The rain cooperated yesterday.
It held off long enough Saturday morning for Max's final soccer game of the year, in which he scored a goal on his last touch of the season.
It lasted long enough to wipe out my Sunday softball games, which I was thrilled about. I screwed my back up last week on a double play ball and couldn't be sure I'd be helping the team this week. But there was no way I wasn't going to play; can't let my teammates down. So this works out well. We're off next week for Mother's Day, so my back should be good to go in two weeks.
(Bet there was a part of Jarrod Saltalamacchia hoping for a rainout as he hung out in a dark room on Friday.)
And the rain held off enough, for the most part, for Brandon McCarthy.
Say what you want about McCarthy's two-plus years here, but even he'd admit that among the things you could say is not that he's risen to the occasion. He did last night, though.
The righthander had something to prove, even more than what his burden is in general, to prove to his teammates and the people who believed enough in him to make The Trade that he's not the pitcher whose Rangers career has triggered more column inches about blisters and shoulder blade stress fractures and forearm inflammation and strained middle fingers than about quality starts and rotation footholds, but rather the one who blew the Rangers away in Arlington as a Chicago rookie on August 30, 2005, earning his first big league win with 7.2 scoreless innings (two hits, one walk) and, before that, had a minor league track record of pure dominance, striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.8, a sparkling 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Or, even if somewhere in between, something closer to the latter.
He had more to prove because, for the first time, he was facing the White Sox, the team that traded him in December 2006 and has benefited in a big way as a result.
Fighting through two rain delays, the second of which (lasting an hour and 10 minutes) ended his night after five crisp innings, McCarthy was really good, limiting Chicago to one run on three hits and no walks, fanning three. It was not only his sharpest effort of the season (3-0, 4.67), but it was only the second time in 44 career starts in which he walked nobody and allowed no home runs. The other was June 9, 2007, when he held Milwaukee to one run over five innings in a game that Texas trailed 3-0 (blanked by Ben Sheets and Derrick Turnbow) before plating four in the ninth, all after two outs, off of Francisco Cordero.
Last night, starting with the second-inning sacrifice fly that scored Chicago's lone run off of him, McCarthy retired the final 12 hitters he faced, and given the weather issues, the fact that he breezed through the third inning on 10 pitches, the fourth on 13, and the fifth on 13 (to make it an official game) was big. Efficiency (both in pitch count and in strikes-to-balls, which of course is not unrelated) has never been a McCarthy hallmark since his arrival in Texas. It was there last night. He pounded the strike zone, and commanded the lower third.
The second rain delay ended McCarthy's night after 68 pitches (45 strikes). It was the first time he's thrown fewer than 91 pitches in a start this season, but without the weather stoppages, he was certainly on his way to that number again, and at the rate he was getting outs, he was on his way to completing at least seven innings for the first time in 32 Rangers starts. He did so three times in his first eight Chicago starts, at age 22.
Last night McCarthy probably reminded the White Sox of what the pitcher they traded was capable of - not that they regret the deal, of course - and gave Texas another glimpse of a 25-year-old, younger for instance than Thomas Diamond and Doug Mathis, who we might dare suggest is on the verge of becoming a dependable member of the rotation.
Righthander Kris Benson kicked off his rehab assignment today with a five-inning effort for Frisco, allowing three runs on five Corpus Christi hits (including the first home run of the season from Felix Molina, who went deep twice in 2008) and a walk, fanning four.
Houston signed righthander Brendan Donnelly to a minor league contract.
The Rangers traded Minnesota a player to be named for Twins legacy Joe Gaetti, a 27-year-old outfielder who has spent the last four seasons in AA and AAA. Taken by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2003 draft, Gaetti was a lifetime .284/.369/.511 minor league hitter coming into the season, and was hitting .139/.179/.278 in 36 AA New Britain at-bats before this week's trade.
If you want to see the five prospect features we've done for the video boards in Rangers Ballpark (Derek Holland, Justin Smoak, Neftali Feliz, Marcus Lemon, Diamond), click here.
Love the minor leagues: During Hickory's current four-game series with the Lakewood Blueclaws, as part of a "Complete Your Meal" promotion, Crawdads fans get a free 12-ounce Pepsi any time right-handed reliever Mark Hamburger strikes out a batter and outfielder Eric Fry hits safely in the same game.
ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. reports that Texas is "all but certain" to land Dominican left-handed power-hitting teenager Guillermo Pimentel, who is expected to command a signing bonus of at least $1.5 million once the international signing period opens on July 2. At least two clubs told Arangure that Pimentel "will no longer work out for teams, making it all the more likely Texas will sign him."
Arangure adds that the Rangers are "heavily tied" to 16-year-old righthander Jurickson Profar, an excellently named power pitcher who starred in the 2004 Little League World Series for tournament champion Curacao, the island territory from which Andruw Jones hails. Don't underestimate the connection.
Texas is also among several teams reportedly in on 16-year-old Venezuelan lefthander Juan Urbina, son of former Rangers closer Ugueth Urbina.
Another Venezuelan lefthander, Martin Perez, just two years older, just got through throwing another gem for Hickory, holding Lakewood to a run on two hits and no walks in 5.1 innings, fanning three, as he improved to 1-2, 2.42 on the season. (No hits for Fry, and Hamburger didn't pitch.)
Perez is without question one of the two top pitching prospects in the Rangers' farm system right now, a distinction that John Danks owned for several years. Danks goes for Chicago in Arlington tonight, and three out four times this season has been even better than McCarthy - once Chicago's top pitching prospect - was last night.
If Danks beats Texas (on national television, facing Matt Harrison, who comes off a brilliant effort, and Elvis Andrus, who will bat second for the first time), and fares better than McCarthy did on Saturday, it shouldn't change how the December 2006 trade ought to be evaluated, any more than if Danks gets chased in the third inning. What matters now, from a Rangers standpoint, is solely whether McCarthy can put the variety of injury issues behind him and continue to give Texas a consistent run of good starts.
I'll be thrilled if McCarthy is a fixture in the Rangers' starting five when Perez makes his way to this level.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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