"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening. It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year."
-- January assessment of the Rangers offered by Lance Berkman, whose Cardinals defeated Arizona last night, lifting their record to 4-6, good for fifth place in the NL Central
Give old Big Puma a break. Before busting out last night with a game like the ones he used to have when Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland were toddlers, he was hitting a robust .214/.290/.286 for the year, with no home runs and one RBI as the Cardinals' everyday right fielder.
I don't know if Berkman really was on the Rangers' radar this winter, or if it was wishful imagination on his part, but compare what he's doing to what Mike Napoli is giving Texas (.429/.579/1.071), and at least in an admittedly small sample, it's looking good for the Rangers that it worked out this way, even if not for Berkman (who reportedly rejected a two-year deal with Oakland to take one year with St. Louis) himself.
On the subject of tradeoffs working out, the Angels traded Napoli ($5.8 million) and Frosty Rivera ($5.25 million) to the Blue Jays this winter for Vernon Wells ($23 million, though Toronto tacked on a $5 million cashback incentive). Thus far, Napoli has three home runs and five RBI, five walks and no strikeouts. Wells has zero home runs and two RBI, two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Napoli has produced that over 19 plate appearances. Wells, over 47 plate appearances . . . .
. . . at a cash outlay of $20.25 million per year over the next four years . . . .
. . . while Adrian Beltre, who seemingly made all kinds of sense for the Angels, will earn $15.5 million per year over the next four (and $16 million per year over five or six seasons).
Yesterday I wrote: "Ogando, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland have made the five Rangers starts that rotation mainstays C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have not made. The results? Five runs (1.41 ERA) on 21 hits and eight walks in 32 innings, and 26 strikeouts. Five quality starts, five wins."
Revised: "Ogando, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland have made the six Rangers starts that rotation mainstays C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have not made. The results? Five runs (1.15 ERA) on 23 hits and nine walks in 39 innings, and 30 strikeouts. Six quality starts, six wins."
Ogando is the second starting pitcher in Rangers history to kick off a season with two scoreless starts. The first, Jon Matlack, did it in 1980, three years before Ogando was born.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ron Washington's gut move to walk Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning, bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate, was the first time in more than 37 years that a potential tying run had been intentionally walked in the ninth inning or later in a situation that did not create a left-on-left or right-on-right advantage for the pitcher. The last time: Hall of Famer Walter Alston ordering Hall of Famer Don Sutton to walk Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. The result: Hal King (who, the year before, had been an inaugural Ranger) hit a pinch-hit, three-run, walkoff homer.
Twitter follower Patrick Claggett points out that Texas has faced the opponents' Opening Day starter in each of its four series this season (Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Verlander), and beaten him.
Verlander makes $12.75 million this year. His salary jumps to $20 million in 2012 and stays at that level in 2013 and in 2014, when he'll just be 31. He's been unbeatable in Rangers Ballpark (3-0, 1.29, 13 hits and 26k/4bb in 21 innings). Martin Perez, Michael Kirkman, Neil Ramirez, Chris Davis, and Jurickson Profar? Not advocating it, necessarily. But would you think about it?
Profar hit four home runs in 2010 (63 games). He went deep in the first inning in each of Hickory's first two games this season.
Baseball America has Profar as the number nine shortstop prospect in the game, Perez the number four lefthander (ahead of Baltimore's Zach Britton) and Robbie Erlin and Kirkman 17th and 22nd on the same list, Tanner Scheppers fourth among those who project as relief pitchers, Engel Beltre number 10 among outfielders, and Mike Olt 18th at third base.
Still, BA's Jim Callis, when asked which of Beltre, Julio Borbon, and Leonys Martin was the Rangers' center fielder of the future, answered: "Martin, assuming that deal gets done."
Olt, challenged with a two-level jump to High A Myrtle Beach, has stepped to the plate 13 times in his first three games: a home run, two doubles, two singles, five walks, zero strikeouts.
Ian Kinsler: Six walks, four home runs, two singles.
Perez (age 20) is pitching in Frisco for the third straight season, but is still the Texas League's youngest pitcher - by nine months. Righthander Carlos Pimentel, Beltre, and righthander Wilfredo Boscan are the seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-youngest players in that league.
Myrtle Beach shortstop Leury Garcia (20) is the youngest position player in the Carolina League, just ahead of Pelicans teammate and double play partner Santiago Chirino. Lefthanders Erlin and Joseph Ortiz are the league's sixth- and seventh-youngest players.
Profar (18) is the South Atlantic League's youngest player. Catcher Kellin Deglan is 10th-youngest.
Big win for Tampa Bay in Boston last night, but the Rays have started this season with five straight losses at home, which followed three straight losses at home in the ALDS against Texas (and one more loss in their final regular season home game last year, against Baltimore).
Colorado released first baseman Jason Botts, infielder Tug Hulett, and catcher Ben Petralli at the end of camp.
Arizona signed lefthander Ron Mahay to a minor league deal.
Emerson Frostad signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. Outfielder Ramon Nivar signed with the Newark Bears of the independent Can-Am League. Outfielder Wally Backman Jr. signed with the Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association. Celebrity Jose Canseco will play for and manage the Yuma Scorpions of the independent North American League.
According to ESPN Stats Info, had Seattle not scored eight unanswered runs to beat Toronto last night, 8-7, Monday would have been the first day in 121 years that every road team won (with at least 10 games played).
C.J. Wilson tries this afternoon to help the Rangers win 10 of their first 11 games of the season. Texas leads baseball with a 2.22 ERA and a .193 opponents' average, by large margins. (Oakland is second in ERA at 2.73, and Baltimore is second in OBA at .216.)
Lance Berkman would like a recount.