Mar 282012
 

2012 has begun!  The Athletics and Mariners are over in Japan wrapping up the season opener as I type this.  One note, the Rangers will be tied with the Angels for 2nd when this game completes.  Nice article by Jim Caples (ESPN) on Ichiro’s return to Japan.

Wednesday Morning CurveballsMike Napoli hit two home runs in yesterday’s Spring Training match-up with the Padres, which was won by the Rangers when Joey Butler (of Baseball Do podcast fame) scored from third on a wild pitch.

  • Ian Kinsler continues to tear through Spring Training, compiling 3 hits in the game, raising his Spring Training batting average to .422.  I’m calling it right now – Kinsler will not hit above .422 during the regular season.
  • Robbie Ross, who is fighting for a spot in the bullpen with the Rangers, started the game and gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk over 2 innings of work.

“I was up just a little bit,” Ross said. “I got behind on batter a few times. I hit my spots OK, but I think I could have attacked the guy that hit the home run better than I did. I kind of pitched around him and nit-picked a little bit.”

  • Ross made a nice defensive play, snagging a line drive hit back to the mound by Chris Denorfia.  Credit Greg Maddux with the nice glove work by the prospect.  After Ross just got out of the way of a similar line drive hit by Torii Hunter on Sunday, Maddux put Ross out on the mound and drilled 6 line drives back at him, making him field the ball rather than bail.

“He was hitting them at me, so this time I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what we worked on,’” Ross said. “It was kind of nice knowing I could stick in there with that.”

Wednesday Morning CurveballsNeftali Feliz got back on the mound for the first time since being pulled early from a game last week due to should stiffness.

  • Feliz gave up one earned run (three runs total) on six hits and one walk in four innings of work, striking out three.
  • He hit 96 MPH with his fastball in both of his final two innings of game.

“I felt good,” said Feliz through a translator. “Everything was OK. I wasn’t trying to throw hard, just trying to keep my pitches down.”

The Rangers are expected to announce their starting rotation very soon.  It’s known that Colby Lewis will start Opening Day and Neftali Feliz will take the 5th spot.  If the Rangers are truly wanting to split up their left-handers, as manager Ron Washington eluded to earlier this Spring, than the rotation should look like:

  1. Colby Lewis
  2. Derek Holland
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Matt Harrison
  5. Neftali Feliz

Quick Hits

  • Hold your breath…Elvis Andrus left yesterday’s game with a tight right hip flexor muscle.  The plan is to rest him today and get him back in the lineup tomorrow.  Wash isn’t concerned.  Exhale…
  • Joe Nathan pitched back-to-back days for the first time this Spring on Monday & Tuesday.  His outing yesterday, against the Royals AA team, was especially gratifying as he struck out 2 and got a ground out in a quick 11 pitch inning.
  • Nathan hiy 94 MPG with his fastball and said that his arm felt strong on Tuesday than it did on Monday.

“I had good building blocks yesterday and built on that,” Nathan said.

  • The Dutch Oven pitches tonight at the Royals and Alexi Ogando will pitch in a minor league game against the Dodgers in which is expected to go 6 innings.
  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsT.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) wrote a good article on Adrian Beltre’s leadership role on the Rangers.  The article is filled with comments from his teammates and manager Ron Washington.

“It’s so easy on this team to be yourself and help others,” Beltre said. “There are not a lot of guys who get out of line. It makes it easy. I like to have fun. It helps me relax and enjoy the game. When I enjoy the game, I perform better. It’s tough to have fun when you’re losing. The good thing is this team wins a lot. It’s easier that way.”

  • Next week’s podcast will be our 2012 Season Preview Special.
  • We’re planning a giveaway in the near future for some Rangers tickets, so stay tuned.
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Mar 212012
 

Baseball Do Podcast Episode 11   Big news for us and Dutch!  C.J. sucks!Jasen and I talk about:

  • Our new partnership with Patty Shack Burgers!
  • Derek Holland’s new contract
  • Neftali’s stiff shoulder
  • The closer role
  • C.J. Wilson’s failed attempt at a prank on Mike Napoli
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Mar 202012
 
Tuesday Morning SlidersYu Darvish pitched 4 innings in the Rangers 5 – 3 loss to the Brewers yesterday.  The Rangers were in control of the game when Darvish left, with a 3-1 lead, but Joe Nathan surrendered the lead in the 6th inning.
  • Darvish allowed a run on 1 hit in 4 innings of working, striking out 3 and walking 3.  He also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter, so harnessing the control is still a work in progress which is perfectly fine for  Spring Training.
  • This was his first Spring Training game in which Yu pitched from the wind-up.
  • Darvish on the outing and his delivery, ”The way my body is working, my delivery, I can’t really repeat it all the time right now.  The consistency is not there. That’s why you see some good pitches and some bad ones. And I don’t expect it to be perfect right now anyway. Those are some things I’m going to continue to plan on polishing as we go on.”
  • Darvish on NL MVP Ryan Braun, ”He’s a tremendous hitter, has a tremendous swing.  I’m still new here and I don’t think it’s proper for me to evaluate him yet, but he’s a very good hitter.”
  • Pitching Coach Mike Maddux on Darvish, ”He progressed the way he wanted to today.  We worked two times and skipped a live BP to get more mound time. I was happy with his outing. He commanded the fastball and threw some good breaking balls.”
  • Closer Joe Nathan came on in the 6th and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits – should you panic?  No, but should you watch Nathan closely once the regular season gets underway?  Yes.
  • SS Elvis Andrus went 3-4 with a sweet bunt single in the 1st inning.  Both Elvis and Ian are really producing in Spring Training.  Hopefully, they can carry that momentum into the regular season.
  • Prospect Tanner Scheppers got through only 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and two walks.

Quick hits:

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers and Derek Holland are on the verge of reaching a 5 year agreement.  No details are known at this time, so stay tuned throughout the week to find out the future of the Dutch Oven.
  • Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com) wrote “A New Start for Feliz; in more ways than one”, which rehashes Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, but also provides a closer look into the mindset of Feliz.  I’m really pulling for Neftali to experience some success in 2012.  His stuff is great, and I think he has the make-up to be a great starting pitcher in this league for a long time.
  • The Rangers optioned 7 pitchers to the minors yeterday:
  1. Neil Ramirez (Triple-A Round Rock)
  2. Miguel De Los Santos (Double-A Frisco)
  3. Jake Brigham (Double-A Frisco)
  4. Justin Miller (Triple-A Round Rock)
  5. Cody Eppley (Triple-A Round Rock)
  6. Roman Mendez (High-A Myrtle Beach)
  7. Martin Perez (Triple-A Round Rock)
  • Yu Darvish will not face the Angels this coming weekend when the Rangers square off with their nemesis in Spring Training, instead he’ll pitch in an intra-squad game.  I like the strategy.  No point in giving the Angels batters an opportunity to see Darvish live from the batter’s box before it really counts.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersMike Napoli is not pleased with C.J. Wilson’s attempt at a Twitter prank, and neither are we.  Jasen and I sounded off on this last night, when we attempted to record the weekly podcast only to find out that the file was corrupted and it was all for not.  Regardless, just know that we think this was a crappy thing for C.J. to do, and if we knew Kung Fu, we’d probably use it on him…
  • Josh Hamilton on potential of free agency after the 2012 season, ”Free agency is free agency.  If they sign me now, it’d probably cost less. If they sign me there (free agency), it’d cost more. So we’ll see.  Obviously, I told the Rangers that they get first shot, and I mean that. I have loyalty to the Rangers. They’ve been good to me and my family, and it’s been a good relationship.”
  • Does this make up for the “I don’t owe the Rangers anything” comment?  That’s for you to decide.  For me, I think Josh is over-correcting and probably just needs to let it go.
  • The Rangers meet up with the Cubs today in a split squad match-up in Mesa, AZ at 3:05.  Neftali Feliz will take the ball for the Rangers against Ryan Dempster.
  • Michael Young has now hit in eight consecutive Spring Training games, so watch to see if he can extend that today.
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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 152012
 

Rockies beat the Rangers 6-1 yesterday, as Neftali Feliz got his second start of Spring Training under his belt.  Of bigger concern was the injury to Josh Hamilton’s heel that occurred in the second inning.

  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsFeliz struck out 3 over 3 innings, giving up 1 run off of 4 hits and a walk (47 pitches, 32 for strikes).  More importantly, Neftali was able to get himself out of two jams with inning-ending double plays which lessened the damage and showed that the closer-turned-starter was able to buckle down in crunch time.
  • Ron Washington on the start, ”He pitched well.  He went out there once again and used the whole strike zone and used all his pitches.”
  • T.R. Sullivan elaborates further on the start and provides some video here.
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor (ESPNDallas) provided his take on Feliz here.
  • Hamilton’s injury is not considered serious.  He left the game for precautionary purposes after jamming his heel while chasing down a Todd Helton double.
  • Wash on Hamilton, ”He just said his heel felt sore so we removed him.  We’ll just see how he is tomorrow. If they feel he’s fine, he’ll be back out there. If they feel he needs another day, we’ll give him another day.”
  • Ian Kinsler returned to the Rangers line-up Wednesday after missing three days with stiffness in his back.  He looked good in the game, going 2 for 3.
  • Mike Napoli was still out of the line-up as he nurses his groin.  That’s 5 straight games now that Nap has missed, and the Rangers aren’t really saying anything as to when he will return.  Precaution is key, but it seems the problem is lingering a little longer than they thought.

Quick hits:

  • Craig Gentry sprained his wrist in the Yu Darvish start (remember the diving attempt…).  He’s expected to miss 3-5 days, and had this to say regarding the situation, ”It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game.  When it happens you try to move on, but it’s frustrating not getting at-bats or being able to finish a nine-inning game.”
  • Martin Perez will get his second Spring Training start today at 3:05 against the Swingin’ A’s.  Neil Ramirez, another highly touted Rangers pitching prospect, will also pitch in today’s game.  You can listen to the game on TexasRangers.com.
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsJean-Jacques Taylor (ESPNDallas) wrote a piece on Julio Borbon and his plight to be the full-time CF.  According to Taylor, Ron Washington and others are high on Borbon’s performance so far this spring, and the feeling is that he has surpassed Craig Gentry in the competition for the role.
  • Borbon on his approach this spring, “I’m finally playing my game the way I want to play.  I’m not trying to do what I think the Rangers want me to do.  I’m not trying to impress anybody or overdo anything. Sometimes, you work yourself to exhaustion trying to do everything you can – and then you can’t perform.”
  • Washington on Borbon, “When we showed up to spring training he was ready to play ball because he’d been playing all off-season. He started well and he hasn’t let up.”
  • Ron Washington isn’t going to bail on Joe Nathan after one bad outing in Spring Training, saying ”Once again we’re in spring training.  He has to develop his arm strength. He has to get a feel of what he’s trying to do.”
  • If you missed Wash on with Ben & Skin (103.3FM, ESPN), you can read some details from the interview here.
  • Drew Davidson (Star-Telegram) wrote a piece on hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and the praise he is getting from the players.
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Mar 012012
 
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsMike Napoli will test the free agent market after 2012, “I’d love to be here, but I’ll test the market.  Every player plays to get to free agency. But it’s not something I’m going to worry about. That’s why I have my agent.”
  • Napoli’s ankle feels good after a week of workouts and he plans to catch 3-4 innings in tomorrow’s intrasquad game.
  • Yu Darvish put all 7 of his pitches on display yesterday during his BP session.  Mike Napoli, who got to catch the session, said “He has great movement.  He was throwing the sinker and it moved and he threw a couple of splits where the bottom just dropped out of it. He knows what he’s doing with the ball. He knows how to manipulate the ball.”
  • The Rangers are at the center of a international signing controversy with the signing of Dominican teenager Jairo Beras.  Beras, who according to Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) “the club believes is 17 years old and eligible to sign with any organization now. But according to reports, other rival executives believe Beras is 16 years old and would not be eligible to sign until July 2.  If Beras is 16, he falls under the new rules governing international signings as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams will have a cap of $2.9 million in bonuses it can hand out to international players for one year, starting July 2. After that, the bonus money will be based on record, giving the teams that finish lower in the standings more money to spend. “
  • Are you a bobble-head junkie?  Beltre, Kins and Wash will be the bobble-heads of choice in 2012 according to the 2012 Promotions schedule.
  • Ron Washington and Bobby Valentine are disagreeing on one of the all-time great defensive plays – Jeter’s “flip” during the 2001 ALCS.  Valentine argues that Jeremy Giambi would have been out regardless of the flip, and Washington says Jeter makes the out with the flip.  I agree with Wash and wonder if Valentine is getting vocal on this simply because he’s in Jeter’s division now.  I hate the Yanks just as much as all of you, but respect Jeter – that was one of the greatest defensive plays I’ve ever seen.
  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) wrote a column on Michael Young embracing his current role.  Michael is simply a class-act, and I’m so glad he didn’t end up getting shipped to Colorado a year ago for some spare part…
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsRichard Durrett (ESPNDallas) on David Murphy and his focus for 2012.  Murph is going into 2012 hoping for more playing time, but not at the expense of his teammates health, ”I have a positive mindset for my teammates.  I know that the last few years I’ve gotten my 400 at-bats because there’s been a lot of injuries and I don’t want Nelson to get hurt or Josh to get hurt. If Nelson gets 150 or 160 games, he’s an MVP candidate. I don’t want him on the bench.
    All the same, there’s no reason I need to stress out about anything. Things always seem to happen. I always am able to play some sort of role and that’s something that can’t be predicted and I guess there’s almost no reason to talk about it until the end of the season when it’s all said and done and the games and at-bats columns are final.”
  • Murph bring a ton of value to this team as a quality left-handed bat off the bench and a solid 4th outfielder.  Would he start for other teams?
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Feb 222012
 
  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsThe time has finally come…Happy Pitchers & Catchers Day!
  • Yu Darvish got his first bullpen session under his belt, as he threw 30 pitches catcher Luis Martinez.  Martinez provides a brief scouting reporting into what Yu was bringing, “I was excited and happy to catch him.  He had a bunch of pitches, great stuff and stayed down in the zone. He threw curveballs, sliders, changeup, splits. He did really well.”
    Martinez went on to say that he was most impressed with Darvish’s cutter and two-seam fastball.
  • Darvish arrived in the bullpen area with several other pitchers, including Derek Holland, whom Darvish expressed his interested in learning English to.  Holland didn’t seem eager to take on the role of tutor, saying ”He’s practicing it.  He said, ‘Please teach me English.’ I told him I’m not the best guy to be teaching English. We were joking. He was getting a feel for it.  He wants to learn it. That’s a pretty neat thing. He’s interacting with us. He’s not standoffish. He’s coming right with us. He’s a normal person. It won’t be hard for him to fit right in chemistry-wise.”
  • Pitching Coach Mike Maddux spoke with Galloway & Company  (103.3FM, ESPN) yesterday, and had to this say about Darvish, ”As far as Yu coming in the clubhouse, he’s just going to be one of the guys, man.  That’s one of the greatest things about our team is the way Wash’s personality has infiltrated the clubhouse. Everybody’s family down here. We all got one another’s back. And Yu’s gonna come in. He’s just going to be another one of the guys. We’re going to support him every day so that he can concentrate on baseball and we’ll take care of the media stuff when we’re done with our work.”
  • Ron Washington got his first good look at Darvish yesterday.  Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) covers Washington’s thoughts here.
  • Most Major League baseball players are driving expensive cars, or at the very least, plush SUVs, so when something shows up in the parking lot that looks like this, needless to say it’s going to peak some curiousity:
    Wednesday Morning Curveballs That sweet-ass Dune Buggy belongs to none other than Derek Holland.  Holland says ”It’s a Razor S.  It’s an off-road vehicle. But it has license plates so you can drive it on the road. It’s perfectly legal.”
    Holland takes the off-road vehicle to the nearby White Tank Mountains, which can be seen from the Rangers Spring Training complex.
  • The Rangers acquired Kelvin De La Cruz from the Cleveland Indians and placed him on the 40-man roster.  GM Jon Daniels feels a change in role will benefit De La Cruz, “He’s done very well against left-handers.  We see him in the bullpen and have some scouts who feel he is more suited to that role.”
  • Kohi Uehara, who has been the talk of much trade speculation, got the vote of confidence from JD yesterday, ”There are always some deals in the spring, moves here or there.  But we’re ready to go with this group of guys. I have no moves planned or anything like that.”
    JD went on about Koji, saying “The guy had a tremendous year last year.  One of the attractive things about trading for Koji last year was he was not just a rental. He was a two-year fit. That was an attractive element to the deal and still is.”
  • Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli both participated in full batting practice yesterday, with Manager Ron Washington throwing BP.  Both players had off-season surgery, so it’s nice to see them getting some early cuts to test their limits.
    Napoli has said that he believes his ankle is currently at 80%, but feels confident that he’ll be ready to go by Opening Day.
  • Colby Lewis isn’t concerned about his contract situation, ”We had very small, limited talks right after the season.  They wanted to know how I felt. Nothing came of it this offseason. If something comes up, it will come up, but I’m not too concerned about it. I’ve got to take care of the daily stuff.”
    Word is Colby was sporting a sweet beard when he arrived in Surprise…that means he’s going to have a great year.
  • The Rangers intend to stretch a few of their pitching prospects out to prepare for rotation roles in the minors, including Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez & Robbie Ross.  Tanner Scheppers, on the other hand, will work exclusively in relief during the Spring.  Based on the current make-up of the bullpen, it’s been speculated that both Scheppers and Perez could find a spot there with the big league club.  As of now, the Rangers could use another left-hander, so watch Perez closely this Spring to see if he could fill that void.
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Feb 212012
 
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersSpring Training officially starts tomorrow!
  • Jasen and I wrapped up our Spring Training Special podcast last night and I’ll have it posted up here to the site later today and available on iTunes by tomorrow.
  • My little stroll down Rangers Boulevard yesterday means there is a lot to catch up on today, so I may be brief.
Mike Napoli
  • Mike Napoli was in Surprise over the weekend, starting to test the strength of his ankle, and said he’s coming into Spring Training prepared to compete for the starting role, “I’ve always come into Spring Training trying to win a job.  That’s why I pushed myself to get ready for this spring. I come in here not expecting anything to be given to me. Torrealba is a good catcher. He has been a starter in this league and can start for us.  Hopefully we go out there and make it a competition. I always go out and try to earn a job.”
  • While Napoli’s performance from last year probably guaranteed him the starting spot behind the plate, it’s refreshing to know he has this attitude, and it’ll be interesting to see how it playing time is split up between C, DH and possibly 1B from time to time – it’ll be Ron’s decision.
    Napoli had this to say regarding Ron’s decision, “You don’t know what Wash will do.  We have guys who can play different positions. I love catching. I love being back there working with pitchers. But if I have to play first base, I’m not going to be mad. I want to be in the lineup. If it’s at first base, I’ll grab my glove and get out there.”
  • Finally, Napoli spoke about his recent contract (1 year/$9.4M) from the Rangers saying, “Hopefully we’ll get back to talking again.   We’ll see. I’m not focused on that. If it comes up, my agent will talk about it with them. Right now, I’m focused on getting ready for the season and get[ting] my ankle healthy.  From the raises I got compared to other players, it was right for me.  I really didn’t want to go into a hearing room. Talking to people who have been through it, it’s not a fun situation. I’m glad we got a deal done and hopefully something else will get worked out.”

Matt Harrison

  • Matt Harrison is coming into camp with a similar outlook to Mike Napoli as he prepared to secure a spot in the starting rotation.  While Harrison’s numbers from 2011 (14-9 with a 3.39 ERA) would seem to more than secure him that spot, it speaks to the depth the Rangers have in their rotation heading into 2012.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersHarrison said “It’s the same way as last year: I’m coming in to fight for a spot in the rotation.  Last year was last year. I can’t take anything for granted. I’ve got to show them I’m ready to go. This is an organization that has been to the World Series for the last two years. They are not going to fool around with somebody who is not ready to go.”
  • Jasen and I covered the starting rotation extensively in the podcast last night, and it’s known that the Rangers are going to stretch out Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando.  Harrison will have to earn his spot, but seems to be the favorite headed into the competition.
  • Roy Oswalt still hasn’t signed anywhere…, to which Harrison says “Nobody has said anything to me about that.  I guess he is still waiting around. It keeps me guessing. It keeps me ready and prepared.”

Ian Kinsler

  • Kinsler, who spoke to reporters on Sunday at the Rangers Spring Training complex, spoke vaguely about Josh Hamilton’s recent relapse, “Josh is taking care of it.  He’s doing what he’s always done. He’s being open, up front and honest about it. It’s not my place to talk about it. I know I was there for a certain part of the night.”
    Kinsler added ”I’ve gotten over it.  I’m focused on this season and baseball. I support Josh and will continue to support him. All his teammates and coaches will be there for him. Josh took care of it and said what he needed to say. People can say what they want to say. That’s just outside influences driving something that’s really not there.”
  • Kinsler is in Surprise early to work out with the strength and conditioning coaches, which he is able to do pain free after after receiving a platelet-rich-plasma injection in his right ankle at the end of November.  This is the same right ankle that he injured two years ago in Spring Training.
    Kinsler had to this say regarding the relief he got from the shot and what it’s allowed him to do in his work outs, “Right away, after the soreness went away from the needle, I was 100 percent,” Kinsler said.  End of pain.  It helped everything. Working in the cage, I can take as many swings as I want. I have been able to do a lot more full-body exercises … a lot of jumping and agility. That’s when it hurt the most, but now I haven’t been feeling it at all.”
  • Kinsler, who is signed through 2012 and the Rangers have an option on for 2013 ($10M), spoke briefly about his contract and talks with the Rangers, saying ”I think I’ve been open with my feelings on that.  I want to stay here, but again, a lot of that is up to them. We’ll see how things progress. We’ll see if the conversations get fired up again this spring.  This season hasn’t even started yet.  They have some decisions to make as an organization.”
    Kinsler wrapped it up saying “There might be some things they want to talk about.  I haven’t thought about it. I’m focused on playing second base, winning a Gold Glove and helping this team win. That’s all open for discussion.”

Quick Hits

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersAlbert Pujols and Yu Darvish have already run into each other for the first time!  The meeting was unplanned and the Angels slugger said “He walked in and introduced himself — really nice guy, really humble.  He just said he’s looking forward to the battle. We’re going to be in the same division and it’s going to be fun.”
    Look at Yu already getting in his head…
  • Richard Justice (MLB.com) wrote a column on Nolan Ryan’s feelings about this years Rangers here.
  • The Rangers have signed left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to a Minor League contract.  T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) provides a brief update here.
  • Evan Grant (SportsDay DFW) is projecting 13 wins and a sub 4 ERA for Yu Darvish this season.
  • MLB Analyst Jim Bowden joined Ben & Skin (103.3FM, ESPN) last week and had this to say about ranking the Rangers as the top MLB team for the next 5 years, “The bottom line was the Rangers’ farm system is far beyond what the Yankees’ is, and that to me was really the swing between the two. Texas’ management team is one of the best in the game, but when you look at the entire package, there is no reason why this Texas team can’t be a World Series contender over the next five years. You look at the health of the Rangers compared to every team in baseball, and right now, it’s No. 1 in the industry.”
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Feb 142012
 
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersHappy Valentines Day to all our ex and current lovers.
  • Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) wrote yesterday that Mike Napoli’s ankle injury continues to progress.  Regarding the ankle, Napoli says, ”I think I’m close.  I’m not really going to know until I get into the wear and tear of spring training and catching all the time. But I’ve been feeling good and getting better day by day.”
    And it looks like Nap is eager to get back, ”I can’t wait to get back there and see all those boys and get back into it again.  I wish I was leaving now. I’m ready to do baseball stuff and not just working out.”
  • Gerry Fraley (SportsDay DFW) writes “Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty indicated on Monday that he believes free-agent righthander Roy Oswalt eventually will land with the Texas Rangers.”  Jocketty spoke with the Cincinnati Enquirer recently and said that he believes Oswalt is “waiting for Texas to clear money.”
    This has been in the back of my mind all along.  We have asked the question many times of why is Oswalt waiting so long to sign somewhere.  Given that he’s a veteran that knows where he wants to be and probably values that more than money, he is either waiting for the Rangers to clear up some room to pay him or he’s waiting for the Cardinals to increase their offer to a respectable level.
  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) wrote a good article summarizing some key questions, off-season moves, and leaders from 2011.  Check it out here. Jasen and I will be discussing the questions that the Rangers need to answer on an upcoming podcast.
  • Rangers Senior Director of Play Development (and former Astros GM), Tim Purpura, sat down with Rangers Magazine to discuss a number of hot topics.  Bryan Dolgin covers everything here.  Some highlighs:On Oswalt, “The fact of the matter is, I think, in any offseason other than this one, it might have been something that made a whole lot of sense. Given the fact that we already have six starters, adding another one to the mix and changing the dynamics of where we’re at … that’s something that I think has been part of the thought process.  Is that the right step? The right move for the Texas Rangers right now?”On JD, “He’s a very patient person. He’s a very analytical person. He looks at all sides of the issue which I think you absolutely have to as a general manager. He solicits opinions extremely well.  He’s got a very talented group surrounding him with Thad Levine, AJ Preller and Don Welke. And, he listens to everyone and then he makes his decision as to which course he wants to take which is exactly a way a general manager should operate.”

    On Rangers Pitching Prospect Martin Perez coming up to the big leagues this season as a closer, “Those are tough decisions from the point of view of this is a guy who probably is at the top of the list of our starting pitchers in the minor leagues as being a number one starter down the line. You have to balance the development process with the need to win at the major league level.  It’s a delicate balance.”

  • The A’s and Cuban free-agent Yoenis Cespedes agreed to a 4 year $36M contract yesterday.  The Marlins were considered the heavy favorites to sign Cuban mega-prospect.
    David Schoenfield (ESPN.com) asks three good questions now that Cespedes has signed.
  • Big Papi (David Ortiz) and the Red Sox avoided their arbitration hearing just hours before it was scheduled by agreeing to a contract for 2012 that will pay the slugger $14.575M.  Someone on Twitter pointed out yesterday that our DH makes more.  Not sure if this was a pride-point or said in jest, but a strong argument can be made for Young over Ortiz,  starting with he can play anywhere in the infield in a pinch (didn’t say he would be a gold glover…).
  • Dirk…
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Feb 132012
 

NAPOLI!

Monday Morning Fastballs

  • The Rangers agreed to a one year deal with Mike Napoli over the weekend.  The contract will pay the slugging catcher $9.4M for the 2012 season, after which Napoli will be a free agent.  While the agreement is nice in that it helps the Rangers and Napoli avoid an arbitration hearing, we were hoping the Rangers would lock Nap up long-term (3-4 years with options).  If you ever missed our case for extending Napoli beyond 2012, click here.
  • Looks like Josh Hamilton contract extension talks are still on hold.  Jon Daniels had this to say yesterday, “The contract is not really the priority with Josh right now — his health and family are.  We’re not going to preempt that for anything about a contract. Given how close we are, I don’t anticipate that happening before spring training. We all agreed to table things before we got to spring training.”
    The relapse has really put a damper on getting Josh locked up beyond 2012.  Similar to Nap, Hamilton will hit the free agent market next off-season barring a new contract between now and then.  While many feel that DFW is Josh’s home, the open market can often convince players otherwise.  Potential suitors will make every attempt to cater to Josh’s needs, both financially with his on-the-field performance and socially/spiritually/emotionally with his off-the-fields needs.
  • Jon Daniels also commented on the Rangers putting their wallets away over the weekend.  When asked if the Rangers were finished with their off-season spending, JD said “More than likely, yes.  I never want to shut the door and there’s always ways to be creative and things of that nature.   We can sign non-roster guys. But handicapping anything else as we sit here, there’s nothing imminent.”
    When asked about free-agents Roy Oswalt and Mike Gonzalez, JD said “Nothing has changed on either front.  There’s a level of interest in the players, but as far as a fit on the team and payroll-wise, it’s not as easy as otherwise.”
  • While I think Oswalt is not going to happen, which we are good with (see here), I think there is still a chance that Gonzalez ends up with the Rangers if they can move Koji Uehara via trade, freeing up his 2012 salary ($4M).
  • Jonathon Mayo (MLB.com) has published his Rangers Top 20 Prospects list.  Top 5:
  1. Jurickson Profar
  2. Martin Perez
  3. Mike Olt
  4. Leonys Martin
  5. Robbie Ross
  • Vegas road trip?  Tickets on sale today…
  • If you missed, more Dutch Oven genius below…

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