In spite of a really frustrating sixth and seventh last night on the mound, the line score shows only a one for Tampa Bay in each of those two innings, and another night of big production out of the maligned bottom third (seven hits, including a home run, 2 for 2 with runners in scoring position, one walk, one strikeout, and Max Ramirez with the club's highest pitches per at-bat number for the night) helped push Texas to a solid win against a very good team, getting this series and homestand off to a good start.
I've seen most of Josh Hamilton's at-bats this year, and I can't believe this is true:
His slash line of .300/.348/.529 is remarkably close to his line of .304/.371/.530 in his storybook 2008 season, a year in which he finished seventh in the MVP vote.
And not terribly inferior to Vladimir Guerrero's .333/.364/.557.
It sure doesn't seem like it.
Somehow, even though Texas piled up 13 hits and two walks and two hit batsmen, Tampa Bay needed only 116 pitches to complete eight innings. (The Rangers threw 178 pitches over nine.)
Ian Kinsler saw nine pitches in four plate appearances.
Someone asked me during Wednesday night's in-game chat session who my favorite Rangers player was growing up. If I were a kid right now, there's no question who it would be, and even as a 41-year-old, I think I might be accepting that Elvis Andrus is, over all these years, my favorite Rangers player ever. And he's going to get better.
The Rangers will likely option reliever Pedro Strop to Oklahoma City before today's game, clearing a roster spot for righthander Tommy Hunter to make today's start.
Texas activated righthander Warner Madrigal from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Oklahoma City. The club's 40-man roster is once again full.
The Rangers also activated righthander Brandon McCarthy from the disabled list (stress fracture, shoulder) and will work him out of the RedHawks bullpen as well.
The Rangers traded AAA reliever Jailen Peguero to Houston for future considerations to thin the RedHawks bullpen herd.
Frisco lefthander Martin Perez was placed on the disabled list with a cracked fingernail.
Cleveland designated righthander Jamey Wright for assignment, and the Mets did the same with Gary Matthews Jr., whose departure from Texas three and a half years ago for the five-year, $50 million Angels contract he's still living off of awarded the Rangers two compensatory draft picks that they turned into Blake Beavan and Julio Borbon.
As far as this year's draft is concerned, here's a couple more updated projections on what Texas will do Monday night with its picks at number 15 and number 22:
Jim Callis, Baseball America (June 4): Asher Wojchiechowski (RHP, The Citadel) and Bryce Brentz (OF, Middle Tennessee State) (previous mocks: June 3 [fellow BA experts John Manuel and Conor Glassey]: Stetson Allie (RHP, St. Edward [Oh.] HS) and Nick Castellanos (3B, Archbishop McCarthy [Fla.] HS); May 28: Brentz and Justin O'Conner (C, Cowan [In.] HS); May 14: Brentz and Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek)
Keith Law, ESPN (June 4): Delino DeShields Jr. (CF, Woodward Academy [Ga.] HS) and Brandon Workman (RHP, University of Texas) (previous mocks: May 31: Kellin Deglan (C, Langley (British Columbia) HS) and Kaleb Cowart (3B/RHP, Cook County [Ga.] HS); May 24: Workman and Deglan)
Here's the thing. Several super-respectable writers who do their homework have, in the last two or three weeks, pegged (alphabetically) Allie, Brentz, Castellanos, Cowart, Deglan, DeShields, University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, O'Conner, Vitek, Florida high school righthander Karsten Whitson, Wojchiechowski, and Workman as their projected picks in the Rangers' two first-round slots.
The reason the projections are all over the place is twofold: (1) the Rangers are historically discreet about their draft intentions; and (2) the first half of the first round seems to be unusually hard to peg this year, throwing mocks into disarray. The Rangers certainly have the 12 players mentioned above whiteboarded in order in their 1000 Ballpark Way war room, but when everything past the top overall pick is still unclear days before the draft, it's fairly crazy to expect writers to have a good bead on what will happen at 15 and 22.
Not all of those 12 players will be around when Texas picks at number 15, but some will, and the Rangers will be prepared to take whichever one is highest on their board. Four years ago, they knew Clayton Kershaw wouldn't be around when their pick at number 12 came up, but there were several other pitchers they knew would still be on the board.
I wrote this hours before that 2006 draft:
Baseball America's Jim Callis predicts this morning that [Tim] Lincecum, the small fireballer who many project as a dominating closer but who some insist will be able to start in the big leagues, will be the Texas pick. MLB's Jonathan Mayo speculates that it will be [Kyle] Drabek, who is the most talented pitcher in the draft by most accounts — and yet every story about him this spring hasn't gotten to paragraph two without mention of his makeup issues. CNN/SI's Bryan Smith thinks the Rangers will end up with [Max] Scherzer, whose stock has dropped, possibly because of shoulder concerns.
Lincecum went 10th. Scherzer went 11th. Drabek was still on the board (and would be until the 18th pick) when Texas chose Kasey Kiker at 12.
You can bet that Texas would be thrilled to end up with any number of the names that include Allie, Brentz, Castellanos, Cowart, Deglan, DeShields, Grandal (who now appears to be locked in at number four to Kansas City), O'Conner, Vitek, Whitson, Wojchiechowski, and Workman, and that the club probably has other names ranked higher who will be available at 12. The baseball draft is more difficult to project than the NFL or NBA versions, both because of a much larger pool and because drafted players don't go straight to the big leagues and thus are typically drafted less on perceived need than in football or basketball, and so it's not unusual for mock drafts from expert observers to differ greatly from one another, and for any one writer's projections to change routinely leading up to Draft Day.
Jim Callis's legendary 2005 mock draft was dead on for the first 18 picks before Texas chose John Mayberry Jr. (rather than Callis's pick, ASU outfielder Travis Buck) at number 19. Callis didn't have Mayberry going in his first 48 picks (covering the first round and supplemental first). Callis is very good.
When you see a guy like Callis changing his Rangers projection the way he has the past few weeks - Brentz and Vitek on May 14, Brentz and O'Conner on May 28, and Wojchiechowski and Brentz yesterday - you know there are lots of moving targets in this draft, at least outside the war rooms, that probably aren't done shifting around.
But in the meantime, there's Hunter-James Shields today and Rich Harden-Matt Garza tomorrow, two afternoon games pitting teams trying to protect one- and two-game division leads against each other. That's the bigger story, and the draft, as it should be, will just have to wait.
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(c) Jamey Newberg