a hold, a kid from Dallas was tagged with the loss.

All of which the box score revealed about two hours after Vin Scully was wowed by a majestic shot off the bat of a kid from out of this world.

Texas has now won three straight against the Dodgers, slated to face Zack Greinke tonight — with temporary call-up Anthony Ranaudo getting the start to give the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest — before drawing Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon in Chicago the next two days.

If the Rangers end up splitting these four against the Kershaw-Greinke-Sale-Rodon gauntlet, that would be a result I’m sure we’d all be just fine with.

At this rate, though, it almost feels like it would be a good result for Kershaw-Greinke-Sale-Rodon to claim a split from this really, really good baseball team.

Baseball, man.

Do it.

On June 8, 2014, Richard Durrett wrote a piece for ESPN on the promotion of Chi Chi Gonzalez and Joey Gallo from High A Myrtle Beach to AA Frisco.  It was one of the last stories Richard would publish.

Last night, Gonzalez was phenomenal (again), and Gallo patiently worked what would turn out to be a huge bases-loaded walk after falling behind in the count, 1-2, to veteran lefthander Brett Anderson.  It was a professional at-bat, in support of a professional work of pitching artistry, by a couple ballplayers who have been in the big leagues for less than three weeks.

It’s almost difficult to comprehend, barely more than a year after Gonzalez and Gallo were sporting Pelicans blue, that they’re contributing at the level they are as big leaguers, one holding Red Sox, Royals, A’s, and Dodgers hitters to an anemic .173/.265/.221 clip with an ERA of 0.90 that was 0.30 before his final pitch last night – and sitting this morning with what’s already the eighth-highest WAR among American League pitchers – and the other hitting a robust .261/.370/.543 that includes a .370/.485/.741 clip against right-handed pitching.

It’s far more difficult to comprehend that Richard isn’t around to write about it.  We lost him one year ago today.

The second annual Do It For Durrett Night is in about three weeks.  It will take place at Globe Life Park (in the Cholula Porch) on Thursday evening, July 9, a Rangers off-day between home series with the Diamondbacks and Padres.  The list of current and former Rangers players and officials who will be on hand is impressive.  The auction prize list (live, silent, and “dates”) is, too.

You can find more details here, and here.

The Do It For Durrett Foundation is a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping to ease the burden on local working-class families impacted by sudden loss.  This event supports that effort.

The “’80s Night” theme that night (which may be lost on Chi Chi and Joey, each born in the ’90s) will feature live music performances ranging from star proportions (Casey Donahew) to below replacement level (Rangers players and, um, others).

There are a handful of VIP tickets still available (those include a pre-party, dinner, drink tickets, and an event T-shirt), plus a few dozen general admission tickets, which include dinner and the T-shirt.  There are also two tables of eight remaining – at less cost per ticket than the general admission price point – if you’re thinking about bringing a group.

I’m thinking about Richard Durrett today, and Kelly and Owen and Alice and Margot.  There’s a whole lot about Rangers baseball to celebrate right now, and Richard would be right at the front of celebrating it with the rest of us, with the relentless optimism that marked everything he wrote, and did.

Let’s do some good, and celebrate Richard on the 9th.

 

Relief.

It was a tremendous win over one of baseball’s best teams and its second-best offense, a grind-out featuring 15 scoreless half-innings out of 17, seven of those courtesy of Yovani Gallardo, whom the Dodgers should have had a pretty good book on.     

After Gallardo, having been given four Texas runs in the sixth, provided a nine-pitch shutdown inning in the seventh, I’d hoped that he’d be sent back out for the eighth.  He’d thrown 101 pitches, had close to his best swing-and-miss stuff of the year, and was keeping everything on the ground.  

It wasn’t to pull back on the bullpen from a workload standpoint.  When Gallardo, Nick Martinez, Colby Lewis, Wandy Rodriguez, and Chi Chi Gonzalez fire 11 straight quality starts (breaking a franchise record that had been set by Fergie Jenkins, Jon Matlack, Doyle Alexander, Dock Ellis, Doc Medich, and Steve Comer 37 years ago), one thing it means is that they’d not only kept the Rangers in every game over that stretch but had also given their relievers a relatively healthy break. 

I wanted to see Gallardo take 4-0 back out to the hill to start the eighth because he was dealing, and because the eighth inning doesn’t have a clear answer at the moment, at least since Ross Ohlendorf (Ross Ohlendorf!) returned to the disabled list.  It’s belonged to Tanner Scheppers the last week and a half, but he’d been scored on two straight times out and four times out of eight (6.14 ERA), and though he hadn’t pitched since Friday it seemed like a good spot to let Gallardo keep the ball, at least until he’d allowed a baserunner, or maybe two.   

Jeff Banister sent Scheppers out for the eighth, however, and Yasmani Grandal turned his first pitch around, hammering a middle-middle fastball to center at 107.5 miles per hour.  Jimmy Rollins then flew out deep to left, number nine hitter Alberto Callaspo worked a walk, Joc Pederson singled, and suddenly Yasiel Puig stood in as the tying run.

Scheppers struck Puig out and got Adrian Gonzalez to pop out, and the Dodgers rally died.

But I was still thinking about July 2011 as the top of the eighth came to a close.

In the final five Rangers wins in close games that month, Mark Lowe was entrusted with the eighth inning, twice assisted by Yoshinori Tateyama and Arthur Rhodes.

Texas spent that entire month in first place, but the bullpen was obviously in need of an upgrade, more so than any other facet of a roster poised to compete for a second straight World Series.

At the end of July, the Rangers took former first- (2007) and fifth-round (2006) picks to go get Koji Uehara and former third- (2009) and fourth-round (2008) picks to go get Mike Adams, and while Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis ended up working out better for Baltimore than Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland (since traded again) have for San Diego, the Rangers were able to settle their seventh and eighth innings in a big way, at least during the regular season, even as the division lead shrunk to 1.5 games in mid-September.  

It was a great example of good scouting and developing making impact trades possible, and that’s where my head was in the eighth inning last night and still is this morning.  I’m not trying to take anything away from Texas 4, Los Angeles 1, a terrific win, but there’s an opportunity over the next 45 days to get a lot better.

Maybe Neftali Feliz, the man that Lowe and Tateyama and Rhodes were setting up four July’s ago, fits in the eighth once he returns from the disabled list (Scott Lucas reports he worked at 94-97 last night, despite stadium readings of 100), but even if that’s not too much to count on, another lockdown arm in the bullpen would be welcome.  

(Interestingly, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggests “[o]ther teams . . . are interested in [Feliz], according to Major League sources; a trade is not out of the question.”)  

In a different Fox Sports piece, Jeff Sullivan suggests that the Rangers’ bullpen situation may be in need of a boost more than any other contender’s biggest need spot. 

Jon Heyman includes nine relief pitchers among his top 40 trade candidates around the league, the top two of whom, Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Papelbon, are probably not the best matches, for different reasons.  But the next one, Oakland reliever Tyler Clippard, a longtime favorite of mine?  Would love to see him here.

The buyers outweigh the sellers every July because of Wild Card possibilities, and it’s even more pronounced in June, when very few teams have decided it’s time to look to next year.  The Reds and Brewers and A’s have probably made that decision, but the cost in prospects for Chapman is going to be obscene, and the nearly $21 million Papelbon will earn the remainder of this year plus next year if he finishes another 25 games this season would seem to be prohibitive (aside from the makeup issues, I’m not sure if Texas is on the list of the 17 teams he can block trades to — would he accept a deal without some level of assurance that he’d replace Shawn Tolleson in the ninth, or without the Rangers guaranteeing that 2016 option?).

After Billy Beane traded four years of Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto, I’m not sure any of us can really spitball what it would take to get Clippard — whom Beane acquired in January for Yunel Escobar — but would Alec Asher or Jerad Eickhoff or Andrew Faulkner plus a reliever off the Rangers’ 40-man roster (Jon Edwards, Phil Klein, Roman Mendez, Spencer Patton) get it done, even this early?  Is that too much?  (Paring the 40 down — or at least trying to avoid adding to it — will be important as guys like Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, and Ryan Rua get closer to coming off the 60-day disabled list.)

I can see Beane asking for Keone Kela or Luke Jackson or Jake Thompson, and of course the answer is no, but what about Will Lamb or Tomas Telis or Hanser Alberto or Michael De Leon?  Tougher calls, but ultimately I’d hope it wouldn’t take one of them as part of a deal.

Where are Beane’s thoughts on Michael Choice?  

I’m only half-joking when I wonder aloud whether Craig Gentry, buried in AAA (and not hitting there, either) with the A’s, might make sense to move back to Texas, which is now in need of a second center fielder.

Now we’re getting ahead of things.  But I’m thinking about the Rangers bullpen a lot right now, and that’s not going to change, even when Feliz and Ohlendorf are ready to get back and even if veteran Jared Burton (6.2-3-1-1-2-7 since joining Round Rock) earns a look.  

I’d planned on writing about Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo this morning, and Eric Jenkins and Mike Matuella, but late in last night’s game I got distracted.

The farm system is deep, the 40-man roster is going to force a few casualties soon, and getting the ball to Shawn Tolleson lately has been an issue.

Add it all up.

The awesomeness of drafting Michael Matuella.

“I can’t think of a better day that I’ve had in my 24 years of scouting with the Texas Rangers.”

So said Rangers Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg — after Day Two of the 2015 amateur draft.

For the first time in his career, Fagg noted, Texas came away with four of the top 20 players off its board.

And it wasn’t as if the club had multiple first-rounders.  The Rangers’ first four picks were in slots 4, 45, 78, and 108.  Yet Dillon Tate, Eric Jenkins, Michael Matuella, and Jake Lemoine were all top 20 talents, as far as the Rangers were concerned.

Coming away with Matuella (whom I discussed a bit in yesterday’s report) at 3.78, minutes after Day Two got underway on Tuesday, stood out the most, considering that, coming into the 2015 season, he was thought of as a strong candidate to be gone before the Rangers’ first pick at fourth overall.  Baseball America wrote, in advance of this draft: “When he’s on the field, Matuella has arguably the best stuff (and control) of any college pitcher in this draft class.” 

Regarding the opportunity to take Matuella, Fagg said: “I’m ecstatic . . . probably one of the best moments of my scouting career . . . he can be a front-of-the-rotation guy . . . has that kind of arm and that kind of stuff.”

If Matuella does come back 100 percent from the Tommy John surgery he had two months ago, and if he isn’t slowed by a lower back condition he pitched through at Duke, there will be plenty of teams wondering why they let Matuella slide.

And frankly, if the Rangers wanted Matuella that badly — they clearly did — I’m sorta blown away that they had the guts to pass on him at 45, and take the high school outfielder Jenkins instead.

You might assume that one factor, and maybe the biggest, that chased teams off of Matuella was his signing bonus demands, given that he was headed for something north of $5 million had he not been sidelined this spring.  

But teams don’t choose players, especially on Day One or Day Two, without knowing generally what it will take to sign them.  That doesn’t guarantee a deal, but the Rangers had to know the parameters of what Matuella and his advisors at CAA (it’s not Scott Boras, as many have reported) are seeking.  

The fascinating part of this is that MLB’s assigned slot value for Matuella is $777,600.  Any amount above that which Texas pays Matuella necessarily costs someone else among the club’s other picks in the first 10 rounds . . . and the Rangers didn’t load up on college seniors in rounds 4 through 10.

A quick look at the Rangers’ 2012 draft, for illustration:

Round  Player Slot value Bonus

1 Lewis Brinson $1,625,000 $1,625,000

1s Joey Gallo $1,324,800 $2,250,000

1s Collin Wiles $954,800 $975,000

2 Jamie Jarmon $601,500 $601,500

2 Nick Williams $515,600 $500,000

3 Pat Cantwell $381,700 $50,000

4 Alec Asher $277,600 $150,000

5 Preston Beck $207,900 $207,900

6 Royce Bolinger $155,900 $50,000

7 Cam Schiller $141,400 $10,000

8 Cody Kendall $132,000 $5,000

9 John Niggli $125,000 $10,000

10 Casey Shiver $125,000 $15,000

Texas wouldn’t have taken Gallo 39th overall without a good idea that, in rounds 3-10, it would be able to sign players for significant amounts below slot.  A key point: If a player doesn’t sign, his slot value is subtracted from the team’s assigned bonus pool.  In other words, taking a player and choosing not to sign him doesn’t help you pile up extra money for another player.  It actually hurts.

Without Cantwell, Asher, Bolinger, Schiller, Kendall, Niggli, and Shiver agreeing to sign for considerably less than their slots called for, Gallo doesn’t get done — and without Texas having confidence in advance on those players’ willingness to take less, Gallo doesn’t even get picked.

So here’s where we are as far as the Rangers’ Day One and Day Two picks go:

Round  Player Slot value

1 Dillon Tate $5,026,500

2 Eric Jenkins $1,360,100

3 Michael Matuella $777,600

4 Jake Lemoine $528,000

5 Chad Smith $395,300

6 Tyler Ferguson $296,000

7 Dylan Moore $221,700

8 Blake Bass $176,300

9 Peter Fairbanks $164,700

10 Leon Byrd $153,700

If Matuella won’t sign for less than several millions — even though he wouldn’t be back on a mound until late next season for Duke, if at all — then Texas will need to create that overage by signing other players on the above list at a discount.

Is Tate willing to take less?

Is Jenkins, who many thought would go higher in the draft than he did?

In 2012, Cantwell and Bolinger and Schiller and Kendall and Niggli were college seniors, with little leverage as a result.  Asher’s medical history impacted his value.  

In 2015, on the other hand, the Rangers took only two college seniors on Day Two — Moore and Bass — and hardly went conservative otherwise, admitting after the day ended that Lemoine (whom they also drafted in 2012 out of high school, before he opted for the University of Houston) was a top 20 player on their board in spite of a shoulder injury that limited him this spring; selecting the projectable 17-year-old Smith in spite of his commitment to the University of Georgia; and taking the Vanderbilt righthander Ferguson, who has dazzling stuff (touching 98 with a power curve) but fought through an awful bout of wildness in 2015.  He has all the reason to go back to school in 2016 to resurrect his value — which would hurt the Rangers in their effort to get Matuella signed.

For what it’s worth, Matuella told reporters yesterday, regarding the likelihood that he’ll sign with the Rangers: “I’m very optimistic.  The Rangers have made it clear to me that they want to sign me and I’m confident we can work something out.”

On top of that, because the Rangers have a track record in situations like this, my own confidence on Texas and Matuella getting something done by the mid-July deadline is high.  I’m fired up.

Said Baseball Prospectus’s Chris Crawford: “I have no idea how the Rangers are going to get these guys signed, but in terms of upside, this class is outstanding.”  

And this should be said: If Texas adds both Michael Matuella and Dillon Tate, each thought (one going into the 2015 season, the other in last couple weeks) to be a strong candidate to be the first player taken in the entire draft, to a system already brimming with high-end talent, it has a great chance to dull the pain, once and for all, for any Rangers fan bemoaning the 13-3 finish to the 2014 season that cost the club the top pick in this draft.

It’s been a really great two days for the hottest team in baseball, both on the field and off. 

Draft Day projections.

The mocks have been updated, in some cases as many as three or four times, and the name most often tied to the Rangers at 1.4 is UC Santa Barbara righthander Dillon Tate, widely considered the top pitcher in the draft and, in some projections, a candidate to go 1.1 to the Diamondbacks.

In most (but not all) of the mocks that have Texas taking Tate, shortstops Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt), Alex Bregman (LSU), and Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS, Florida) are projected to go to Arizona, Houston, and Colorado in the three slots ahead of the Rangers’ pick.

The current projections from the national outlets:

Dillon Tate (RHP, UC Santa Barbara)

*  ESPN (Keith Law)

*  MLB.com (Jim Callis)

*  Baseball Prospectus (Christopher Crawford)

*  FanGraphs (Kiley McDaniel)

*  Scout.com (Jeff Ellis)

Brendan Rodgers (SS, Lake Mary HS, Florida)

*  Baseball America (John Manuel)

*  MinorLeagueBall.com (John Sickels)

Alex Bregman (SS, LSU)

*  Sports Illustrated (David Rawnsley)

*  MLB Network Radio (Jim Duquette)

Daz Cameron (OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, Georgia)

*  MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo)

Kyle Tucker (OF, Plant HS, Florida)

*  MLB Network Radio (Jim Bowden)

There will likely be updated projections from some of the publications before things get rolling this evening, and I’ll do my best to pass all of those along via Twitter.

Scott will have a draft preview as part of his Farm Report later today.  

The Rangers’ Monday picks are expected to come at approximately 6:27 pm (1.4) and 9:40 pm (2.45), with rounds 3-10 of the draft following on Tuesday afternoon and 11-40 on Wednesday beginning at 11 am.

Can’t you hear me knocking?

060715 am standings

This is me, not writing.

It occurred to me last night, as I watched the last couple innings of another impact Rangers win, that I wouldn’t write today.

For the last couple weeks I’ve written about walkoff wins and no-hit bids and majestic multi-home run games and jaw-dropping debut bombs and an awesome sacrifice bunt.

Thing is: This is just a good baseball team.

I could invoke the names of Len Barker and Scott Chiamparino and Derek Holland and Edwin Correa this morning in a thousand-word essay on Chi Chi Gonzalez going 9-3-0-0-2-2 against the defending AL champs, in their park, and how, given yesterday’s report, there’s something cool enough about the fact that Gonzalez was teeing it up against Edinson Volquez that I might have pushed two thousand words.

I could point to the Wild Card standings and the tightening AL West and talk about how this team is playing and who could be coming back soon to help, but nah.  Not today.  

I’m not writing about Texas 4, Kansas City 0.  I could write about another signature moment for this team and an exciting rookie pitcher and the front office and player development program that paved the way for Friday night, right in step with lots of other things that are going on with this franchise.

But maybe Chi Chi and his teammates were just handing the ball to the ref, Jason Witten style.

I’m not writing today.

The thing that’s being built.

Yovani Gallardo was steady and the bullpen was nails and Delino DeShields was disruptive and Shin-Soo Choo came up big, but perhaps lost in Texas 2, Chicago 1 in 11 was the job Hanser Alberto — who hasn’t been out of the lineup since he entered it a week ago and still hasn’t had a hitless game — did in the final moments of the game.

Leonys Martin had singled, for the third time on the night, to lead off the bottom of the 11th.  Alberto was up, with DeShields, Choo, and Prince Fielder slated to follow.  The objective was obvious, and with a lefthander on the mound, getting Martin (leading the league in caught-stealings) into scoring position by running him without putting something on probably wasn’t strongly considered.

The play was so obvious, that Alberto betrayed his intentions by squaring before White Sox reliever Dan Jennings kicked toward the plate.

Bunt foul, 0-1.

Chicago manager Robin Ventura thought he could possibly cut Martin down by pitching out on the second pitch, and even if if Martin weren’t running perhaps he could get the rookie Alberto to offer in the high-leveraged situation, in which case there’d be a two-strike count and the Rangers might have taken the bunt off, or risked a strikeout by trying it again on a chase pitch and not dropping the ball fair.

It wasn’t a great pitchout, but it was a pitchout, and Alberto could have let it go but he didn’t, extending the bat out of the zone and getting the ball down.  It hugged the first base foul line, and Adam LaRoche couldn’t risk letting it roll (the consequence could have been Martin in scoring position with zero outs rather than one).  Alberto was out, Martin reached second, DeShields was intentionally walked to set up a potential game-extending double play, and up stepped Choo.

Three pitches later, game over, and Alberto and his teammates poured out of the dugout to celebrate another walkoff before heading to the clubhouse to salute a fifth straight series win and a 5-2 homestand before getting on a plane for Kansas City.

The Rangers are exactly one-third through their schedule.  And in spite of the decimated rotation, struggles at closer and second base and shortstop, and an offense whose core (with one exception) did nothing in April, Texas is tied this morning for a Wild Card spot.

I was thinking last night as Alberto (who did commit his first error in the game) contributed to a win, which he’s now done several times in his first week as a big leaguer: What if he’s what Leury Garcia was supposed to be, a plus defender who can fill in all over the infield and do some things at the plate to help his team win, at a league minimum salary?   

What if DeShields is what Ramon Nivar was supposed to be?

What if Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jake Thompson, and Nick Martinez give this club what “DVD” were supposed to, without all the advance hype?

What if Choo — even if he’s not the .370/.500/.554 beast he was through his first 120 trips to the plate as a Ranger last year — is the player he’s been since the start of May this year (.308/.380/.549)?  

What if Nomar Mazara is Ruben Sierra and Nick Williams is what Ruben Mateo was going to be and Joey Gallo is exactly what we think he is?

Hey there, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell and Brett Martin and you, too, Yohander Mendez.

What if Shawn Tolleson is John Wetteland and Tanner Scheppers is Mike Adams and Keone Kela and Luke Jackson and Jon Edwards help make the back third death on offense, Royals-style?

I don’t know what Leonys Martin is.  The flashes are awesome.  But they’re still flashes.

Nobody will ever be Pudge Rodriguez again, but what if Jorge Alfaro continues to evoke memories even after he gets to Arlington, and turns out to be far more than Cesar King was ever supposed to be?

And what if Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor eventually does the things Michael Young used to do and Ryan Rua is early-days Ben Zobrist and Spencer Patton is Jason Frasor and Tomas Telis is what Max Ramirez was supposed to be?

What if this version of Prince Fielder, DH, lives forever? 

What if Alec Asher is Colby Lewis, and while it’s sad enough that I didn’t think to wonder this half a dozen paragraphs up, what if Jurickson Profar is a switch-hitting Julio Franco?

What if Monday’s draft pick, fourth overall, is making All-Star Teams in five years?

Most of this will never happen, but not a whole lot of it can be summarily ruled out, and what if some of those things materialize as Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and Martin Perez and Matt Harrison come back, revitalized and good as new?

And what if Jeff Banister is Jim Leyland, or Clint Hurdle?

It’s probably fair to say I’m jumping the gun a bit and sprinting haphazardly toward a tank of Kool-Aid, and maybe pointing out the Wild Card standings on June 5 is even a bit goofy.  

But the way this team has turned things around, not so much in the standings as in the style of baseball and the different ways it can beat you, I’m not unwilling to get ahead of things, maybe way ahead of things, and part of that is seeing how the ballplayers on the back of this roster, scouted and developed by this organization into pieces that could contribute up and down a roster, are doing exactly that.

Hamilton headed to the DL.

Two weeks ago today, I wrote:

Josh and Joey homered in the same game, for the first time and, this year, likely the last.” 

As of this week’s unexpected events, I happily take that statement back, but it looks like it will stand for another month, at least.

Minutes after Gallo went upper tank last night, for the second time in his second big league game, the Rangers announced that Wednesday afternoon’s MRI on Hamilton’s tweaked left hamstring revealed a Grade 2 strain.  He will land on the disabled list today and is expected to miss at least four weeks.

Hamilton reportedly first felt a tweak in his hamstring on the Mike Napoli double to the right field corner that ended Chi Chi Gonzalez’s debut on Saturday, and then it tightened up as he rounded first base on Sunday’s pinch-hit, walkoff double. 

Gallo has played six games in the outfield defensively as a pro — all left field assignments in the last two and a half weeks in Frisco — and though he will play mostly third base in Adrian Beltre’s absence, you can probably expect an occasional start in left over these next few weeks, mixing into the rotation of Leonys Martin, Delino DeShields, and Jake Smolinski in the center field/left field equation.  

If that takes hold — Gallo is athletic enough for the position and certainly has more than enough arm, though a lack of experience will likely show up at first on routes and decisions (as with Ryan Rua last summer) — it could increase the odds that Gallo’s stay in Texas extends past Beltre’s return, and in turn the chances that he and Hamilton will go deep in the same game this summer, and not while the latter is in Round Rock rehabbing his latest injury.

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