Jul 122012
 
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Texas Rangers Ready for Second Half—News and Notes

You’re not fooling anyone, JD. We all know you’re a ninja.

As it turns out, the All-Star Break was about as much fun as taking three days off from work, just so you can help a friend move.

And your friend lives in Kansas City…well that’s what you get for telling him you own a truck.

After the National League torqued the A.L. 8-0, I feel safe in saying that we are all ready for the second half to commence.

And commence, it will, as the Texas Rangers are headed to the Pacific Northwest for a three game series against fellow A.L. West combatants, the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners, at 36-51, have a worse record than the Rangers (52-34) even if you’re dyslexic…just look at their record first or that makes less sense than Verlander getting thwacked last Tuesday.

Since the initial road trip of the second half features a call to the West Coast, the start time makes it seem as if it’s far further away than one full day.

Alas, tomorrow night, at 9:10 (CT), recently reactivated Derek Holland (5-4, 5.05 ERA) will make his second start since his month-long stay on the disabled list. He’ll oppose former Ranger Kevin Millwood (3-6, 3.69 ERA). Millwood has been lights-out against the Rangers this year, going 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA in three starts.

Jeez Millwood, you mad?

Holland, against Seattle, well, he’s had some problems

Here’s a look at some Rangers news and notes, as their four-day break nears a close.

Ranger Injury Updates

Both Alexi Ogando (strained right groin muscle) and Neftali Feliz (sprained right elbow) are set to have a minor league rehabilitation assignment in the near future.

Ogando, sidelined since June 10, will conduct his rehab assignment this Thursday with Triple-A Round Rock. He’s penciled in for a two-inning outing.

Feliz, out since May 18, is scheduled to throw live batting practice this Thursday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. If that outing goes as planned, he’ll be cleared to pitch two innings with Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday.

As noted by Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan, it appears as though Feliz will be stretched out to remain in the Rangers rotation upon his return.

Reliever Koji Uehara is scheduled to pitch an inning for Round Rock this Saturday, and should his lat injury not limit him, he could be set to rejoin the bullpen as early as next week.

Mark Lowe, sidelined with a rib cage strain, is expected to resume a throwing program this weekend in Seattle.

Colby Lewis should be reactivated for a start against Oakland next Wednesday.

Rangers’ deal with IFA (International Free Agent) Jairo Beras holds up

As if we needed any further notice that Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels is a true ninja…

Per Joey Matschulat of Baseball Time In Arlington, Major League Baseball has decided to uphold the $4.5 million bonus the Rangers signed Beras to.

There was controversy surrounding Beras’ age, almost from the onset of the deal. Initially, Beras provided the powers that be with a birth certificate that stated he was born in 1995. Had that been the case, the Rangers’ deal would have been revoked as Beras would have been too young to sign a professional contract.

C’mon, you should know by now that what fools MLB can’t pull the wool over JD…

Long story short—please read Matschulat’s fine article for all the details—the Rangers felt that Beras was actually born in 1994, MLB agreed, and thus the deal was upheld due to his now being old enough to sign said deal.

Beras is being punished by a one-year suspension, however.

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May 282012
 

Surging Rangers Offense looks to stay Hot against Seattle Mariners, Kevin MillwoodBefore the Toronto Blue Jays came to town, the Texas Rangers (30-18) were mired in an offensive funk that saw them averaging less than four runs per game—paving the way to losses in six of their previous ten games.

The Jays had beaten the Rangers in two out of three this season and had dominated Texas both last season and the season prior—and with Brandon Morrow set to toe-the-rubber in game one last Friday, things looked bleak.

However, Texas’ slumbering offense came alive immediately—plating seven in the first inning—setting the tone for domination and initiating the sweep.

And just like that, the offensive woes fell to the wayside thanks to an attack that averaged 11.33 runs per game during the Jays series.

Here’s hoping the Rangers bats can stay hot as they welcome their familiar foe, the Seattle Mariners for a three game set in Arlington.

Kevin Millwood (3-3, 3.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6 K/9) vs. Matt Harrison (5-3, 4.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 5.9 K/9)

Millwood

In former Texas Ranger Kevin Millwood’s last start, he pitched six scoreless innings against the Rangers, picking up the win 5-3. Millwood is in a zone that he hasn’t seen since last century (1999)—he hasn’t allowed a run in 17 consecutive innings.

Millwood is a veteran that relies not on raw stuff, but on location. A similar comparison in style would be that of Colby Lewis (with much lower K/9 and HR/9 rates).

Against the current crew of Rangers, Millwood has a .253 BA against. Adrian Beltre has 3 career home runs with 5 RBI off of him. Mike Napoli (.375, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and, of course, Josh Hamilton (.400, 1 HR, 3 RBI) have both been tough outs for Millwood throughout his career.

Matt Harrison

“Harri” had seen his ERA rise from 3.68 to 5.21 before he picked up the win against the Mariners in Seattle, 3-1, last week. Harri was sharp, going 7 innings, striking out 6, walking 2 and scattering 8 hits.

If you’ll recall, after that first inning against the M’s it sure didn’t look like we’d be getting 7 quality innings from the big left-hander.

Thanks to some outstanding defense from Hamilton, Harri was able to get out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning—while surrendering just the one run. From that point forward, he was in cruise control.

The Mariners have only managed a .182 BA against Harrison. Ichiro Suzuki has had the most at bats against him, and has collected 9 hits with a team-leading 2 RBI. Alex Liddi (.500) and Brendan Ryan (.667) see the ball well against the Durham, North Carolina native, but it’s a small sample size for them.

Much like the North Texas weather, here are four Rangers that are heating up:

•Nelson Cruz—8 RBI in one week much less one game will certainly warrant your inclusion in the hot list.

•Josh Hamilton—Much like Cruz’s big night, Hami’s walk-off, extra innings long ball is enough to realize his power stroke hasn’t gone anywhere. Plus, he’s Josh Hamilton…’nuff said.

•Mike Napoli—It’s no secret that Napoli has struggled since an April hot streak. However, his 2-for-3 yesterday afternoon (including his first home run in nearly a month) might be a sign that “Mr. NAP-O-LIII!” is starting to sizzle.

•Mitch Moreland—Mr. underrated…even after yesterday’s 0-for-3, Moreland has been torrid at the dish. In the Jays series he was 6-for-13 (.462) with 4 RBI and one big fly.

Hot Mariners to watch:

N/A—C’mon, they just got swept by the Angels for crying out loud.

The Rangers can win if:

• They can get on base early against Millwood. Millwood was dominate at times in his last outing, and he leads the league with the lowest HR/9 rate, averaging just 0.3/9. In other words, the Rangers can’t rely on the long ball to touch up Millwood.

Prediction time:

I just can’t see Millwood keeping the Rangers bats at bay twice in less than a week. Rangers win 7-4, and Millwood’s scoreless innings streak is snapped at 18.

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May 232012
 

Harrison, Adams and Nathan secure Rangers win despite lack of offense

Wednesday Morning CurveballsOn a night when the Rangers offense could only muster four hits, the pitching came up big.  Matt Harrison pitched 7 strong, giving up a single run on 7 hits and 2 walks.

“My defense was making play after play behind me tonight,” Harrison said. “It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start the first inning. I felt good going into the game. My arm felt the best it has felt all season. I may have been overthrowing. I needed to settle down and pound the strike zone.”

The run was surrendered in a 35 pitch first inning after which Harrison was in command of the game…until the 8th inning…enter Mike Adams.  Harrison gave up hits to the first two batters he faced in the 8th inning, and the two run lead looked vulnerable.  Adams came in to face the heart of the Mariners order, and got Jesus Montero to fly out harmlessly before striking Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager out.

“Mike has been big for us since the day we traded for him,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “The eighth inning is important and we’ve got one of the best in the business handling it. He did a great job tonight.”

Joe Nathan came on in the 9th to get his 10th save of the season.  He struck out two as well after getting the lead off hitter to ground out weakly.

Nathan was impressive and I know the definition of a save…that said, when the game was on the line, Mike Adams saved the Rangers.

“I don’t keep track of my stats,” Adams said. “I go by how I’ve been throwing, and the last few outings I feel I’ve been throwing the ball well.”

Great pitching all around, which was needed as the Rangers were only able to muster up four hits, a season low.  Mariners started Hector Noesi pitched well, and really only gave the Rangers one opportunity to put runs on the board, and they seized that opportunity with a 3-run 3rd inning.  Noesi walked Cruz and Moreland, whom were driven in by an Elvis Andrus triple.  Andrus came in to score on a Josh Hamilton ground-rule double.

T.R. Sullivan summed it up well here:

The Rangers were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position while the Mariners were 1-for-9. That was a testament to both Adams and Harrison, who survived a 35-pitch first inning to make it into the eighth.

Quick Hits

  • When Pudge retired, we all heard that he was going to take on a role with the Rangers, and it looks like he’s received his first assignment, as he’ll serve as the Rangers representative at the First Year Player Draft in June (4th through 6th, with the 1st Round live on MLB TV).  The Rangers hold the 29th pick in the first round, along with two picks in the compensation round they received for losing C.J. Wilson and Darren Oliver in free agency.
  •  Ian Kinsler and Scooter Feldman are both being recruited to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic.  Both players have Jewish heritage, which makes them eligible to play for Israel if they so choose.

“I would definitely like to play for Team USA if that’s possible,” Kinsler said. “If not, I will consider whatever else comes up.”

“I don’t know if it’s the greatest idea for a pitcher to play in that,” Feldman said. “If I got asked, I would think about it. I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Pitchers can get hurt anytime. It would stink getting hurt doing something like that. We’ll see how many innings I pitch this year and how my arm feels and if I get asked.”

  • The Rangers have an off-day on Thursday but will not use it to give anyone extra rest or change up their rotation. Feldman pitches tonight, followed by Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish this weekend against the Blue Jays.
  • Former Ranger Kevin Millwood (2-4, 4.17 ERA) will take the mound tonight against Scooter (0-1, 3.00 ERA).  Millwood’s splits show that he pitches much better on the road than he does at Safeco, evidenced most recently by a dominating outing in Colorado last week, so here’s hoping the Rangers get to him early and see plenty of the Mariners bullpen.
  • Feldman, who has moved to the rotation after Neftali Feliz was put on the DL, is hoping to throw 100 pitches tonight, something he hasn’t done since June of 2010.

“Let’s see how he gets through it,” manager Ron Washington said. “It depends on the stress he has. If he’s able to get through some innings early without stress, that may lead to some leeway late in the game.”

  • Prediction for tonight: Rangers 6, Mariners 3 with Yoshinori Tateyama working an instrumental 7th inning to stave off a Mariners rally and Mitch Moreland doing some damage with the bat…
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