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 172012
 
  • Friday Morning Knuckleballs

    Gary Carter celebrating after winning the 1986 World Series over the Boston Red Sox. R.I.P. "Kid"

    Gary Carter passed yesterday at the age of 57.  Carter was a big part of my initial baseball consciousness.  He was diagnosed with four brain tumors last May, which he was fighting, but in January it was revealed that his doctors had found several more tumors on his brain.

  • Carter’s daughter, Kimmy Bloumers updated the family’s website yesterday afternoon with ”I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m. This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know.
    It’s a sad day anytime we lose someone that has made an impact on any facet of our lives.  Carter was one of those people for many.  R.I.P. Gary.
  • ESPNNewYork.com has a good column about Carter and a video about Carter here.
  • CNNSI also has a great column on Carter here.
  • Tom Verducci (CNNSI.com) wrote a great tribute in “Gary Carter, the light of the Mets”.  That season was magical and provides the moments in time for which I’ll always remember Gary Carter.
  • Pitcher & Catchers report Wednesday.
  • Round 4 of the Baseball Do American League West Position Rankings is in the works and I hope to have it out this evening.  Check out the first three rounds if you need to catch up.
    Round 1 – Infielders and Catcher
    Round 2 – Outfielders and DH
    Round 3 – Bench and Manager
    Round 4 will cover all pitching including starting rotation, relief and closer.
  • Bryan Dolgin (ESPNDallas) wrote a short piece about Conor Jackson, and his approach with the Rangers.
    Jackson says ““They’re a pretty left-handed hitting team. First of all, I’ve got to make the squad. That’s the biggest thing for me.  I can’t have a usual slow spring training. I’ve got to come out bangin’ and show ’em I can still play. I’m just looking forward to an opportunity.”
  • Richard Durrent (ESPNDallas) wrote a brief column on Jon Daniels continued support of Josh Hamilton.
    Daniels said “There will be some additional steps that we’ll take as a club, along with Josh, just to continue to support him and to insure to the best of our abilities that this doesn’t happen again.  We have more ability to help with that during the season.”
  • Durrett also provides a look at ESPN’s Future Power Rankings for MLB, in which the Rangers took the top spot here (with a brief video).  The full article is available to those that have ESPN Insider access, so thanks to Durrett for at least extracting the Rangers portion of the article for those that don’t have that access.
  • The Rangers are ready to settle in for a productive and calm Spring Training after a busy off-season.  T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) provides a good summary of the off-season with an eye towards Spring Training here.  The link also includes a video interview of Thad Levine from MLBTV’s Clubhouse Confidential.
    A great statement from JD, ”You name it and this team has dealt with it and thrived on it.  That’s a direct reflection on Wash and the leadership in the clubhouse, the players and the staff. These guys come to Spring Training ready to play and don’t let anything distract them.  We want to embrace and celebrate what was accomplished and reward the people that made it possible, but you need to turn the page at some point. What I have been encouraged by is in talking to people and the meetings we’ve had, our players and staff are hungry. They are as hungry and as motivated as ever. If we can keep that mentality, we can keep this going.”
  • Drew Davidson (Star-Telegram) wrote an article on the Rangers confidence level heading into Spring Training.
    Wash says “I think we head into camp pretty strong.  I think the key going in there is for everyone to stay healthy.”
  • On Yesterday’s episode of Sports Day on Fox Sports Southwest, Evan Grant and Anthony Andro shared their expectations of how Neftali Feliz will perform in 2012.
    Grant warns to not expect an Ogando type of performance, saying “Well, it depends on what you consider a successful starter. He’s not going to be Alexi Ogando from last year; he’s not going to be C.J. from two years ago. It’s going to be tough to have the conversion continue for the third consecutive year. He was really good last year when he was mixing up his pitches, but when he went back to the bullpen it was fastball, fastball, fastball. He can’t do that again. If he can win 11 or 12 games and be a starter for the entire year, that would be a successful year depending on where he’s come from.”
    Andro likes how the Rangers have prepped Feliz and the team for the move, saying “I think the Rangers took all the right steps in trying to create an environment where there is a closer in place with Nathan and they could move him early. I think what’s important between Neftali and the guys from the last two years is that those two made it clear from the start they wanted to be starters; they asked and did whatever it took to get there. I think the Rangers want to see the Rangers put a lot more into and as the spring goes on. They know he has a lot of work to do, and they know he has work to do with the breaking ball, but they think that’s all there.”
  • Wanna know what Baseball Do thinks about Neftali’s upcoming debut season in the starting rotation, check out “The Other New Guy”.
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Feb 142012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Be sure to check out Round 1 (IF and C) and Round 2 (OF & DH) of the 2012 American League West Position Rankings if you missed them.

Score at the end of Round 2:

  1. Rangers: 35
  2. Angels: 31
  3. Athletics: 15
  4. Mariners: 14

We’ll be ranking the benches and the managers for each of the AL West squads in this round, which will be handled a little differently from how we have handled the individual positions so far.

Bench

For benches, we are looking at the quality, depth and flexibility and we’ll have one rankings for the entire team.  While the bench for a team, in it’s entirety, may not play the equivalent of a full 9 innings every game, I feel that it’s still more valuable than just one player.  Given the flexibility and strategic advantage that a strong bench can provide to a team, we are going to double the points awarded in this section.

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Kendry Morales/Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Cesar Izturis, Hank Conger, Mike Trout/Peter Bourjos – LAA
  2. Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon/Leonys Martin, David Murphy, Yorvit Torrealba, Brad Hawpe – TEX
  3. Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Adam Moore, Casper Wells, Michael Saunders – SEA
  4. Daric Barton, Eric Sogard, Chris Carter, Kila Ka’aihue, Collin Cowgill – OAK

This is a close one as both the Angels and Rangers have some flexibility with their bench and some starts, but the Angels take the pole here as they have the best two quality players overall in whoever isn’t starting at DH between and Morales and Trumbo and whoever isn’t starting in CF between Trout and Bourjos.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)The Rangers have flexibilty with their starters at every infield position (Young & Napoli in mix with starters), CF and DH (Napoli and others with Younger considered starter) which amplifies the role that the bench players can play on a day-to-day basis.  They clearly outpace the Mariners and Athletics, but fall short of the Angels primarily based on the quality of the players that would make the most impact off of the bench more often.

Manager

Similar to the bench, I feel like the manager rankings have to account for more than just the equivalent of one starter.  Considering the impact that the manager can have on every game, we will be doubling the scoring in this section as well.

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Ron Washington, TEX
  2. Mike Scioscia, LAA
  3. Eric Wedge, SEA
  4. Bob Melvin, OAK
It’s hard to go against managing a World Series winner (Scioscia in 2002) and twice being named the American League Manager of the Year (Scioscia in 2002 & 2009), but when looking forward to 2012, Ron Washington is the best Manager in the American League West.  Washington has managed his team to the World Series in both the last two seasons and finished in the top three of AL Manager of the Year voting over the last three seasons.

In 2012, both managers go into the season with an increased level of expectations and some new stars/phenoms to work with – Pujols & C.J. in LA and Darvish in TEX.  The ranking comes down to who’s hotter as of late and Washington get’s the nod.  That said, Scioscia is an excellent manager that knows how to use his players to maximize productivity and performance.  There isn’t another division in baseball that has two better managers than Wash and Scioscia.

Score at the end of Round 3:

  1. Rangers: 35 from first two rounds + 8 + 10 = 53
  2. Angels: 31 from first two rounds + 10 + 8 = 49
  3. Mariners: 14 from first two rounds + 6 + 6 = 26
  4. Athletics: 14 from first two rounds + 4 + 4 = 22

Round 4 will cover all facets of pitching (starting rotation, relief and closer) and will be posted by this weekend.  At that time, we’ll crown the winner of the American League West in 2012 and notify commissioner Selig that playing the games won’t be necessary this year.  You picking up what I’m laying down here…my point exactly.

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Jan 312012
 
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers have extended the contract of manager Ron Washington through 2014.  Financial terms were not disclosed.  Jon Daniel’s talked about Wash, saying “Our guys love playing for this man.  You see that every day. The national baseball audience has seen that the past two Octobers. You really see the way our guys respond to him.  He’s become a great manager, and a good personal friend and partner in all that we do, and obviously a huge part of our success, in my mind, is his ability to set the tone in that clubhouse to continue to teach the game to guys at the big league level and to demand a lot from our players.”
  • Washington is appreciative of the opportunity, saying ”Jon Daniels took a chance when you look back five years ago on a novice manager.  We hit it off. He just believed that I could be the guy that could take this organization in the direction that he knew it had the opportunity to go in. We’ve done that, and the most important thing, we’ve done that as a family, we’ve done it as a solid unit.”
  • From Evan Grant (DallasNews), “If Ron Washington stays through the end of the contract extension he signed with the Rangers Monday – his second extension in 14 months – he’ll have managed and won more games than anybody to ever spit in the dugout in Arlington.”
  • Richard Durrett (ESPN) provides more on contract extension here.
  • Ron Washington thankful for bond with GM by Richard Durrett (ESPN)
  • Ron Washington has grown with the Rangers with the Sports Center video clip by Richard Durrett (ESPN)
  • Roy Oswalt’s meeting with the Rangers yesterday included Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, Roy, Roy’s wife and his agent.  It was described as “good”.  I’m beginning to feel like the primary purpose of this meeting was for Nolan to let Roy know that the Rangers respect him and in just about any other year would have jumped at the opportunity.
  • Jeff Wilson (Star-Telegram) wrote a column regarding Oswalt’s fit in Texas, “St. Louis is said to be the only other club Oswalt is considering, and various reports have the Cardinals scrambling to meet his asking price of $10 million on a one-year contract.That’s out of the Rangers’ price range, perhaps even if they can trade Koji Uehara and the $4 million he will make this season. Uehara appears to be a man without a spot in the bullpen with Alexi Ogando expected to rejoin the late-inning mix after the signing of Yu Darvish.
  • Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) wrote a small piece on Roy Oswalt’s potential suitors, saying “No team in baseball needs a starting pitcher less than the Texas Rangers. Their starting pitchers combined for +19.8 WAR last year, third most in the Majors, and while they lost C.J. Wilson, they spent roughly $110 million to bring in Yu Darvish and have decided to bring Neftali Feliz to camp as a starting pitcher. Toss in Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison, and their rotation doesn’t even have room for Alexi Ogando, who himself probably belongs in a Major League rotation next year.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersAlso from FanGraphs, an interesting article about Rangers Prospect Roman Mendez by Mike Newman.  Regarding Mendez’ potential, Newman writes “At present, Roman Mendez is still more lottery ticket than legitimate starting pitching prospect. The raw stuff borders on electric and it’s easy to dream on his fulfilling his potential. “
  • The Rangers are considered one of the off-season winners, according to Jeff Wilson’s (Star-Telegram) Top 5/Bottom 5 rankings.
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Jan 302012
 
  • Monday Morning FastballsThe Rangers are scheduled to meet with Roy Oswalt today.  Friday, there were reports that Oswalt was close to accepting a deal from St. Louis, but it looks like the veteran right-hander wants to meet with the Rangers prior to making a final decision.
    There are arguments for both sides when it comes to the Rangers signing Oswalt (read Jasen’s here), but if he signs, it’s the dominoes that fall from there that are stirring debate.  If he does indeed sign with the Rangers, the question becomes who is out of the rotation (most talk is of Matt Harrison) and are they destined for the bullpen or a trade.
    I love the way Jamey Newberg summed it up, by writing “I’m not sure yet whether I want this supposed competition to turn out differently from the World Series, but I do feel pretty sure that if the Rangers are hoping to land the righthander, it’s likely part of a bigger plan that’s laid out on a whiteboard that none of us can see and perhaps that none of us have fully visualized.”
  • Matt Harrison fielded a question concerning his future in the rotation by saying, “My goal is to come in there and be the best I can be and make sure no matter what I give it everything I have in spring training.  It’s out of my hands whether or not they want to put me in the bullpen if they sign Roy or whatever happens from there.”
  • Monday Morning FastballsThe Negro Leagues Baseball Museum honored Ron Washington on Saturday night in Kansas City with the C.I. Taylor Award as the AL’s top manager, part of the museum’s Legacy Awards.
    Washington had this to say at the event, ”It means a lot.  It means our team did a great job. I read some of the history of the awards, and there’s quite a few great people who have won the award. I am honored.   I never doubted myself or needed any vindication.  Even in my first year, I knew it was just a matter of getting my coaches to coach and my players to play the game of baseball the way it’s supposed to be played.  There’s always other people around you that help you become successful. I am just fortunate that (general manager) Jon Daniels didn’t panic the first couple of years because, if he did, I probably wouldn’t find myself with this opportunity.”
    Jeff Wilson (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) wrote a piece on Washington and the award here.
  • Nothing new in regards to contact talks with those that the Rangers are focused on, but Ian Kinsler had this to say regarding his situation, “The longer they wait, the more difficult it’s going to be.  It takes a lot of conversation and thinking on both sides. It’s not just a couple of phone calls and strike a deal, especially the second contract when they’re investing a lot more money.”
  • According to Bovada.com (formerly Bodog.com), the Rangers have 9/1 odds of winning the 2012 World Series.  From an odd’s perspective, that puts them in the top 5, behind or equal to the Phillies (11/2), the Angels (13/2), the Yankees (13/2), and the Tigers (also 9/1).
  • The Rangers have agreed to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to spring training, with outfielder Kyle Hudson.  Hudson has been in the Baltimore farm system since 2008, most notably contributing 119 stolen bases during his time there.
  • Christina Kahrl (ESPN’s Sweet Spot) wrote a good piece highlighting production by position, specifically looking at the “up the middle” positions (C, 2B, SS, CF).
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Jan 122012
 
  • Rangers Awards Show is tonight at the Arlington Convention Center.  If you are thinking about going and looking for details, click here.Thursday Morning Changeups
  • Rangers Fan Fest begins tomorrow night.  Click here for the schedule of events and details around who is going to be there for autographs/photographs and when.  Jasen and I will be there on Friday night and we’ll be posting updates to the site, Twitter and Facebook detailing our conquests and adventures.
  • Last night, Dirk did what we have come to expect him to do.  Unbelievable.  I don’t think I’m taking it for granted, but I’m in no hurry to find out.
  • A source has told Bill Ladson of MLB.com, that there is a 99% chance that Nationals don’t sign free agent Prince Fielder.  Do I dare suggest that the evil Scott Boras is not going to get what he is demanding this time?  I still feel that the Rangers could be a player here, and this sentiment is starting to gain more steam with some of the baseball media.  Last night on the MLB network’s Hot Stove, 3 of 3 analysts/former players felt that Prince would end up signing a contract of less than 5 years in length.
  • Randy Galloway did a good article around the key that trust plays in what the Rangers are accomplishing and working towards.  I think Randy hit this one right on the head – as much as it pains me to agree with him or give him any praise whatsoever.
  • Richard Durrett wrote a short piece around the impression that Yu Darvish has made on both Ron Washington and Colby Lewis.  Nothing new related to getting Darvish signed at this point.  6 days until the deadline.  It’s natural to start feeling a little anxious about this whole situation, but I’m confident the Rangers and Darvish will get a deal done.  The more video I watch/articles I read/people I talk to, I’m truly excited about Yu’s likely presence on this pitching staff.  As a guy who was originally on the fence back in November, I’ve been fully converted.
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