An ill wind over Anaheim?

Another thought on the overreaction locally to the non-story that Josh Hamilton didn't find the Rangers' initial long-term contract proposal acceptable: contrast this situation - negotiations just getting underway with a player who is under control for four more years - with what's happening in Anaheim, where lengthy off-season talks have reportedly broken off between the Angels and number one starter John Lackey, who is seven months away from free agency. The 30-year-old from Abilene, UTA, and Grayson County Community College in Denison is reportedly seeking $80-90 million over five years, while the Angels have offered, according to at least one report, $50 million over four years.

Lackey has said he won't negotiate after Opening Day.

Now that's a story.

As is the apparent fact that the club is shutting Lackey down with elbow inflammation and forearm tightness, endangering his readiness for the start of the season. Ervin Santana (sprained elbow ligament) and Kelvim Escobar (recovering from July shoulder surgery) are probably out for most if not all of April. The Angels can still send Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver out there, but Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart, and Shane Loux are no Lackey/Santana/Escobar, and they catch Boston and the Yankees in the season's first month.

Just sayin'.

Toronto, the one club that Texas has on its April schedule which had a winning record in 2008, may start the season without closer B.J. Ryan, who has no apparent injury but whose velocity is down from his typical 87-90 to the 83-86 range. The Blue Jays may also be without starters Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, and Casey Janssen to begin the season.

A thought on this talk that Scott Feldman could be a candidate for a role change, shifting from starter to set-up duties, with Kris Benson taking the vacated rotation spot: If the number five spot is only needed two or three times in the entire month of April, can't an argument be made that having the resilient Feldman available in the seventh and eighth innings 12 or 15 times in the first month makes more sense than skipping him (or Matt Harrison or Brandon McCarthy) in the rotation three times?

I'm not sure I view Feldman as a classic set-up reliever, but there isn't one from the right side right now, and if he's as strong a candidate as we now have to help get outs 19 through 24, I think I'm OK going with Benson on April 12 at Detroit (against whom he has a 2.38 in three career starts, including a 1.84 mark in two Comerica Park starts) and on April 26 at Baltimore (the only team he's never faced) to get through the month.

And what then, when the off-days become more sparse in May? Worry about that when that time comes. Maybe Benson will have pitched well enough to keep getting the ball. Maybe Warner Madrigal or Derrick Turnbow will be in a good enough groove to assume the right-handed set-up role, freeing Feldman up to return to the rotation. Maybe Derek Holland will be a 5-1, 2.40 AAA pitcher and ready for a bigger challenge.

Feldman is slated to get this afternoon's start against Kansas City.

Chris Davis is now 15 for 40 (.375/.405/.775) in his last 13 games, with three home runs in his last four starts, and extra-base hits in each of his last five. Still concerned?

Nelson Cruz is hitting .286/.350/.829 with a team-leading five home runs (one short of the league lead) and 14 RBI (second on the club only to Hamilton's league-leading 17), even though Cruz has about half the at-bats of many of his teammates due to his time away at the World Baseball Classic.

While it might not rise to the impact level of Edinson Volquez (and Danny Ray Herrera) for Hamilton, do you get the sense that if Texas and Boston were to actually come together on a Saltalamacchia-for-Clay-Buchholz trade, it might turn into a similar win-win with both teams seeing their player instantly find stardom? Saltalamacchia is hitting .350/.422/.600 in camp and showing significant defensive improvement, while Buchholz has an ERA of 0.46 in five starts (19.2 innings, .203 opponents' average, no home runs, 15 strikeouts and three walks).

Boston, nonetheless, apparently intends to option the 24-year-old Buchholz for a third go at AAA hitters.

Dustin Nippert's back acted up again as he tried to throw live batting practice yesterday, and a stay on the disabled list to start the season is looking likely. He's out of options, but a DL stint would give the Rangers an opportunity to send the righthander out on a minor league rehab assignment once he's ready to throw.

Holland, who along with Neftali Feliz remains in big league camp ("learning and observing," says Ron Washington), gave up one run in five innings in a AAA start yesterday.

C.J. Wilson sat 94 last night and looked sharp. In 6.1 innings this spring, he hasn't allowed a run and has yielded only two hits and two walks, fanning six. And get this: of his 13 outs on balls in play, 11 have come on the ground. Summary: 19 outs, 11 on groundouts, six on strikes, two in the air. Outstanding.

Catcher Adam Melhuse, who is having a strong camp at the plate (.632/.696/.789 in 19 at-bats), has told the Rangers he's not interested in an assignment to Oklahoma City. Since he won't make the big club with Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden in line to share duties behind the plate, Texas will allow him to seek other opportunities rather than insist that he report to the RedHawks, where he'd been expected to mentor Max Ramirez. Melhuse says he'd probably retire before he'd return to the AAA level.

Interesting: Jon Daniels told at least one local reporter that "teams" (including one in the American League) have inquired about the availability of Frank Catalanotto, with an expectation of course that Texas would subsidize a meaningful portion of the $6 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract.

Jeff Moorad's ownership group, which just purchased the Padres, includes Troy Aikman as a limited partner. Moorad, you might recall, was partners with Aikman's NFL agent, Leigh Steinberg, back when Moorad was representing baseball players. Moorad has also partnered with Aikman in the former Cowboy quarterback's NASCAR race team.

Minor league releases, according to Baseball America: righthander Jordan Stewart (undrafted free agent, 2007), lefthanders Eric Evans (23rd round, 2008) and David Wagner (undrafted free agent, 2008), and first baseman-outfielder J.T. Restko (2003 draftee acquired from Florida a year ago for righthander Jeremiah Haar) from minor league camp.

San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg was in Fort Worth last night, striking out 14 Horned Frogs in eight innings of work as the Aztecs downed TCU, 11-5. One of the greatest college pitching prospects ever, Strasburg scattered two runs on three hits and a walk.

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, LSU righthander Anthony Ranaudo (the Rangers' 11th-round pick in 2007) faced Ole Miss lefthander Drew Pomeranz (the Rangers' 12th-round pick in 2007) last night. Pomeranz prevailed in the 7-4 Rebels win, giving up three runs in seven innings as Ranaudo was touched for six runs in 6.2 frames.

If you coach or are involved in running a league or program for kids in select league baseball, softball, soccer, hockey, gymnastics, cheerleading, swimming, dance, martial arts, etc., in Texas, send me an email so I can share something that might interest you.


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Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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