Scott Feldman has more quality starts (seven) than not (three) and has gone at least six innings nine of 10 times out, and yet he sits at 1-3, 4.61 for the season, needing to keep Oakland off the board altogether in order to log his one victory.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has caught Feldman six of his last eight times out. I'm not here to suggest that Feldman would be 6-2 if he'd been paired with Laird more often, but Saltalamacchia really looks out of sync behind the plate (and lately, at it as well).
The Braves came into the Rangers series with only 25 stolen bases all year, in 35 attempts. Only two teams had fewer steals, or fewer tries. They didn't run at all on Laird, who caught the first two games of the series. They ran twice on Saltalamacchia yesterday, succeeding both times -- including once, incredibly, on a pitchout that Saltalamacchia sailed into center field.
And of course, Atlanta knows Saltalamacchia better than anyone other than his current employer.
Maybe he's the position player equivalent of Edinson Volquez, a young player whose value to Texas might be greater as a trade chip than as a piece. Given the makeup of the Rangers in the big leagues and the upper levels of the farm, I'm no longer sure he has an obvious place here, either at catcher or first base or DH.
Which team says no: Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley, John Mayberry Jr., and Warner Madrigal to Kansas City for Zack Greinke?
(How about Mayberry for Ramon Ramirez? Who refuses?)
I don't understand why you don't send Laird up to pinch-bunt for Frank Catalanotto in the bottom of the ninth, rather than Chris Shelton. If you do that and the Rangers end up not scoring in the inning, Laird stays in the game at catcher (which is a sound defensive move anyway), and Shelton enters for Catalanotto, taking Saltalamacchia's spot in the order. Laird's easily the best bunter on the team, so why leave him on the bench if the bunt is the play?
Jamey Wright has more professional home runs (two) than saves (zero), but I wonder if that's about to change. Despite C.J. Wilson's slump, I don't think he should be stripped of the ninth inning, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Wright utilized situationally in the ninth, like he was yesterday, while Wilson gets himself straightened out. Wilson is tougher on right-handed hitters than lefties, so it's not so much a matchup issue, but Wright's extreme groundball tendencies may put him in a position to come on in relief of Wilson if the situation begs for a ground ball. For now.
Or Eddie Guardado could get some ninth-inning chances of his own -- though right now, I can't bear to imagine not having him pitch the eighth.
Boy, is yesterday's home plate umpire Jim Wolf in love with his arm . . . the brother of San Diego lefthander Randy Wolf, he played burnout with Braves starter Charlie Morton each time Morton ran out to the mound to start an inning. A right-handed thrower, he also tossed at least one ball (as Brandon Jones stepped in with one out in the top of the seventh) back to the pitcher (Feldman, in this case) left-handed. I thought Wolf called a good game, but you know his golf stories are more about how he threw on a given day.
Wolf, incidentally, throws a lot better than Braves backup backstop Corky Miller. Watching Miller's throws down to second as the bottom of each of the first eight innings were about to get underway was painful.
Speaking of umpires, I didn't like how Ed Montague, working the plate Wednesday night, telegraphed (with several quick turns of his head) to a confused Brian McCann where a Jo-Jo Reyes wild pitch had bounded off to. German Duran scampered from second to third and might have had a chance to score if McCann didn't read Montague's eyes and find the ball near the Rangers' on-deck circle. Duran did end up scoring on a Laird single.
I love how quiet Ramon Vazquez's throwing mechanics are.
Why do teams continue to feel like they can be the first to successfully start Josh Hamilton off with a fastball? Or throw him fastballs at all, for that matter?
And how do you decide to throw Michael Young -- slump or not -- a fastball low and outside with the game on the line? Isn't that the last place you serve it up?
Gregor Blanco can play for my team.
Atlanta set a new major league record yesterday by losing its 22nd straight one-run game (dating back to August 10, 2007).
Watch Out for Martin Perez. Having just turned 17 in April, the Venezuelan was given the extraordinary task by the Rangers of starting his pro career in the Northwest League, where much of his competition is three to five years older. The 6'0" lefthander debuted for Spokane Wednesday night and was remarkable, holding Everett to three runs (one earned) on three singles and no walks in five innings, and fanning five. Of the ten outs that were put in play, nine came on the ground. Perez (whom Baseball America called the top lefthander available on the international market last summer) commands his fastball in the low 90s and touches 94, complementing it with a very good curve and developing change.
Scott Lucas points out that Perez is not only the youngest player in the eight-team league -- he's 17 months younger than the next-youngest player (which happens to be his teammate, righthander Carlos Pimentel).
I'm telling you: Watch Out.
The Yankees added Sidney Ponson to their AAA pitching staff.
Buck Showalter's name is starting to show up in stories about the Blue Jays.
Oakland designated righthander Kiko Calero for assignment yesterday. He's 33 and coming back from a rotator cuff tear, but I've always thought that guy had something.
Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine shows up at number nine on Will Carroll's Baseball Prospectus list of the top 10 GM candidates in the game.
The Rangers will visit wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. today, prior to tonight's series opener with the Nationals.
Texas will try to improve tonight on its 3-14 record in games it enters at .500. With 12 of the next 15 games on the road, it would be cool if we could make it 4-14 tonight, start moving the record north in order to put the "record in games while at .500" stat to bed, and open the four-game series here against the Angels on July 7 with a smaller division deficit than the current 6.5 games.
It would also be cool if Scott Feldman, slated to pitch in Houston (against the team that drafted him a year before the Rangers did), New York, and Baltimore over the next two weeks, can tack on a couple well-deserved wins in that stretch.
Or, to even things out, maybe even one or two that he doesn't necessarily deserve.
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
If you want to be removed from this list, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org