Derek Holland's final act in an impressive spring training was a well-deserved victory, as he pitched the last four innings in today's 5-4 win over the Angels, giving up one run (a solo homer, his first long ball surrendered since his first appearance of camp) on three hits and a walk while punching out four and picking off another. Scrape that first outing (two solo homers and two walks in one inning of work) off Holland's ledger, and his first big league camp went like this: 10.1 innings, 11 hits, three runs (2.61 ERA), two walks, nine strikeouts. Solid.
Frank Catalanotto's final act, not only of spring training but of his second stint as a Ranger, was a pair of two-out F-7's in today's ninth inning, one that he hit in the top of the inning and one that he squeezed in the bottom of the frame, just before Holland finished the game with his fourth strikeout. Following the game, the Rangers gave Catalanotto, who hit .317/.349/.439 in 41 camp at-bats after a run with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, his unconditional release. He's being placed on irrevocable release waivers, and if he goes unclaimed (which he will), he'll become a free agent as of Opening Day.
Meanwhile, it was Andruw Jones's home run in the top of the ninth, minutes before Catalanotto's final at-bat, that made a winner out of Holland and punctuated a camp in which, perhaps as an upset, Jones ensured that his own final act as a Ranger wouldn't come in Surprise. After starting exhibition play with eight strikeouts in his first nine at-bats, he went on to hit .327/.365/.633 from that point forward, striking out 10 more times in 49 at-bats.
Speculation that Cincinnati and Philadelphia were interested in Jones went nowhere, because Texas decided it wanted his right-handed bat around to give Hank Blalock or Chris Davis an occasional day off against a tough lefthander. Speculation that Florida was interested in Catalanotto died when the Marlins acquired left-handed-hitting Ross Gload from the Royals (who will reportedly pay $1.5 million of his $1.9 million contract) earlier in the day.
Jones will take the roster spot vacated by the release of Catalanotto, but there remains roster work to be done. After the game, Texas sent Holland, Neftali Feliz, and Doug Mathis to minor league camp, optioned Joaquin Arias and Brandon Boggs to Oklahoma City, and optioned Tommy Hunter to Frisco. The roster now has 38 players on it, but effectively only 35, as Eric Hurley and Joaquin Benoit will be transferred to the 60-day disabled list and Joe Koshansky will be designated for assignment.
But five open spots won't accommodate Jones, Elvis Andrus, Omar Vizquel, Kris Benson, Jason Jennings, and Eddie Guardado, all six of whom are in line to make the Opening Day roster, so one more move is yet to be made. A possible trade of Arias was surely among the alternatives - his (uneventful) three-inning look at third base today was clearly a showcase effort, coming at the end of a six-week camp during which he reportedly never even took ground balls at the position - but he's too valuable to trade simply for the sake of creating a roster spot. Should the Reds or some other team step up with a strong trade offer between now and Sunday, something could happen with Arias.
Otherwise, Luis Mendoza and Travis Metcalf are probably the remaining candidates for a designation for assignment. If placing Hunter (groin strain) on the 60-day disabled list were an option, the Rangers wouldn't have used him this afternoon for an inning (preventing the club from backdating the move to March 27, not to mention serving as an admission that he's healthy enough to go). Dustin Nippert's and Willie Eyre's injuries are apparently not serious enough to risk disqualifying them from big league work for two months.
Catalanotto will undoubtedly find work next week. He'll earn $4 million from Texas this year and another $2 million after the season when his 2010 option (for $5 million) is bought out by his new team. There's something left in his bat, and he'll end up as the key left-handed bat on somebody's bench, costing that team close to the league minimum.
As for Jones, it's still hard for me to get behind the idea that his role as a Ranger will be as big as the media coverage might suggest it will be - believe it or not, Blalock and Davis each had a higher OPS against left-handed pitchers last year than against righties, both in the healthy .900 range, and Nelson Cruz, whose fitness to clean up against lefties is considered less than a lock despite a 1.288 OPS against southpaws last year - but it's still hard not to get the sense that Jones has enough of Ron Washington's and Rudy Jaramillo's support that he's going to factor in significantly during April.
In any event, on to a more important point:
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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