While Elvis Andrus is showing, one day and one play and one plate appearance at a time, that he belongs at this level, and Matt Harrison's last 10 innings suggest that he's figured something out, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has found a hitting groove (.382/.417/.500 over the last two weeks) and improved defensively, and Neftali Feliz has struggled in AAA but remains a monster pitching prospect, and Beau Jones has quietly punched out 13 hitters in 11.2 Frisco innings, it's less notable to me that notoriously slow starter Mark Teixeira is hitting .198/.339/.396, and more significant that Casey Kotchman (.313/.377/.458) has one home run and six RBI as Atlanta's everyday first baseman (the same as Braves utility infielder Martin Prado, whose has a third of the plate appearances) and right-handed reliever Stephen Marek has an 8.68 ERA for the Braves' AA affiliate in Mississippi, where opponents are hitting .350/.431/.525 off him.
It may be too soon to say whether that was a Herschel Walker Trade for the Rangers, but at this point I think it's safe to that it was for Atlanta, who I suspect, if given the chance, would swiftly trade the 26-year-old Kotchman and 25-year-old Marek for any one of the first four players the club traded to Texas for Teixeira two July's ago, since which time the Braves missed the playoffs for the second and third times in 14 seasons (with Teixeira) and now sit in fourth place in the tightly bunched National League East, seventh in the NL Wild Card race.
You can make the argument that (notwithstanding Brian McCann's injury) none of the players Atlanta traded to Texas would fill a desperate need at the moment, but imagine how much brighter that franchise's immediate outlook would be if Andrus, Harrison, Saltalamacchia, Feliz, and Jones were still Braves property - or traded in different deals that were better designed to sustain the long term, if not improve it. (Cf., Travis Hafner 2002.)
Harrison, who goes tonight, officially has a personal catcher. Ron Washington acknowledged yesterday that Taylor Teagarden will catch the lefthander tonight and serve as Harrison's battery mate until further notice.
This isn't about familiarity, but results. Harrison and Saltalamacchia were teammates in the Gulf Coast League (2003) and Southern League (2006 and 2007) while with Atlanta, and in Texas last year and this year. Teagarden has caught Harrison only seven times: twice with Frisco last April (4.70 ERA), twice with Oklahoma last June (3.55 ERA), one with Texas last September (Harrison's complete-game, five-hit shutout), and Harrison's last two starts with Texas, which include the 10 consecutive scoreless innings. Harrison's ERA in the three 2009 games in which he was paired up with Saltalamacchia: 9.20 ERA.
Facing the prospect-studded San Jose Giants last night, Bakersfield righthander Blake Beavan fired a complete game, scattering four singles and a walk while fanning five. He gave up three runs - all unearned - and needed somewhere between 104 and 107 pitches, an extremely economical total, becoming just the second pitcher all year to go the distance in the 10-team California League. The longest Beavan had gone as a pro before last night's gem was seven innings, which he did twice in 2008.
Hickory righthander Fabio Castillo fired 2.2 scoreless innings last night, maintaining his 0.00 ERA for the season. In 14 Crawdads innings, all in relief, the 20-year-old has allowed three unearned runs (all in one inning on Saturday) on 13 hits (10 singles, three doubles) and eight walks, striking out 14. Right-handed hitters have helplessly compiled a slash line of .194/.324/.226, and all opponents have managed to hit just .182/.289/.212 off Castillo with runners on base.
Scott has covered the stack of moves the Rangers have made in the last few days with the AAA and AA squads, including the return to the RedHawks of first baseman Nate Gold, who had a stint in Taiwan.
More bloggy greatness from Beau Vaughan, whose interview victim this time is former Red Sox minor league teammate (and occasional subject of Rangers off-season trade rumors) Daniel Bard, the flame-throwing reliever who remains in the Boston system. The Houston native has 29 strikeouts and five walks in 16 innings for AAA Pawtucket, yielding just six hits and allowing only two runs - both on solo homers.
The Rangers released righthander Dan Sattler, who signed as a draft-and-follow in 2007 after Texas took him in the 44th round out of Purdue in 2006. Appearing 61 times in relief between Spokane, Clinton, and Bakersfield in 2007 and 2008, the 25-year-old posted a 3.51 ERA with 10 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Finally, a bittersweet farewell to Kat O'Brien, who has decided to leave the Newsday Yankees beat in order to attend the University of Pennsylvania. The former Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer will leave a void in the baseball writing industry but, after she earns a dual degree at Penn (an MBA from Wharton and a Masters of Arts in International Studies from the Lauder Institute), will certainly star in whatever she chooses to do next.
Aside from playing the game, there's nothing that gets my sports adrenaline firing like a big trade by my team.
A great win deprives me of sleep.
A great play is guaranteed to bust me out of my relatively even keel.
But a sustained run of good, solid, efficient baseball simply makes me a happy, contented person.
The second five of Matt Harrison's 10 straight scoreless innings heading into tonight's game came against the White Sox on Sunday, but it took the lefthander 100 pitches to get through those five frames. It wouldn't take a sports genius to figure that a veteran lineup like Chicago's would find a way, five days later, to forge a game plan that would take advantage of the high pitch count it had forced in Arlington and turn things around on Harrison in the encore.
And then he goes out and shows the White Sox 111 pitches tonight.
And they were enough to get him through not five, but nine innings.
Without allowing so much as an extra-base hit.
Or a run, something he can vaguely recall happening 20 innings ago.
The 111 pitches are remarkable, not only in terms of the workload they represent but also - more so - because they completed a game. Twelve-pitch innings create momentum. Averaging 12 a frame is something else altogether.
The smile on Harrison's face after the 27th out betrayed some of the relief he must have felt that he was able to cross the finish line himself and do so with nothing but zeroes in the most spaces on the board.
The smile on his personal catcher Taylor Teagarden's face, less battle-weary and more energized, looked more like what I think my own did.
More good, solid, efficient, winning baseball.