Apr 262012
 

Thursday Morning ChangeupsRobbie Ross leads the Major Leagues in wins…

The Rangers have won 6 straight series to open a season for the first time in franchise history…

The Rangers haven’t lost a 3 game series in Arlington since July1st-3rd of 2011 against the Marlins…

“We’re doing everything well,” Washington said. “We’re swinging the bats, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, pitching well, running the bases, playing defense. We’re playing a complete game. We’re just playing the best game we can possibly play that night. If you do that you’ll have fun, and we’re having a lot of fun right now.”

The Rangers beat the Yankees last night 7-3, in a game in which Ron Washington elected to utilize his bullpen from beginning to end by giving the spot start to Scott Feldman who was followed by Robbie Ross, Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan.  All pitched relatively effectively with Feldman giving up 2 runs and Feliz giving up a solo shot Raul Ibanez in the 7th.  Whether you are a fan of the approach or not…it worked.

“We didn’t look at it as a bullpen game,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “Scott Feldman is a legitimate big league starter and a huge part of our team.”

The Rangers bullpen, continuing to exert it’s dominance early in the season, has a 2.03 ERA through the club’s first 19 games.

  • Joe Nathan – 3.72 ERA & 1.14 WHIP over 9.2 IP w/ 5 saves
  • Mike Adams – 1.00 ERA & 0.78 WHIP over 9 IP w/ 1 save
  • Alexi Ogando – 1.00 ERA & 0.44 WHIP over 9 IP w/ 1 save
  • Robbie Ross – 2.25 ERA & 0.88 WHIP over 8 IP w/ 4 wins
  • Mark Lowe – 0.00 ERA & 0.50 WHIP over 4 IP
  • Koji Uehara – 3.60 ERA & 0.80 WHIP over 5 IP
“We have a very good bullpen,” Washington said. “Ross has been tremendous, and tonight he did exactly what we needed done — he set it up for the rest of the guys.”

Just another strength of this team…the best team in MLB.

Quick hits:

  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsNeftali Feliz got an inning of work last night, but should benefit from the added rest as it was his spot in the rotation that was skipped.  His next start will come Tuesday against Toronto.  Looking back to 2011, Alexi Ogando never got a similar early season rest, and his mid-season fade is a big part of the change in approach with Feliz.

“We really didn’t have a plan for Ogando, we just let him fly,” Washington said. “We learned from that.”

“Of course having the extra day is going to help me,” Feliz said. “You never know. It’s a long season. You never know how hard I’m going to be throwing and how many innings I’m going to work. I think it’s going to help me out in the end.”

  • Harrison, Lewis & Holland will get the starts against the Rays this weekend.
  • Speaking of the Rays…anyone go into this week more concerned with the three games with them than the three games with the Yanks?  I did.  Rangers fans need to be just as loud, rowdy and supportive for these three games as they were for the hated Yanks…

“Obviously we have a ton of respect for them,” Rangers infielder Michael Young said. “This is the American League, every team is going to be tough. We just have to focus on keep getting better every day. Right now our pitching is what’s gotten us off to such a good start. They just keep us in the game every night.”

  • The Elvis Andrus errorless streak is at 50 now, which is the third longest in club history for a shortstop.  The franchise record is 60, held by Wayne Tolleson who did it in a back-up role during the mid-80′s.

Thursday Morning Changeups“I haven’t said a word to Elvis since Spring Training,” Washington said. “If I haven’t said a word to him, that means he’s doing OK. He’s doing the same things, he’s just doing it with maturity and experience. That breeds consistency.”

  • Interesting tidbit from T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), Yu Darvish’s 8 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday was the longest scoreless start by a Rangers pitcher against the Yankees since Bob Tewksbury threw six against them on July 7, 1995, in Arlington.

Enjoy the day off…

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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 112012
 

Wednesday Morning CurvesLast night felt good.  There wasn’t a player on this team I wanted to see succeed more than Neftali Feliz, and not just because of the bold prediction that I made in my preseason article about him, “The Other New Guy”.   Last night Neftali Feliz put together the best performance of any starting pitcher on this rotation the first time through.  The 7 inning gem was also his longest performance in his professional career (including in the Minors where max was 6 1/3).

Believe me, I know the season is still very young, and he’s got a long way to go to get to my prediction of 16 wins…but you have to be excited about what you saw last night.  Feliz proved that he is more than just a flame-throwing closer and that he does indeed have an effective changeup and a pretty salty slider that compliment his fastball – which really never reached the velocity that we’re used to seeing from Feliz, whether by design or simply because his arm strength is still ramping up.

Feliz gave up only four hits and two walks over 7 innings while striking out four – all on 108 pitches…and all in a game that seemed to be over in the blink of an eye due to his rapid pace and control.  He is only the third Rangers pitcher to ever throw at least seven scoreless innings in his first big league start.

“I was trying to throw all my pitches and keep them low and I did that,” Feliz said. “There is a big difference between being a closer and being a starter. As a starter you have to think and be calm and execute. The first inning I had to make a little adjustment. I had a little pressure on me and I had to work out of it and make my pitches.”

“Awesome,” catcher Mike Napoli said. “He did a great job. We kind of noticed his changeup was on and we were going with it and it was good pitch for him tonight. That can change from night to night. He had that going and we used it a lot. That’s what you’ve got to do as a starter. You can’t go out there and throw fastballs every single time through the lineup. You’ve got to be able mix it up and he did that.”

“Everybody knows he can throw 100, but he was mixing in a lot of pitches tonight,” Mariners DH Jesus Montero said. “He struck me out on an off-speed pitch the first time, so I kind of forgot about the fastball for a little bit. Then I got base hits on a slider and changeup. He was unbelievable tonight. Amazing.”

“He just did a really good job of pitching,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “What’s impressive is that wasn’t his routine as a closer. As a closer he would come in the ninth and throw bullets. Tonight was all pitching.”

Neftali’s next start will come this Sunday at 1:05 in Minnesota against the Twins.

Quick Hits:

  • Wednesday Morning CurvesDavid Murphy continues to perform at the plate, as he was 3-3 with two doubles and the games lone RBI last night.

“I want to stay the course,” Murphy said. “I feel like in the past if I had a start like this, I might start swinging hard and thinking in my mind that I’m playing with house money and getting outside myself. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s just five games and there’s a lot of baseball to be played.”

  • Neftali was amazing last night, and the opposing pitcher, former Rangers 1st round pick Blake Beavan was pretty salty as well.
  • Gotta love the smart base running by Adrian Beltre last night to keep a rundown going long enough for Michael Young to advance to second base.  If you missed it, T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) broke it down and there is video.

“That’s baserunning 101 right there,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You get caught in a rundown, you have to stay alive as long as you can to let the guy get the extra base. That’s exactly what he did.”

  • The Ian Kinsler extension is expected to be made official later today, after Kinsler completed the physical yesterday.  The Rangers fully expect the young second baseman to be declared “healthy” later today and will announce the contract shortly thereafter.

“Well deserved,” outfielder David Murphy said. “He is as complete of a player as you’ll see in the big leagues and has the best instincts of any player I’ve ever played with. He loves the game. He’s the ultimate competitor.”

Washington on Ian Kinsler as a clubhouse leader: “He’s matured into a lieutenant. We have a couple of generals and a couple of captains, he was a sergeant, now he’s a lieutenant. Kinsler has gained his respect every year, not only in our clubhouse but around the league.”

  • Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Opening Day starter Colby Lewis are among the players who could still become free agents after the 2012 season.  Kinsler told Napoli that he was next yesterday in the locker room, and while I know it would be nice to get both Napoli and Hamilton locked up during the season, the lpossibility of a deal with Napoli in the near future seems more likely.

“I guess we’ll see,” Napoli said. “I don’t know, but I hope we can get something done. The bottom line is I want to be here, but I really don’t know how it is going to work out.”

  • Utility infielder Albert Gonzalez got into the game in the 9th inning last night, meaning that Brandon Snyder is the last man to get on the field.
  • The Rangers face off with former Ranger Kevin Millwood tonight, first pitch 7:05pm.  Colby Lewis will take the mound for Texas.
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Mar 302012
 

If you didn’t catch it on Twitter last night, we are giving away a pair of tickets to see the Mariners and Rangers on Wednesday, April 11.  To be eligible for the drawing, all you have to do is purchase your tickets for the Baseball Do Field Trip prior to midnight tonight.  We’ll announce the winner over the weekend.

Friday Morning KnuckleballsMatt Harrison continued his strong Spring in yesterday’s 6-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

  • Harrison pitched 6 innings, giving up one run on six hits, while striking out seven and only walking one.  He threw 91 pitches and lowered his Spring Training ERA to 1.69.

“I think I have really been consistent this spring pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters,” Harrison said. “A lot of it comes from last year. The games I was successful were the ones that I was aggressive and went right after hitters. I brought that mentality into Spring Training and it has paid off.”

  • Reliever Yoshinori Tateyama gave up 3 runs in the top of the seventh, blowing the 2-1 lead Harrison had protected.
  • Napoli and Moreland led off the second inning with back-to-back home runs off Giants starter Matt Cain. That was the third home run in the last three days for Napoli.
The Rangers have set their rotation, which to the surprise of at least Baseball Do, will not split up left handed starters Derek Holland & Matt Harrison.
  1. Colby Lewis – Opening Day, April 6th vs. White Sox
  2. Derek Holland – April 7th vs. White Sox
  3. Matt Harrison – April 8th vs. White Sox
  4. Yu Darvish – April 9th vs. Mariners
  5. Neftali Feliz – April 9th vs. Mariners
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsIt was well known that Wash was going to give the Opening Day nod to veteran Colby Lewis.  While you could argue that Lewis doesn’t necessarily have the highest ceiling or most potential of the pitchers on this staff, he deserves the nod for his tenure with the team and more importantly for his recent big-game/postseason performances.
“He’s my veteran,” Washington said. “He’s the guy who is dependable. You know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to battle and he’s my most experienced pitcher.”
  • I like the move.  Darvish debuts in a game which will probably have less pressure (Sunday nights game will be nationally televised) and it’s a bit of a reward for Matt Harrison, which is much deserved given his strong campaign in 2011.
  • Splitting up the lefties, while seemingly a sound strategy, doesn’t carry much weight statistically and more the likely the rotation will be out of order due to off-days or fill-ins by Scooter Feldman by mid-May…if not sooner.

Quick Hits:

  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsRangers face off with the Rockies tonight in what will be the final Spring start for Yu Darvish.
  • Brad Hawpe’s career with the Rangers is over, as the veteran was unconditionally released yesterday.  Hawpe, who was brought on as insurance against Moreland’s wrist, has been invited back by the club to play in the minors if he is unable to find a major league job with another team.
  • Next week’s podcast will be our official 2012 Season Preview.  Feel free to post questions here on the blog or send us questions via the Contact Us page if you have anything specific you want us to address.
  • Sports Illustrated has put their season predictions out, and while they have the Rangers making it into the postseason as a wild card, they give the AL West crown to the Angels.  Even worse, they pick the Angels to eliminate the Rangers in the ALDS and to go on to win the World Series.

Have a good weekend!

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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 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 092012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsNeftali Feliz got his first Spring Training start out of the way yesterday, giving up 3 hits and 3 earned runs, striking out 2 and walking none across two innings.  Rangers lost the game 6-3.  Mitch Moreland had an RBI, and Elvis Andrus continues his march towards hitting .700 with a double and a single in the game.

  • He threw a total of 36 pitches, and it was really a tale of two different games for Neftali, and he gave up all the runs in the 1st inning off of a 3 run shot by Adam Dunn, and then shut the ChiSox down in the 2nd inning.
  • Not a bad start for Neftali, and keep in mind it’s the beginning of Spring Training.  I’m confident that he’ll only get better and I’m eager to see him when they get to the more stretched out (4IP+) Spring starts.
  • Feliz mixed in quite a few sliders and change-ups and had this to say regarding the approach, ”I know I’m not going to pitch like that, but I’m really working hard on them.  I’m obviously going to use my fastball more, but I know this is the time to work on all that stuff and not worry about the results.” – This is exactly the attitude and approach you would want to see from a young starter like Neftali at this point, and it shows that he has confidence in his stuff, as well as the Rangers management.
  • More from Feliz after the game, ”I’m not really focused on what happened today.  Obviously, Dunn got a hold of one. I’m just working on making my pitches, locating them where I want them, keeping the ball low. I’m just going to be focused on my goal and not going to worry about today too much.  In the second inning, I came out trying to attack the zone and keep the ball low, and I was more successful in the second inning than the first.” – I know it’s just talk, but it’s great to hear that he’s not too worried about that first inning.
  • Joey Nowak (MLB.com) writes about Neftali’s first Spring start, and includes some video footage of an interview with Feliz after the game.
For my thoughts on what I expect from Feliz in 2012, check out The Other New Guy.  Everyone has an opinion, and the transition that Feliz and Red Sox former-reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard drew the attention of Jerry Crasnick and Gordon Edes (ESPN.com) who both state their cases for the success of each pitcher in 2012.  Crasnick took Neftali’s side.
  • Crasnick says “As a starter, Feliz will have more time to tinker and work on pitches in the bullpen between outings. And when he does, he’ll receive guidance from Maddux, one of baseball’s best pitching coaches, and Maddux’s brother Greg, who’s ready to share some serious baseball knowledge as a special assistant in Texas. Heck, even the team president, a guy named Nolan Ryan, might have some observations to pass along.”
  • Tristan Cockcroft (ESPN), also gives his take on Feliz in his 30 Questions: Texas Rangers article.
  • If you missed it, Feliz was my prediction for 2012 Surprise Player of the Year, which we discussed on our last podcast.

As we all, especially the team, continue to work on putting 2011 behind us, the beat writers just keep reminding us about it by writing about putting it behind us…, and to make it worse, we continue read it.  The Rangers vow to forget 2011 season’s end by Richard Justice (MLB.ccom).

  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsI like Kinsler’s quote, ”We’re still very motivated.  We’re very competitive. This year’s a completely different year than last year. Just because we went to the last two World Series doesn’t lessen our odds of going to the World Series this year. We have to prove ourselves again, and that’s the beautiful thing about this game.”
  • And of course, JD chimes in regarding the culture, ”That’s what I’m really proud of.  The people we have. The culture we have. They enjoy being with one another. We celebrate our successes, but we don’t spend a lot of time on it. By the same token, we don’t get too low when things don’t go our way.”

As you have probably all heard by now, the video clip of Nolan Ryan whipping Robin Ventura’s ass will no longer be shown in the pregame videos at Rangers Ballpark.

We’re not that sweet…

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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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Feb 282012
 

We recorded he podcast last night with Jennifer Cobb and Holly Ballantine from www.RangersTalkers.com.  We’ll have it posted up here on the site later this morning be sure to check it out to hear how the sTalkers got started and all of our thoughts on the recent Josh Hamilton news.  Disclaimer: Jennifer’s dog is named “Hambone”.

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers announced Yu Darvish will  make his first Spring Training start on March 7th at 2 p.m. against San Diego in Peoria.  The game will be broadcast on texasrangers.com.  Darvish threw 36 pitches yesterday and seemed to be happy with the outing.
  • Here is the full rotation for the first five Spring Training games:
    March 4: Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman
    March 5: Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando
    March 6: Matt Harrison
    March 7: Darvish
    March 8: Neftali Feliz
  • Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) provides an overview of the center field battle.

Ron Washington has said he’s going to allow Elvis Andrus to start taking responsibility for his own play, rather than watching over the young shortstop as closely and proactively addressing his play.  Andrus,while still only 23 years old, has been a full-timer at the major league level for the Rangers for the last three seasons.

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersWashington on Andrus, “He’s established himself now to the point where he knows what he has to do.  We’re going to give him some leeway. His teammates will make sure he does what he needs to do. I think we’ll see less of him zoning out than we have in the past.”
  • Andrus on the new found freedom, ”I am learning how to handle my body and my mind better.  Last year, he wasn’t on me quite as much. I appreciate the help and I needed it, but at the same time, as you grow as a player and a person, you want that responsibility to do it yourself. I don’t expect him to be behind me like he was earlier. I know when I make a mistake. I know he’ll be there to help me when I need it too.”
  • Andrus on wanting to improve his power stroke, ”I want to add some power.  I don’t mean home runs. Those happen with good swings. But I want to drive the ball more to the gaps.”

The starting rotation has been much of the talk so far this Spring Training, with potentially 7 viable options, not counting the always looming presence of free-agent veteran Roy Oswalt, and only 5 spots.

  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) writes that Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz are both making solid impressions early in camp here.
  • Sullivan on Feliz, “It is still early in camp but Washington likes what he sees from both pitchers, especially Feliz. Washington said he sees a pitcher who came to camp determined to be a starter.”
  • Scott Miller (CBSSports) writes that Oswalt still wants the Rangers.
  • For our take on the rotation, be sure to check out the Spring Training podcast special we recorded last week.
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Feb 272012
 
  • Monday Morning FastballsOver the weekend, Josh Hamilton addressed his comments from Friday’s press conference saying, “If it does go to free agency, the first place I’m coming is here.  If I owe anything, it’s that. My loyalty is here. This is where I’ve been. This is where my family’s been, so obviously I’d love to stay here more than anywhere else. So first of all, they get a chance to do what they need to do to keep me here.”
  • Hamilton further clarified his “I don’t owe the Rangers anything” comments saying, ”What I owe is 100 percent on the field.  My employee-employer relationship is to give 100 percent in the clubhouse, to the fans, everything I’ve done while I’ve been here. That’s what I owe to the Rangers. I’ve done those things and I’m going to continue to do those things. That’s what I mean by it.”
  • Again, I know it’s a business, but you just hate to hear a star player have to use the “employee-employer relationship” line.  If you missed our take on his statement from Friday, check it out here.
  • Josh went on to comment on the potential of negotiations during the season, saying ”If it’s during the season, I’m not going to know about them because I’ve asked not to know about them.  I trust my agent. He’s not just my agent, but a close friend and mentor of mine, somebody I go to for advice and I really trust. I leave that up to him. I just say call me when there is something worth talking about.  I’m just going to leave it up to him. If they approach him and he feels like it is something to go forward with, I’ll leave it up to him. It’s not going to be something I’m focusing on, concentrating on.”
  • Monday Morning FastballsJoe Nathan addressed the team during a team meeting yesterday which was intended to be a chance for the team, coaches and staff to air all of their feelings about how the World Series ended.  The veteran newcomer said “I talked about what it looks like from the outside looking in.  For me, watching that, they were the better team. What happened is baseball. Stuff happens in this game is sometimes unexplainable, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t the better team and I’m excited to be here and that they had nothing to be ashamed about.”
  • Nathan went on to talk about the current state of the team, saying ”I don’t think anybody is hanging their heads about last year.  I don’t think there’s a reason to hang your heads about last year. They’ve got a lot of things to be proud of about what they did last year. Even though it’s tough and you want to win and had a chance to win, you’ve still got to be excited about where this team is and where this team has been and 28 other teams wanted to be in their spot even though it was a tough way to go down.”
  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) covers the team meeting in more detail here.
  • Monday Morning FastballsElvis Andrus is listed as day-to-day after having a Plantar’s wart removed from his heel.  Shouldn’t have any long-term impact on the young shortstop.
  • Evan Grant (SportsDay DFW) shared his thoughts on the Rangers batting order: “I’d move Michael Youngto second and Elvis down to the lower third, but only if Young could be more of a situational hitter. His track record suggests he’s been prone to too many double play balls. I’d rather have Elvis hitting eighth or ninth with speed around him there, than to dropMitch Morelandto the 8th spot. Think the Rangers could do some manufacturing from bottom third of order that way.”
  • Evan isn’t alone in his thoughts above.  Elvis makes more sense hitting 2nd in terms of small-ball, while Young brings better numbers all-around.  It’ll be interesting to see if this changes in 2012.  If I had to guess, I’d say that it won’t change, only because I think Elvis will take another step forward in his offensive development in 2012, and you can tell that Ron loves having him in the 2 hole.
  • Grant also discussed the pitching staff, saying “I’m a little concerned. There is a lot of talent, but little track record. Both Holland and Harrison have only one half season each of real success. Lewis gave up 35 homers last year and I don’t expect that number is going to go down markedly. While Feliz and Darvish have limitless potential, neither has started a major league game. If everything goes right, it’s a dominant rotation, maybe the best and youngest in the league. But how often do things fall just right?”
    ROTATION: Lewis, Holland, Darvish, Harrison, Oswalt.
    BULLPEN: Feliz or Nathan (closer), Feliz or Nathan (setup), Ogando (setup), Mike Adams (middle/setup),Scott Feldman (long), a lefty TBA and one spot open for a Tateyama or someone of that level.
  • Jasen and I provided our thoughts on the pitching staff in last Monday’s podcast.  While it would be shocking to see Feliz not have a spot in the rotation after the signing of Nathan and the way things ended in 2011, I understand Grant’s position in that Oswalt brings more of a track record.  With the improvements that the Angels made, this is not a season where the Rangers will be able to risk losses due to experimentation – Feliz needs to prove he can be in this rotation during Spring Training.
  • As far as the “lefty TBA” mentioned above, watch out for phenom prospect Martin Perez.  Both minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark and manager Ron Washington have talked about his limited performance so far this Spring and have been impressed.
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