Apr 172012
 

Podcast Episode 14: Rangers start strong & early season surprises!

The Rangers are 8 – 2…if you want to know why…listen to this podcast.

  • Early season observations
  • Top surprises from the first 10 games
  • Jasen’s day job…
  • Paying Josh

Jasen also threw down the gauntlet…let us hear from you!

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Apr 162012
 

Monday Morning FastballsThe price tag keeps going up…

Trailing by one run in the 8th after an RBI triple by Elvis Andrus had plated Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton hit a no-doubter to the upper deck in right field that silenced the hometown Twins once and for all and wrapped up the opening road series sweep.

  • It’s the first time that the Rangers have swept the Twins in Minnesota since 1999.
  • Prior to the sweep, the Rangers had lost 20 of their last 26 in Minnesota, including 9 of 10 at Target Field.

“You know I don’t watch them,” Hamilton said regarding the distance of his home run. “I know it feels good and sounds good and Ron yells, ‘Yes!’ pretty loud. That’s about it. But that one felt pretty good.”

“That was awesome,” outfielder David Murphy said. “We didn’t get our offense going, but with this offense, we’re never out of it. Huge shot by Josh. As long as we have outs, we’re never out of it.”

“We played good baseball,” Washington said. “We pitched, we played defense, we ran the bases, we delivered the big hit when we needed them. Everything fell into place.”

  • Joe Nathan closed the door, working a perfect 9th against the middle of the Twins order and earning his 3rd save on the season.

“It’s nice to come in here and sweep these guys,” Nathan said. “I know the Twins have done pretty well against this club at this park. Today was a good win, come-from-behind win, and to hold down a one-run lead, it was nice.”

  • Monday Morning FastballsNeftali Feliz (5 IP, 3 ER on 5 hits and 2 BB, 3 K) pitched well early in the game but ran into some trouble in the 6th and was relieved by rookie Robbie Ross, who earned the win and pitched two brilliant innings.

“It was a pretty fun weekend,” Ross said. “I enjoyed it. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, just relax and try to get guys out.”

  • This was a big one, as the Rangers were able to put the final nail in the coffin and get a series sweep…on the road no less.  There was much to be impressed with in this game, including the clutch hitting of Josh and Elvis, the plate discipline of Kins, the first four innings from Nefti, the dominance of the rookie Robbie Ross…but the moment that put the biggest grin on my face was Joe Nathan closing the door on his former teammates.  Once we can trust in Joe (which he has to earn through consistent dominant pitching), this thing is unstoppable.

Quick hits:

  • Rangers are off today…what the hell are we supposed to do now!
  • Colby Lewis will pitch in game one of the two game series in Boston.  He’ll face off with Boston ace Jon Lester.  Lewis has not had much success against Boston in his career (.329/.388/.685 in 80 PAs).  Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in particular have hammered the Colbra in the past (Gonzalez: 6 for 7 with 2 HRs and a double; Ortiz: 5 for 15 with 3 HRs)
  • Derek Holland vs. Josh Beckett on Wednesday to wrap the short series, then it’s on to Motown for a four game set with the Tigers and home to face the hated Yankees…who, while they’ll always be hated by Rangers fans, are no longer public enemy #1.

“They’re chasing us,” echoed second baseman Ian Kinsler. “It shouldn’t matter to us. We’re not chasing them. Obviously, they are some of the best teams in the American League, but we feel like it’s got to come through us. We just have to play good baseball.”

  • Mitch Moreland missed his second straight game Sunday due to a painful abscessed tooth. He flew back to Dallas last night and is scheduled to undergo oral surgery today.  The plan is for him to rejoin the club tomorrow in Boston.
  • In an effort to split up the lefties in the rotation, Wash said he was considering switching Darvish and Harrison during the series with the Tigers, but no official decision has been made yet.
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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 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 272012
 

Baseball Do Podcast Episode 12   What to do with Robbie Ross?  Garlic Fries vs. Cheese Fries??Jennifer Cobb & Megan Parr from www.RangersTalkers.com join us to talk about:

  • Robbie Ross – bullpen lefty or minor league starter in 2012?
  • Center Field options – Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry or trade possibilities?
  • Tailgating
  • Ballpark foods – who hates hot dogs?

Give it a listen and be sure to let us know what you think!

Also, be sure to sign up for the Field Trip if you haven’t already (spaces are limited) and stay tuned for a special giveaway in the next few days!

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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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Jan 112012
 
  • Wednesday Morning CurvesRyan Madson, who the Rangers were rumored to have some interested in, is off the table as he came to a 1 year agreement with the Cincinnati Reds that will pay him 8.5M.
  • Rangers have invited 8 Minor Leaguers to their Major League Spring Training camp including Mike Olt, Tommy Mendonca, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross.   This and more is covered in a minor league update from T.R. Sullivan here.
  • Sullivan also writes about the possibility of prospects Ross and Martin Perez earning a spot in the bullpen due to the need for a left-handed reliever after the departure of Darren Oliver.
  • And lastly from the same update – Jurickson Profar receives the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year and Robbie Ross receives the Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  Profar (pictured) is the Rangers top prospect according to MLB.com.
  • In case you missed Evan Grant’s article regarding Prince Fielder, be sure to give it a read.  The general attitude from many baseball people seems to be that the longer Prince is available, the more sense it makes for the Rangers to be a major player and make an offer.  While 10 years, which is what Scott Boras wants for his client, would still have to be out of the question, Grant poses some good compromises in his article.
  • “Sources” have told CBS Sports that the Rangers and Darvish aren’t close on a deal.  It’s believed that the Rangers offered something similar to what Dice-K got from the Red Sox 5 years ago.  Darvish’s camp see Yu as younger and more talented and is looking for more – don’t hit the panic button – it’s all part of the process.
  • MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to receive a contract offer that would extend him 2 more years (Buster Olney article)
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