If spring training weren't a week longer than normal, if the season opened yesterday rather than six days from now, Derrick Turnbow might have earned a spot in the bullpen and Josh Rupe might have been in a new uniform. Spring training always seems too long, but if the upshot of this extended camp includes the rescuing of Rupe's Rangers career, then I'll be the first to thank the WBC. I've always been a bigger fan of Rupe's than the numbers suggest I should be, but I see his stuff sink and dance and I hold out hope that he can find the kind of command that just might make him a pitching staff weapon capable of taking on a number of different roles.
If this new subtle slide by a few inches to the left does the trick for Rupe, if toeing the pitching rubber more on the first base side means more first-pitch strikes and better fastball command and just as many ground balls and a whole lot more consistency - in his last three outings (including consecutive-day efforts Sunday and Monday), he's allowed no runs on three hits and no walks in three innings, striking out one and coaxing seven ground ball outs - then the man I had the audacity to call this franchise's number three prospect in November 2006 (behind John Danks and Eric Hurley and ahead of Edinson Volquez) and then my big league pitching sleeper in 2008 just might make himself a fixture on this staff.
Turnbow, who would have pitched back-to-back days as well had he not been scratched yesterday with a knee issue, has been told he probably won't make the Opening Day staff, and he has the contractual right to request his release today.
While Jason Jennings may not have joined Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Eddie Guardado, and probably Rupe and Warner Madrigal in securing a roster spot, he's got to be close, maintaining a 1.69 ERA in six relief appearances (two runs on 10 hits and four walks in 10.2 innings, fanning eight) and, maybe more importantly, demonstrating an ability to come in with runners on base and throw strikes. Jennings has an opt-out clause that kicks in tomorrow. Don't be surprised if he's added to the roster by Wednesday, because he's pitched well enough for other teams to get involved.
That would leave one spot in the bullpen, and the way Kris Benson pitched yesterday - three runs on six hits and no walks in six innings, fanning two - it might be an upset at this point if Texas doesn't give the 34-year-old Saturday's exhibition start in Arlington and then the ball in the finale of the season-opening three-game series against Cleveland, which would effectively mean the final relief role would be filled by Scott Feldman.
Willie Eyre was on track to land a spot but hasn't been able to shake a right groin strain.
Don't rule out the possibility that Texas acquires a right-handed reliever this week. It was three days before the opener last year that the club traded minor league reliever Jose Marte to Arizona for Dustin Nippert, who was out of options and not going to make the Diamondbacks' staff.
Nippert, as you might recall, struggled horribly in April and was designated for assignment in May, clearing waivers and permitting Texas to outright his contract. After throwing a seven-inning no-hitter for Oklahoma late in June, he was back in Arlington early in July. I bring that up because it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rangers designate newly acquired first baseman Joe Koshansky for assignment this week, in order to reclaim the 40-man roster spot they filled by claiming the 26-year-old off waivers from Colorado over the weekend. Koshansky's situation differs from Nippert's because he has two options left, but Texas is almost surely going to attempt to get him through waivers as teams deal with their own roster issues.
The 40-man roster adjustments will take some creativity. If Benson, Guardado, Jennings, Elvis Andrus, and Omar Vizquel make the team, designating Koshansky and transferring Eric Hurley and Joaquin Benoit to the 60-day disabled list will only create three of the five needed roster spots. (Leave Andruw Jones out of it for now - if he makes the team, it likely means Frank Catalanotto won't, and so that roster issue takes care of itself.) Assuming Nippert's back injury and Tommy Hunter's and Eyre's groin injuries aren't serious enough to make the 60-day DL a consideration, how do you create the two rosters spots you need? Two of lefthander Kason Gabbard, righthander Luis Mendoza, and third baseman Travis Metcalf could be candidates for a designation for assignment, but a 60-day DL assignment for Hunter could make sense since it can be backdated to March 27, and the club would be allowed to include a 30-day rehab assignment in his DL stay. (The downside? Placement on the disabled list would entitle Hunter to big league pay, while an option would not.)
The team could even make Brandon Boggs the 25th man, taking neither Catalanotto nor Jones to Arlington. That would create one added roster spot. But Ron Washington is saying that the job will come down to Catalanotto or Jones.
The left knee soreness that ended Chris Davis's day early on Monday is not expected to keep him out of action for long.
The Angels will start the season without their top three starting pitchers (well, at least their top two and wherever Kelvim Escobar figures in, coming off a season lost to injury that followed 2007's 18-7, 3.40 mark), and now comes confirmation that Oakland ace Justin Duchscherer will miss more than just the beginning of the season. He'll reportedly have arthroscopic elbow surgery today, and could miss two months.
Brad Wilkerson, in Boston camp on a minor league contract, struck out 18 times in 42 anemic at-bats (.119/.196/.286 - just five hits) and didn't wait for his April 1 opt-out date to seek other opportunities. He left Red Sox camp on his own late last week.
Chan Ho Park (2.53 ERA) has 25 strikeouts and two walks in 21.1 innings for the Phillies. He's close to earning a rotation spot.
Only one Phillies player has more spring at-bats than John Mayberry Jr., but he's cooled off (.246/.288/.464) after a strong start, and multiple stories indicate that the club is shopping for a right-handed-hitting backup outfielder.
Milton Bradley has dealt with minor injuries off and on through Cubs camp, but he's hitting a monstrous .524/.583/.929 in 42 at-bats.
I'm about to devote too much space to this note, but I'm unruly that way. I wrote this on July 19, a dozen days before last summer's trade deadline, when Texas was in third place in the division and 8.5 games back:
Surveying the landscape of potential bullpen additions the Rangers could make this month, I think I know who my number one candidate is.
He won't cost us John Mayberry Jr.
He won't cost us Johnny Whittleman and Evan Reed.
He won't cost us Michael Schlact and Marcus Lemon, and he won't cost us Derek Holland.
He'd cost us a transfer of Jason Jennings from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
I'm not sure there's a potential trade out there that would work for me any more than getting 33-year-old Kiko Calero up here.
In four appearances since signing, the Oklahoma reliever has a 3.00 ERA, but all the damage came in his first appearance back on July 6 — when he hadn't pitched in 18 days.
In his last three RedHawks appearances, Calero (whose lifetime big league track record includes a 3.56 ERA with 255 strikeouts and 96 walks in 242.2 innings) has been perfect, facing five hitters and getting six outs (a caught-stealing accounting for the turbo-efficiency). In two hitless and walkless innings, Calero has fanned four.
He's coming back from a rotator cuff injury diagnosed a year ago. But every reliever on the market right now will have warts, whether it's health or effectiveness or a bad contract. And he seems to be pitching healthy. And effectively.
I'll take Calero, and keep the prospects.
Calero in Marlins camp this spring: nine appearances, nine innings, no runs, three hits (all singles; .107/.138/.107), one walk, six strikeouts. I'm not sure where his velocity is, and the bullpen competition in Florida camp is stiff, but I wish Calero were still here making himself a candidate to pitch in relief for Texas.
The Rangers released seven more minor leaguers: righthanders Chris Dennis, J.B. Diaz, Juan Peralta, and Julio Santana, infielder Kyle Higgins, and outfielders James McGraw (son of Rangers amateur scout Gary McGraw) and Truan Mehl.
The York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League signed catcher Luis Taveras. It will be the 33-year-old's third season with York. He was in the Rangers system from 1995 through 2001.
The Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League signed righthander John Maschino.
The Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League traded outfielder Cory Harris to the Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent American Association to get righthander Pat Mahomes.
Solid articles on the Rangers' farm system by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090327&content_id=4076764&vkey=news_tex&fext=.jsp&c_id=tex&partnerId=rss_tex and http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090327&content_id=4074698&vkey=news_tex&fext=.jsp&c_id=tex&partnerId=rss_tex.
George W. Bush accepted the Rangers' invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday.
I heard The Play on the KRLD broadcast Sunday, and could tell from Eric Nadel's and Steve Busby's reaction that it was transcendent. There were no television cameras on hand to capture an MLB Network or SportsCenter highlight, but we got multiple beat writer accounts, and then this from Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington today:
On a sharp ground ball just to the left of second, Elvis laid out, gloved it, pushed up and, using his right hand for support only, flipped the ball out of his glove to Ian Kinsler for the start of a double play.
Josh Rupe, the beneficiary of the web gem, subsequently offered his thanks and a question.
Rupe: "You gonna be able to do that every game?"
Washington said after the game that most shortstops would have gotten to the ball, but making the pitch to second, not only without the use of his throwing hand but also in a spot that allowed his double play partner to receive it and complete the twin-killing? Not as customary. Nadel's opinion? Maybe Alex Rodriguez makes the play. Maybe Benji Gil gets there, but he bobbles it. Same with Esteban Beltre. Manny Lee, Royce Clayton? No.
I didn't see it, but the silver lining about having no footage of Andrus's 6-4-3 magic is that it would really have been just a trailer. We'll see it again.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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