Jun 012012
 

Texas Rangers Look to Reignite Winning Ways out West, vs. AL West Rival Anaheim AngelsAfter taking two-of-three from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last month in Arlington, the Texas Rangers now travel to the “Big A” to see if they can take another series from their hated division rivals.

For the Rangers (31-20) it may appear as though the time is ripe for a quick sweep of the ankle-biting Angels (26-26).

After all, the Angels just lost everyone’s favorite crooner, their staff ace, Jered Weaver, to a back injury. Despite the loss of Weaver, the Angels have been the hottest team in the AL not named the Chicago White Sox.

They’ve managed to win eight of their last ten games as Pujols was somehow plucked from his personal sea of suck.

Don’t take off that lifejacket yet, Poo, it’s a loooong season.

Over his last 10 games, “Captain Poo” has seen his batting average rise 31 points—all the way up to .243. He’s also hit five home runs over that span, giving him 8 on the year.

However, the Poo-meister has only managed a less-than-stellar .167 batting average against the Rangers with one solitary RBI during the regular season.

Rangers ready to take a bite out of the Angels:

Mike Napoli. He’s batting .362/450/.754 with 6 HRs and 10 RBI lifetime against the Halos. Naps also has 54 HRs and 140 RBI while playing in the “Big A.”

Josh Hamilton. This season, “Hambone” is batting .462 with 3 HRs and 6 RBI against LAA. In his career at the “Big A” he’s gone: .317/.372/.591 with 13 HRs and 48 RBI.

Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has always hit well in Anaheim. His .303/.389/.520 with 13 HRs and 44 RBI certainly validate that point. Although he hasn’t done much yet this year against the Halos, you get the feeling that this sleeping giant is about to awaken…and he might be pissed.

• This season, Nelson Cruz has had a series of ups-and-downs, slumps and mini-slumps. Throughout it all his favorite whipping boys have been the Angels, and he’s gone .545/.643/.909 with a HR and 6 RBI thus far. In his career, “Boomstick” has 14 HRs with 45 RBI against the hated Halos.

Tonight’s Matchup: RH Colby Lewis (4-3, 3.58 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 vs. RH Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.81 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, K/9: 5.8)

Lewis

Lewis is coming off a no-decision at home against Toronto in which he skirted trouble throughout his 5.1 innings pitched. He scattered 10 hits without issuing a walk and struck out 6.

This is “Colbyashi’s” first appearance against the Angels this season. However, the current roster is batting just .205 off of him over his career.

Loves to face: Albert Pujols (.143), Torii Hunter (.125, 5 Ks) and Howie Kendrick (.176, 7 Ks).

Hates to face: Peter Bourjus (.313), and Mark Trumbo (.400, 1 HR, 4 RBI).

Williams

Jerome Williams is one of just five active Hawaiian-born major leaguers (of the five, he and the Rangers’ own Scott Feldman are the only pitchers.) The Honolulu native was a former 1st Round Draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1999.(39th overall pick).

In his last start, Williams earned the victory against the Seattle Mariners by scattering five hits over his six innings pitched with 5 Ks and 2 BBs.

The burly right-hander didn’t fare nearly as well in his most recent start against the Rangers. He luckily escaped with the no-decision as he was hit hard and often during his May 11th start at the Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington. All told, he lasted 6 2/3 innings but surrendered 6 ER on 11 hits with just 3 Ks and 2 BBs.

Overall, the Texas Rangers are batting a ridiculous .473 off of Williams—here’s hoping that’s a trend that will continue tonight.

Loves to Face: Elvis Andrus (0-for-5 lifetime).

Hates to Face: Just about everyone else…but here’s a short list:*

Nelson Cruz (.800/.857/1.833, 2 HRs, 6 RBI)
Craig Gentry (.750/.750/1.250, 2 RBI)
Josh Hamilton (.667/.600/2.667, 2 HRs, 3 RBI)
Adrian Beltre (.500/.500/.900, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
Mike Napoli (.429/.429/1.143, 1 HR).

*Yes, believe it or not, the slash lines are not mere hyperbole; they are really real…no, really.

Have fun with that, Mr. Williams.

Currently, the Texas Rangers lead the Angels by 5.5 games in the AL West. Worst case scenario, if the Rangers are swept, they’ll still be up by 2.5 games. But it’d be a whole lot more fun to pull off the sweep and have that lead where it should be: 8.5.

The first pitch tonight is scheduled for 9:12 PM (CST).

Go Rangers!

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Jun 012012
 

Rangers head to Los Angeles of Anaheim

Friday Morning Knuckleballs5 1/2 games separate the Rangers and Angels.  By the end of the weekend, that margin could be as small as 2 1/2 or as large as 8 1/2.  It’s hard to label this series as “pivotal” given the separation between the two teams and the fact that it’s still early June, but we know how good the Angels could be, and we were all expecting that this would be a season long battle for the American League West.

Three weeks ago, the Rangers and Angels met at the Ballpark, with the Rangers taking 2 of 3.  Since then, the Angels have gone 11-6, including an 8 game winning streak.  During that same stretch, Albert Pujols has started showing signs of life (7 home runs) and former Ranger C.J. Wilson has been nothing short of spectacular…still a douche…but spectacular (1.05 ERA in last 3 starts).

“It’s not surprising,” Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. “They’re basically playing how we and everyone else in the world expected them to play. When you spend as much money in free agency as they did and when you get off to as bad of a start as they did, you’re bound to draw some negative attention. They’re back on track.”

During that same stretch, the Rangers have put together an uninspiring 8-8 record.  The pitching staff has continued it’s descent back to earth and the offense has been sporadic at best.  That said, the Rangers are good enough to display a level of dominance that could beat an all-star team at any moment, and it’s this that makes us feel good heading into this weekend…that and the fact that Jerome Williams can’t continue to pitch as well as he has (5-2, 3.81 ERA).

“Beyond the fact that they’re the defending AL West champions and a pretty good ballclub, we have to approach them like any other team,” Angels slugger Mark Trumbo said. “If we treat them like Goliaths, I think we’re going to be defeated going into the series. I don’t think you’re ever going to hear anybody in this room say they’re fearful of that team or think that they’re a better ballclub because that’s just not the case.”

Quick Hits

  • Rangers closed out the month of May with a .500 record at 14-14.
  • New Ranger Roy Oswalt will make his first start of the season tomorrow for Round Rock.  Oswalt spoke with media yesterday, and sounds eager to contribute.

“Looking at the team as a whole, one through nine, it’s probably the best lineup in the game,” Oswalt said. “I was thinking that if I could get over here and help the team out, as far as eating up some innings and take a little pressure off the bullpen, that maybe it would push them over the top.”

  • Oswalt also shared his wait-and-see approach to this season.

“This is the team to beat,” Oswalt said. “I made the decision to wait until the season started. It gave me a little bit of an opportunity to evaluate the teams and see just who I thought would be the best team going into it. A lot of times, you look good on paper at the beginning of the season, and then things can change here and there.”

Take me to the Card Shop

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

Larry Cox sporting the sweet beard…before they were uncool and then cool again.

 

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May 112012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsThe Colbra gives up 5 jacks…but strikes out 12!?!?

“When I came out of the game, I didn’t even feel like I had thrown,” Lewis said. “I felt like I had some of my best stuff all year. It was just a weird game. I don’t know how to justify that game.”

In one of the more puzzling starts of the 2012 season, by any Rangers starter for that matter, Colby Lewis was both dominant and weak, both baffling and predictable, both great and below average.  As he said, “It was just a weird game.”

Lewis got the loss in yesterday’s game, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 12 over 7 innings of work.  The 12 strikeouts is a new career high for Lewis…as is the 5 home runs that he surrendered.   Colby gave up 3 consecutive home runs in the 1st inning, and 2 in the 7th…in between he managed to retire all 18 batters he faced.

“The first inning, you still have to keep your team in the game,” Lewis said. “Of course you want a clean inning, but if it doesn’t you still try to go as long as you can and keep your team in the game. You keep making pitches and not worry, eventually somebody was going to get out.”

We are all used to the mandatory home run that Colby gives up in each start, and while it can be frustrating from the fan’s perspective, we put up with it because he often allows that home run in the middle of a above average performance.  However, you could see the patience of the Rangers fan wearing very thin on Twitter during yesterday’s start.  With such a heralded group of pitching prospects and Feldman and Ogando looming in the bullpen just waiting for their opportunity to move back into the rotation, it’s easy to quickly call for a change…but Colby’s not going anywhere.

“He still kept us in the ballgame,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Five home runs, usually a lot of damage is done and you can’t come back from that. But we almost did.”

The Rangers bats gave it valiant effort in the 9th, down 6-2, when David Murphy hit a 3 run bomb off of O’s closer Jim Johnson, but couldn’t muster another run and fell just short.

Luckily, this was just the first game of a double header (due to Wednesday’s rain out) and the Rangers would have a chance for redemption in the night cap.

Baltimore glad to see Josh go…

Friday Morning KnuckleballsJosh got the tweeters tweeting early last night with a first inning 2-run shot off of Tommy Hunter, as many wondered if we might be in store for another historic night.  But that was all Josh had to offer, and it was all that was needed as the Rangers took the final game of the series in Baltimore, 7-3.  This gave the Rangers a series win after three consecutive series losses.

“I’m tired … hungry … it will be nice to get home,” Hamilton said. “You never know what will happen in this game, that’s why you play the games. I’m excited I had a good series, but the series is over. We can go back home and get ready for Anaheim. We’re ready to get home.”

Tommy “Big Game” Hunter may have summed it  up best…

“He hit a baseball,” Hunter said. “The dude is on fire. What do you want me to say? He is, he’s a freak.”

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

Hamilton’s home run was a big moment, but Mike Napoli’s first triple in over 2 years was key in the win, as was a very productive night at the plate by Elvis Andrus (2-3, 2 RBI, 2 R).  Beltre and Young also both contributed with a RBI a piece.

All  the offense was nice, given the defensive woes from the night, as the Rangers committed three errors…but hey, it’s the 10th game on the road.

The Dutch Oven  gave up three unearned runs in the 2nd inning, but bounced back and got the win. Holland pitched six innings, giving up the 3 unearned on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out five, moving his record to 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

It’s time…

The series we have all been waiting for…the game of the season…Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-1, 2.61 ERA).

For those of you going to the game, C.J. is prepared for boos:

“I think the biggest thing will just be that we’ll be playing in front of a huge crowd in a stadium that’s relatively hostile to our team — and I’m sure will be fairly hostile to me,” he said. “I think a lot of people will boo me and stuff.  The main objective is just focusing on the baseball aspect of it and preparing to get their guys out.”

Ian is downplaying it here, and you can’t blame him.  This is the perspective that players have to have.

“It will be fun, a chance to face somebody you know, but other than that it’s just another game,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said.

But fans don’t have to have that same perspective…to us, this is BIG.  I’ve heard the plan is to give him the silent treatment when he is announced.  I’ve also read plenty of tweets from fans that will be at the game saying they are going to boo the hell out of him.  Regardless what you do, make sure you put far more effort into cheering for Yu and chanting “NA-PO-LI” every time Nap comes to the plate.

The ESPN Baseball Tonight guys give a preview of the series here.

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

“It’s fun to play in front of packed houses and we’ve had that almost every game,” Michael Young said. “When our park gets going, it’s the loudest ballpark in the big leagues. I’ve played in the World Series twice and played in other parks. It’s the loudest. The Cardinals said the same thing to us last year in those games in Arlington. Lots of parks don’t seat 40,000 and we’ve got close to 50,000 and the just the way the ballpark is structured, it makes for a very loud place. We’ve been spoiled this year. We’ve had big crowds nearly every night. We feed off of it. We love it.”

I’m so pumped for this series.  I can honestly say that this feels like playoff baseball…

Quick Hits

  • One of the more bizarre story lines from yesterday’s double-header came in the second game when Robbie Ross was warming up in the bullpen…in the wrong colored uniform.  The Rangers were wearing their blue uniforms, but Robbie had on the road grays.
  • Angels catcher Chris Ianetta will be out tonight as he will undergo surgery on his right wrist today that will keep him out of action an estimated 6-8 weeks.  Everytime I hear or read the words “Angels” and “catcher” together I snicker and chant “NA-PO-LI” under my breath and give a silent shout-out to Frankie Francisco and the Blue Jays…
  • If you missed it last night, we are doing a Twitter Ticket Giveaway.  Be sure to check it out, follow us on Twitter and retweet one of our tweets about the giveaway and you’ll  be eligible…easy as that.  4 front row Lexus Club level seats for next Tuesday’s game!

Enough said…GAME ON!

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May 042012
 

Very late…very abbreviated.

Quick Hits

  • Friday Afternoon KnuckleballsColby Lewis (3-0, 1.93 ERA) takes the mound tonight in Cleveland facing Jeanmar Gomez (1-1, 2.35 ERA).
  • The newly acquired Johnny Damon will start in left field and lead off for the Indians tonight.
  • Josh Hamilton will return to the lineup tonight, but Adrian Beltre will not as Alberto Gonzalez will get the start at 3B.
  • Hamilton was named the AL Player of the Month for April and Yu Darvish was named AL Rookie of the Month.
  • According to T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers are 5-0 in games Lewis has pitched against Cleveland.

 

Take me to the Card Shop

This is a new highlight of the Friday update in which I’ll take a look back at a Rangers baseball card from years past.  No specific angle here.  Baseball cards were a huge part of my childhood, and one of the first ways that I went about showing my allegiance to the great game and my favorite players.

Friday Afternoon Knuckleballs

1990 Classic Julio Franco – As a kid, I loved this card simply because it captured “the stance”.  I remember countless backyard or sandlot baseball games with friends where many of us would emulate the stances of our favorite players.  Julio’s was always one of them.

Have a good weekend!

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Apr 232012
 

When I was a 10 year old playing 3rd base in Little League, the last out of a big game came down to me beating a runner to the bag.  The runner didn’t tag up, on a soft line drive hit right to me, and it was a race.  I dove head and glove first for the bag, and the timing of our arrivals couldn’t have been more in sync.  The umpire emphatically called the runner out and the game was over…we won…even though I never touched the base.  Even worse, this happened right in front of the opposing team’s dugout and the opposing team’s 3rd base coach, who got into a heated argument with the umpire as I darted back to my dugout.

Monday Morning FastballsSo there…Alberto Gonzalez and myself are very similar…or at least have something quite minuscule in common.

It’s part of the game.  It’s the human element, and while the play that scored the winning run for Texas yesterday has once again brought the argument for instant reply back to the forefront of the sports talk universe, it’s a beautiful thing when it works out in your favor.

For a breakdown of the play, with slow motion reply, check out Jason Beck’s article.  Lot’s of good reaction from both sides:

Monday Morning Fastballs“I’m not going to get upset, if that’s what you’re trying to do, get me upset at the umpires,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “You all saw it. You don’t need a quote from me. You all saw it. I’m not going to sit here and blast the umpires. I’m not going to do that.  You asked the question originally, what I saw: The ball hit him in the back knee. There’s no question about that.”

“I saw it go down, and I heard a thud,” Inge said. “And I know the difference between a thud and [hitting] the ground. And it kicked off different. My first reaction was, yeah, it hit. I thought it hit his foot. I knew it hit something, because I was close.”

“As soon as I hit it, I just kept running,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not going to stay and see what [the umpire] says. I was going to run and see if the umpire called it.”

“I couldn’t tell,” Avila said. “I was trying to catch the ball and get in a position to get the guy out at the plate. I couldn’t tell right away, which is probably why the home umpire couldn’t tell, because at that point he’s trying to watch the pitch and stuff like that. At the same time, that’s what the other umpires were for. I haven’t seen the replays or anything, though.”

Home plate umpire Tim Welke said “We called what we saw, and we didn’t see him get hit.”

“This is a pretty good crew,” Inge said. “The thing is, it’s hard doing what they do. I’m not going to say it’s easy. And I understand they were going with inconclusive evidence.”

“I think you can open up a can of worms with too much replay,” Leyland said when asked about instant reply in baseball. “I mean, where do you stop it? … To be honest with you, normally somebody sees that [live]. One of the umpires sees that normally, in fairness to them. For whatever reason, they just didn’t see it.”

“I probably would have lost my mind,” Washington said when asked for his reaction if they play had been overturned. “I would have sprinted out of the dugout and lost my mind, then called and apologized if the replay showed it hit him.”

Monday Morning FastballsWith the win, the Rangers closed out a 9 game road trip with a record of 8-1, and have the best record in baseball.  Colby Lewis put forth a good effort to limit a potent Tigers lineup to only 2 runs, and Josh Hamilton hit a first inning line drive home run to right.

Quick hits:

  • The Rangers are back in Texas for 6-game home stand, which will include a day off between New York and Tampa Bay.
  • Derek Holland (2-0, 3.10 ERA) faces off with C.C. Sabathia (1-0, 5.59 ERA) tonight..and Michael Young thinks the Yanks are a good team…not tremendous, but good.

“They’re a good team,” Texas’ Michael Young said of the Yankees. “We’ve played a lot of good teams lately. The Tigers are a tremendous team. Now we’re playing the Yankees, and they’re a good team. They’re playing well. It will be a challenge. We’re looking forward to it.”

  • Tonight will also mark the retirement of Pudge Rodriguez from baseball.  There will be a ceremony at the ballpark prior to the start of the game, and Pudge will throw out the first pitch to Michael Young.

“I’m happy to do it,” Young said. “I was here during part of his first stint with the team and he was a great teammate and a great player. It should be a big day for him.”

  • Jim Reeves (ESPNDallas) argues Pudge as the best ever all-around Ranger.
  • Overview of his statistical accomplishments.
  • Monday April, 23, 2012 – vs. New York Yankees – 6:05 p.m. – ESPN nationally; FSSW-HD locally
    * Ivan Rodriguez Retirement Ceremony
    * Ceremonial first pitch by Ivan Rodriguez
    * Game ball delivery by John Burkett
  • Adrian Beltre will undergo a MRI today and will more than likely be out tonight against the Yankees and possibly miss the entire series.  Beltre strained his left hamstring on Saturday (hence Alberto Gonzalez’s presence in the lineup), but hopes to avoid the DL.

“But I don’t think it will be a big deal,” Beltre said. “It will be a couple of days. I’ll get an MRI tomorrow and go from there.”

  • Michael Young is batting .30456, which is now the highest batting average in Rangers history for a player with at least 3,000 plate appearances.  He has surpassed Ranger great Rusty Greer…for now.

We’ll be recording our weekly podcast tonight after the Pudge retirement ceremony and during the game.  We’ll get it up on the site as quickly as possible, so give it a listen – Jasen intends to “shock everyone’s pants off” with a prediction.  His words, not mine…

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Apr 182012
 

Wednesday Morning Curveballs“The ball was carrying pretty good tonight.” – Josh Hamilton

At some point last night, I just laughed.  I wasn’t laughing at the Red Sox, but rather it was a joyful laugh…an emotion that could only come from pride in just how good this team is.  I just laughed….at how ridiculously talented this line-up is from top to bottom, even with it’s interchangeable parts.  I just laughed…as Colby settled in after giving up a first inning 2-run shot to Dustin Pedroia.  I just laughed…as Ranger Nation was in full force on Twitter, watching an offensive explosion in fellowship and celebrating with each run.  I couldn’t help myself…I just laughed.

If your reading this, more than likely you were watching that.  If not, just know that in game 11 of 162 in 2012, the Rangers looked like an All-Star team…on the road…against at quality opponent.

Wednesday Morning CurveballsOn our last podcast, Jasen and I talked about the depth of this team, and how you can have players like Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli slumping and it’s offset by players like Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler surging (insert any of the core names in this scenario).  Last night, everyone was surging, and hopefully the surge will carry over through the remainder of this road trip (next stop Motown after wrapping short series with BoSox tonight) and beyond.

18 runs on 21 hits with 3 doubles and 6 home runs.  Every Rangers player that got an AB, got a hit with the exception of Alberto Gonzalez who came into the game for Kinsler, after Kins had gotten 5 ABs.  Boston Ace Jon Lester gave up 7 over 2 IP.  New acquired Red Sox relieve Mark Melancon gave up 6 without recording an out (an ERA killer!!).  Meanwhile, Colby Lewis gave up 2 runs on 8 hits and no walks over 7 IP, while striking out 7 batters and making the Red Sox lineup look foolish on many occasions.   It was a slaughter.

It’s fun to watch and fun to rehash, but today is a new day, and the Rangers have to take care of business again tonight against that same Red Sox team they embarrassed last night.

Wednesday Morning Curveballs“I’m just finding holes,” Hamilton said. “I don’t feel great. The home run felt good, the others I just kind of rolled over and found holes. I’m getting there. My timing is still early. I’m getting away with some things. I want to continue to improve.”

“I’m getting close,” Cruz said. “I feel pretty good. I feel like I’m seeing the ball better and my timing is there.”

“I’m definitely feeling better,” Napoli said. “I have been in the cage trying to iron it out. It feels good to put some swings into it and barrel up the ball. I just want to do it for a full game.”

These statements can’t make opposing pitchers feel good…

Quick hits:

  • The Rangers are officially splitting up Holland and Harrison in the rotation.  The day off on Monday afforded them the opportunity to flip-flop Harrison and Darvish in the rotation and they are taking advantage of it.  According to Wash, it has more to do with Yu then splitting the lefties.

“We wanted to keep Darvish pitching on four days’ rest,” Washington said. “He pitched, what, once a week in Japan? We want him to get used to four days down and then pitching on the fifth day. It just so happens to split the left-handers.”

  • Moreland returned to the team last night in Boston after battling oral issues.

“I’m so much better. It was a rough few days,” Moreland said. “I probably got five hours sleep total in two days, but I feel 100 percent better. I slept great last night.”

  • The Rangers will have 3 of the first 53 picks in the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft.  The Rangers will have the 29th overall pick in the first round. They will also have two picks in the compensation round, including the 39th overall pick as compensation for C.J. Wilson signing with the Angels and the 53rd pick for Darren Oliver signing with the Blue Jays.
  • Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) covers the draft order in more depth.
  • Michael Young left in the 8th inning last night with back stiffness.  It’s not expected to be serious.

“He’ll be fine,” manager Ron Washington said. “He was just a little stiff so we got him out of there. We had the lead there. He’ll be in there Wednesday.”

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Apr 022012
 

It’s Opening Day week!

Outside of baseball in October, there is no sweeter time for fans of the great game.  Every team is still in the race and has hopes of being a contender.  Rivalries will soon be renewed on the field…where they should be settled.  The moves of the off-season will play out and the moves of the coming season will soon be hot topics.

It’s here.  2012 is finally here, and It couldn’t have gotten here soon enough for us Rangers fans.  Excited about the coming season and equally as eager to put 2011 further out of our minds.

As we count-down the next five days towards Opening Day on Friday afternoon, we are going to dedicate the morning updates to the 5 Bold Baseball Do Predictions for 2012.

Monday Morning FastballsNumber 1 - Ian Kinsler will win the 2012 American League MVP

Coming off of a strong 2011 campaign, the 29 year old second baseman will take another big step forward in 2012, not only outpacing his peers at 2B (Cano, Pedroia, etc.), but ultimately winning the American League MVP.  Leading off for a potent lineup, Kinsler will set the table with a strong OBP just as often as he cleans the table with his extra-base/home run power.  A portion of the rise in Kinsler’s numbers will be attributed to the improved offensive performance of the 2-hole hitter, Elvis Andrus.

Quick Hits:

  • The Rangers finished Spring strong, winning 6 of their last 7 Spring Training games.

“We’re playing baseball like you want to at the right time,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We finished the way we wanted to finish.”

  • Robbie Ross has locked down a spot in the Rangers bullpen.  A strong overall Spring performance, the need for a left-hander in the pen, and injuries to Neal Cotts and Yoshinori Tateyama all helped in securing the opportunity for the young prospect.

“Ross earned that spot,” Washington said. “We didn’t give it away. I’m excited about that. We don’t like to hand it out, he earned it.”

“I’m like a kid on Christmas,” Ross said. “When I got drafted, that was the best day of my life. When I got married, that was the best day of my life. Now this … it’s just amazing, I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting in there thinking it was April Fools’. It has been awesome.”

  • Opening Day starter Colby Lewis wrapped up his final Spring start yesterday giving up two runs on five hits with one walk, four strikeouts and a hit batter in four innings in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Padres.   Colby gave up just one hit over the first three innings, but gave up four straight hits and two runs in the 4th.

“Four years ago if you’d asked me if I was going to start opening day in the big leagues, I’d have said that was crazy,” Lewis said, adding that starting that game is a big deal for his career. “I feel very blessed. I feel blessed to have a beautiful family that backs me and supports me. That’s a big key to my success.”

  • Monday Morning FastballsIt’s beginning to look more and more like David Murphy will start in left field on Opening Day and will see a lot of time in the starting lineup with Josh Hamilton greatly increasing his playing time in center field.

“I could start Murphy on Opening Day and two days later you may not see him in the lineup,” manager Ron Washington said. “Is he going to be in there every single day? No. is Hamilton going to be in center field every single day? No. He’ll play some center field. Murphy will play a lot.”

“I just think I need to keep the focus on winning and my teammates rather than me,” Murphy said. “There is no reason to put all this pressure on myself. We have a power-packed lineup. It’s not like I’m hitting in the No. 3 hole and have to carry the load. I’m not one of the featured attractions, I just have to keep the line moving.”

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Mar 262012
 

OK, so our balls are neither fast or in the morning today…Jasen and I both have some shoulder stiffness, so today’s lateness and brevity are both just precautionary.

Monday Morning FastballsYu Darvish had a good outing yesterday in a minor league intrasquad game.  He threw 85 pitches over five innings, giving up four runs to a team consisting of some of the top Rangers prospects – Leonys Martin, Mike Olt, Engel Beltre, etc.  He gave up six hits and two walks, while striking out 11.

“I gave up four runs, but I was not unhappy at all with my outing,” Darvish said afterwards. “Overall, I felt very good. I thought my pitches were good, but I kind of backed up the slider a couple of times … little by little, it’s coming.”

Pitching coach Mike Maddux was pleased with the improvement that he saw from Yu.

“I thought he looked good,” Maddux said. “He’s improved each time out. His velocity was there and he spun a few [curves]. I thought his stuff was good. He feels good physically, he said he could go nine innings. That’s a good sign.”

Darvish will start again on Friday against Colorado and is scheduled to pitch six innings and around 100 pitches.

Quick Hits:

  • Colby Lewis isn’t concerned with his hip…therefore, neither are we.
  • Monday Morning FastballsRobbie Ross continues to campaign for a spot in the Rangers bullpen.  This time, Ross put together a nice outing against the hated Angels, striking out the first two batters he faced looking.  He gave up one hit in the outing, but got Albert Pujols out on a line drive to left field.  We’ll be talking about Ross tonight on the podcast and weighing in on the many different options the Rangers have with the prospect.
  • Craig Gentry left yesterday’s game against the Angels due to dehydration.  Will someone please get that man some Gatorade.
  • Neftali Feliz will start tomorrow and says he feels good.  He threw in a bullpen session yesterday and said that his right shoulder, which he experienced some stiffness in last week, felt fine.
  • Matt Harrison was strong on Saturday in a minor league Spring Training game against the Royals Triple A players.  He pitched 6 scoreless, allowing no runs on two hits, with four strikeouts and no walks on 71 pitches.
  • Joe Nathan, on the other hand, continued to give us runs on Saturday, giving up two of them on three hits across five batters.  Ron Washington isn’t concerned with the results Nathan is accumulating in Spring Training, nor should he be, but it will be interesting to see how long the leash is that Nathan has once the regular season begins.
  • Baseball Do Field Trip!

Jennifer and Megan from www.RangersTalkers.com will be joining us tonight on the podcast to talk about Robbie Ross, the Rangers situation in center field, Tailgating and Ballpark food!

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Mar 192012
 

Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersThe Rangers fell to the Cubs yesterday in a split-squad Spring Training game, but the real story was the performance of Matt Harrison, who in five innings allowed one hit and one run with a walk and five strikeouts.

  • Harrison on the outing, ”So far, so good.  Hopefully, I can keep doing the same thing: pounding the strike zone and making quality pitches. I want to make them swing the bats because good stuff happens when they do that.”
  • Manager Ron Washington on the effectiveness of Harrison’s changeup, ”I’ve always thought that was his second-best pitch.  He worked on it the second half of last season, and he came into spring training, and he’s continued to work on it and it’s gotten better.”
  • Two of Harrison’s strikeouts came on changeups, which is an encouraging sign from the young starter.
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor discusses how the Rangers rotation is starting to take shape.
  • Ron Washington said a few weeks ago that he was going to split Harrison and Holland up in the rotation, which makes perfect sense.  To me, I’ve though the debate was whether they would fall in the second and fourth spots of the rotation or the third and fifth, with Darvish and Feliz taking the other two spots.  After the strong performances from Holland this Spring, I think it’s clear the order looks like this:
  1. Colby Lewis
  2. Derek Holland
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Matt Harrison
  5. Neftali Feliz
  • Washington on Holland and Harrison expectations, “I don’t want them having 18 or 20 wins on their mind.  If they set out to do what they did last year, they’ll surpass it without even trying. If they repeat the number of wins they had last year, that’s good enough for me – anything else is failure. I don’t want them going backward.”

Quick hits:

  • C.J. Wilson is an idiot.
  • The Rangers have partnered with the Japanese social media company gloops.  The partnership will include a gloops exclusive Japanese backdrop during press conferences, a fixed sign behind home plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and signs around Surprise Stadium for the rest of spring training.
  • Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersDavid Murphy and Brad Hawpe each went yard in the other split-squad game yesterday, before the game was called short in the 4th inning due to rain.
  • Torrealba was removed from the line-up due to stiffness in his back.  He did get some batting practice in, so it looks like his removal was precautionary.
  • Craig Gentry returned yesterday from his wrist injury that he sustained last week.  He went 0 for 2.
  • Prospect Robbie Ross, who is fighting for the bullpen role, started the game against the Brewers yesterday and didn’t fare well, giving up 4 runs on 5 hits across 2 1/3 innings.
  • Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins on Ross’ outing,  ”He was aggressive, went right after these guys.  He just didn’t have the command that he had earlier in camp. I liked his approach and liked his attitude. He has a good head on his shoulders.  He recognized those guys at the plate today, but he didn’t back off from them. He came right at them. I didn’t see any intimidation, and I didn’t see any fear. He just didn’t quite have the command, or otherwise he would have had a pretty good time out there.”
  • Good article from T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) on Johan Yan, who the Rangers are hoping to convert from a poor hitting fielder to a strong armed relief pitcher, just as they did Alexi Ogando.  Another current Ranger who made a similar conversion was Joe Nathan, who was originally drafted as a shortstop by the Giants.

Darvish Day III:

  • Yu Darvish will be on the mound and Mike Napoli will be catching today when the Rangers play the Brewers.  The game will be live on MLB.TV, at 3:05 p.m.  Darvish is making his third start and will be looking to throw 60 pitches across four innings.  Napoli, who has been dealing with a strained groin muscle, will be back behind the plate for the first time since March 8.
  • Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersDarvish reportedly generated more than $250 million of advertising revenue in January alone.
  • Pitching coach Mike Maddux on Darvish (from Ben & Skin, 103.3FM ESPN), “So far we’ve got five innings to go on. In those five innings, we had some ups, and we had some downs. We had more ups especially the ball being up and down. It’s just something we need to continue to grind at. We’re going to work today and really get that ball going down. He showed us some good breaking stuff, and that’s kind of bailed him out since his fastball command has been erratic. He’s a confident young man. He only knows success. You look at his track record in the Japanese league, and he was dominating. His expectations are to go out there and dominate, but it’s a little different game over here. There is a more concentration of talent so he has to grind it out, and I think he’s learning that.”
  • Maddux on overcoming the language barrier with Yu, “It’s somewhere between broken English, broken Spanish and broken Japanese. Some how, we got it all on the same page. The good news with baseball is that it’s an international language. Whether you’re in Tokyo or Arlington, Texas, it’s fastball, curveball, cutter, slider, change. It’s a strike and a ball. Some of the phrases are universal. There are some phrases that everybody knows whether they be in English or in Japanese or in Spanish. You kind of use those bullet phrases, and we all get on the same page. We’re able to get the communication bridged. When we come to the dugout, we really start getting the communication bridged when we employ the translators.”
  • Darvish’s younger brother, Sho Darvish, was sentenced to a one-year prison term for assaulting a female friend. According to the Japan Times, Sho repeatedly slapped the woman in the face and tried to choke her. The attack reportedly resulted from Sho’s anger over her association with some of her friends.

St. Patrick’s Day Rangers Tickets Giveaway Winner

  • Thanks to all those that participated!  The winner of the tickets is rauch5s.  We’ll get in touch with the winner and get the tickets out in the mail this week.  Stay tuned for more giveaways throughout the season!
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Mar 022012
 
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsJeff Wilson (Star-Telegram) wrote a column on Colby Lewis and how he likes the pressure that comes with being the Opening Day Starter.
  • Derek Holland’s thoughts on Lewis’ approach, ”He’s been there and done it all.  He might not throw 98, but he shows he’s not scared to go inside. His motto is, like, ‘Here it is. Go after it.’ We know we can do those types of things, too, if we focus like he does and carry ourselves like he does.”
  • Ron Washington and Michael Young are both in favor of the revisions to the playoff system which would add a second wild-card team in each league.  Drew Davidson (Star-Telegram) covers the story here.
  • Washington’s rationale,  ”It does create an extra hurdle, but I’d rather have that extra hurdle than be sitting at home.  Getting to the playoffs, I’m never going to look at it as a negative no matter how we got there.  You want to win the division, but I wouldn’t complain if I end up winning 94 ballgames and end up being that second wild card. If you’d rather go home, go home.”
  • Gil Lebreton (Star-Telegram) wrote a good column on the important role that David Murphy plays on this team.
  • C.J. Wilson spoke with The Mason & Ireland show (710AM in LA) recently.  When asked how difficult it was to choose the Angels, “I have told everybody it was a totally unpredictable process. You have this idea in July and you think okay it is going to shape out like this. Then October rolls around and November rolls around and you realize you have no idea because there are 30 different general managers, who have 30 different ideas about what’s going on. That could be everything from some teams are interested and other teams weren’t interested at all that I was for sure planning on visiting. It’s a very weird process, but in the end I think I made a good decision for the next 5 years at least to be an Angel too and I am really happy about it.”
  • Yu Darvish will face big league hitters for the first time today when he pitches in the intra-squad game.  He’ll head to the mound following Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison.
  • Evan Grant (Sports Day DFW) shared his thoughts regarding Yu Darvish on SportsDay (Fox Sports SW) yesterday.
  • His thoughts on Yu’s first Spring Start (next Wed.), “ I think what you’ll see is a lot of media showing up. The Japanese media has been very excited. There were about 120 people here the day he reported to camp for his first workout. Since then, because the only hitters that Yu has faced are all minor leaguers, I think everybody has grown restless evermore to see him face big league hitters. When he does so on Wendesday in San Diego, I think there’s going to be a postseason atmosphere to it because I think a lot of people are really excited about what this guy may or may not bring to the mound.”
  • His thoughts on what the Rangers expect from Yu in 2012, “That’s been the typical question of the Japanese media. “How many games will he win?” And I think what the Rangers are looking for is not wins. I think what they’re looking for is that he can go six or seven innings every time out, not exhaust the bullpen like a lot of young starters do — especially given the fact that you’ve got another young starter in the mix — and that he can get through this adjustment to the five-man rotation. He’s got a lot of things that he’s got to learn this year. He may not give you the complete return that you expect for whatever the investment is over the course this  year, but I think he’s going to set himself a very good base for long-term success. He’s got to adjust to the baseball, to the hitters, to the rotation — it’s a lot to try to take on in one year.”
  • Rich Gosselin on the three things that must happen for the Rangers to make it to a third consecutive World Series, “Derek Holland emerges as an ace, putting up the numbers C.J. Wilson posted last year.Yu Darvish winning 15 games and the middle of the order – Nelson Cruz , Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli – performing this summer like they did last October. The Angels are going to be stalking the Rangers every step of the way this season so the defending American League champions must play better than in 2011 to reclaim the division.”
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