Ron Washington said before Monday's game that he planned to rest Elvis Andrus on Tuesday and get Joaquin Arias a start (at second base, with Andres Blanco getting the nod at shortstop).
Michael Young's neck injury notwithstanding, I'm going to be surprised at this point if that's still the plan.
If Josh Hamilton's game on Friday was one of the greatest in Rangers history, Arias's game last night - actually, his bottom of the eighth alone - pushes the needle on the other end of the spectrum.
I don't want to talk about what Arias did, and didn't do.
But Washington did.
After the game, in what I assume was a sanitized version of whatever he said to the team and probably even cleaned up compared to whatever he told the print media, Washington told Emily Jones, when asked on the Fox Sports Southwest telecast what message he had for the team: "Get your head outta your butt and let's play baseball."
Washington didn't name Arias when he said, "We just didn't support Cliff Lee. . . . He deserved a better fate than that," or when he offered that Lee should have been out of that inning in four batters. But he didn't need to name names, nor did Lee when he said, repeatedly, that it was just a "weird" "blur of an inning."
I was very interested in what Lee had to say, but he's an absolute professional and I didn't expect any harsh words. I saw all I needed to see, as we all did, when the cameras found him in the dugout a dozen times in the eighth and ninth after he'd been removed from the game. The look on his face was pure Don Draper, a stoic seethe that seemed to mask a mix of exasperation and resignation.
(From my Twitter barrage last night: "I refuse to mention the famous quote in Rangers history that the look on Cliff Lee's face is reminding me of right now.")
You know what? I hated that loss only because it was Lee's game. Otherwise it would have been a massively irritating loss that I would have gotten over as soon as I wrote about it. But the fact that it - once again - wasted a Lee gem, giving him, it seems, as I overreact, another five days to think about whether he wants his next five or six years to be with this team, makes me almost nauseous.
Yes, I know that Arias won't be here over any of the next five or six years. He won't be here in October, when it matters. He may not be here in September.
If he's not here tonight, I'm quite sure I'd be OK with that. Esteban German, fine. (It's not as if Arias is a great gloveman any more.) Hernan Iribarren or Gregorio Petit, sure. Alex Cora, said by Fox Sports's Ken Rosenthal to be on the Rangers' radar, come on down.
The man whose neck somehow retreats into his shoulders whether he's scampering around second for an uncontested triple or flailing back aimlessly on a catchable Texas Leaguer that isn't caught needs not be entrusted with another defensive assignment in a Rangers uniform. Arias is very fast (yet somehow still appears "unathletic"). He can do a couple things with the bat. But he's not a very good baseball player, and will certainly never be called a smart or instinctive one.
But that's not really the point.
I hate every single moment that makes me wonder whether Lee is a tick less likely to choose to be here after this season. He's not going to care whether Arias is among the 55 or 60 players in big league camp in March, but I would have been much happier if we'd gone into Tampa Bay and beaten David Price, with Lee shaking hands with Bengie Molina halfway between the mound and plate after delivering the game's final pitch.
Amazingly, that has happened one single time in his eight Rangers starts. Eight starts in which he, stunningly, has only two victories (and the team has only three).
And Texas has two straight really lousy losses in Lee starts.
I would have been very happy if that game had ended in a Rangers win. Lee would have been, too. I would like for Lee to be happy. I'd like that very much.
Monday was a good day for the Rangers on another front, as they officially came to terms with Florida high school righthander Luke Jackson (supplemental first round) and University of Missouri righthander Justin Grimm (fifth round) on the deadline to sign 2010 draft picks, a day after agreeing with University of Missouri righthander Nick Tepesch (14th round). All three should be key additions to a system that moved a number of pitching prospects in the last six weeks.
Jackson reportedly signed for $1.545 million, slightly more than double the recommended $764,100 bonus for the slot where he was drafted (and only slightly less than Texas paid first-rounder Jake Skole, taken 15th overall). Twelve first-round picks signed for less than Texas paid Jackson. Grimm reportedly got $825,000, more than five times his estimated $147,600 slot (and supplemental first-round money). Tepesch's $400,000 bonus was third-round money.
More cool news on the development front: The Rangers' Dominican Summer League squad (40-21) clinched a division title yesterday, defeating the Braves, 5-0, behind winter signee Victor Payano and two relievers. It was the 20th win in 22 games for the Rangers (including a run of 15 straight), and over those 22 games the club scored 119 runs and allowed only 37. The Rangers have now won the San Pedro division title three straight years.
Director of International Scouting Mike Daly is in charge of the daily operations at the Rangers' Dominican academy. First-year manager Kenny Holmberg skippers the DSL club, taking over for Jayce Tingler, who held the post the last two division-winning years before getting promoted to the Arizona League this season. Former Rangers farmhand Jose Jaimes, a rising coaching star, is in charge of a pitching staff whose 2.01 ERA is best among the 34 DSL clubs. The staff has more strikeouts (531) than innings pitched (529), a punchout total that is second most in the league, and 168 walks, which is second least.
Foremost among the club's pitching prospects is probably righthander David Perez, who is 4-4, 1.41 in 13 starts, with 62 strikeouts and eight walks in 64 innings, a 2.38 groundout-to-flyout rate, a .202 opponents' batting average, and zero home runs allowed. Perez hasn't allowed a run in his last 33 innings, scattering 14 hits and two walks in that stretch while punching out 29.
Perez has pitched to Jorge Alfaro more often than any other catcher, and the 17-year-old has made huge strides behind the plate as the season has gone along, with the help of catching instructor Ryley Westman. Alfaro is probably the key position player prospect on the club, though 17-year-old shortstop Hanser Alberto (second in the league with a .358 average and a stunning 26.9 plate appearances for every strikeout - seven total strikeouts in 188 trips) is interesting.
Even the best players to emerge from the DSL program will take four or five years to get to Texas, at best - when Joaquin Arias is likely to be out of baseball, and Cliff Lee is on the back half of the megadeal he'll sign this winter.
I promise right now that I won't complain if Hanser Alberto throws to the wrong base late in a 2015 game, even if it costs Cliff Lee a win - as long as Lee is wearing Rangers red at the time.
I should have news in the next day or two on where and when we will stage our first game-watching Newberg Report event with Chuck Greenberg. It will happen sometime on the Rangers' next road trip.
To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to www.newbergreport.com and click the "Mailing List" link on the top menu bar.
(c) Jamey Newberg