Texas Rangers 06-07 Offseason & Spring Training news and notes
Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:55 PM
Wright, Loe likely to make team; question involves their roles
03:22 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
SURPRISE, Ariz. – All that's left is the decision.
The Rangers have watched Jamey Wright and Kameron Loe pitch all spring. They have met at several junctures to discuss the state of the competition. And now, the time has come for a choice.
"We met for a while [Monday], and we've got a pretty good idea of where we're going," general manager Jon Daniels said before Wright pitched 5 1/3 innings in a 10-6 win over Seattle.
Daniels declined to elaborate, but it appears likely that both Wright and Loe will make the club. One will be a very occasional starter in April, and the other the long reliever. Right-hander Bruce Chen, who does not have another scheduled start before the Rangers leave Arizona, appears to be out of the picture. The Rangers must add Wright to the roster by Wednesday or offer him his release. Wright indicated that Wednesday remains a hard deadline for him.
The decision that's left is over which role the two are better suited for at the start of the season. Wright has been a starter for most of his career, whereas Loe has 41 relief outings and 24 starts.
The Rangers must also determine which role is more important in April. The fifth starter will only make three appearances. The long reliever could pitch more often.
Loe, who has a 0.92 ERA over 19 2/3 innings this spring, has performed better than any pitcher in camp, according to manager Ron Washington. Wright has a 5.82 ERA for 16 2/3 innings. The two pitchers lead the team in innings pitched.
Wright's outing Monday was typical of his star-crossed career. He pitched well, but hurt himself. He dropped a flip at first while trying to field a flip from Mark Teixeira that led to two Seattle runs.
Like Loe, Wright said he aimed to be a starter. Asked how he'd respond to being asked to be a long reliever, he said: "I'll talk about that if it ends up happening, but I'm obviously still hoping to be in the rotation.
Rangers pitcher Jamey Wright has a 5.82 ERA this spring.
Rangers pitcher Jamey Wright has a 5.82 ERA this spring.
"I think I've done everything I could do. It's out of my hands. This is going to be a big season for me, but the decision is out of my hands."
In-N-Out: The Rangers claimed right-hander Ezequiel Astacio off waivers from the Houston Astros on Monday, but it's possible he may never pitch a game in the Texas organization.
General manager Jon Daniels acknowledged that it would be an uphill battle for Astacio, 27, to make the club out of spring training. That means the Rangers will likely have to place him on waivers and see if he can get through unclaimed. The Rangers, with the 16th claim, chose him. He'd have to get through another 14 teams in order to be taken off the roster and sent outright to the minors.
Astacio, who has started for most of his professional career, could go to Triple-A Oklahoma and get a look as a reliever. Astacio is 5-6 with a 6.02 ERA as a major league pitcher in 28 games (14 starts).
The Rangers also designated right-hander Rick Bauer for assignment and will try to trade him before his waiver period ends Wednesday. If the Rangers can't make a deal for him, they would likely release him so they would only be due approximately $180,000 of his $730,000 salary. The Rangers would have some interest in re-signing him to a minor league deal if all that comes to pass.
Bauer appeared in 58 games for the Rangers last year and was a fairly reliable reliever. But he struggled this spring, allowing 11 earned runs, including four homers, in 6 1/3 innings.
Briefly: The Rangers have abandoned the search for a backup catcher via trade. They had spoken with the Los Angeles Angels about C Jose Molina, but Daniels said Monday: "Our backup catcher is in camp." The decision comes down to Cs Miguel Ojeda or Chris Stewart. ... The Rangers released five more players from minor league camp; the player with the highest profile was RHP Shane Funk, the first pitcher the club selected in the 2005 draft (4th round). Funk, who received a $250,000 signing bonus, walked 47 in 65 innings and was 0-10 with an 8.45 ERA in two seasons in the Arizona Rookie League. ... As a temporary space-holding move, the Rangers placed INF Adam Fox on the 40-man roster. Fox will be removed when Astacio arrives. ... RHP Frank Francisco did not pitch Monday. His schedule for back-to-back outings is now Wednesday and Thursday.
Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:56 PM
01:31 PM CDT on Wednesday, March 28, 2007
By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
SURPRISE, Ariz. – How much has Joaquin Benoit's stock zoomed this spring?
Just consider this question posed to manager Ron Washington on Tuesday: "What reliever would you go to if you had to retire a lefty late in a game?"
Washington: "Right now, Benoit."
That's Benoit, who is a right-hander. Perhaps over lefties C.J. Wilson and Ron Mahay, who have given up homers to left-handed hitters each of the last two games.
A spectacular spring has pushed Benoit from long man on the brink to a key middle- and setup relief role. Washington said Tuesday that Benoit, who has pitched 7 1/3 innings of scoreless "A" game relief this spring and another 3 1/3 scoreless "B" innings, would be his primary seventh-inning reliever. He also will pitch the eighth when Akinori Otsuka is asked to slide into the closer's role.
After pitching a perfect inning Monday, Benoit pitched to two batters in a "B" game Tuesday. He got a lineout to third base and struck out the second batter.
Benoit said the Rangers growing trust in him has played a part in his pitching above expectations.
"I think knowing that I've got a role and what the role is is a big part," said Benoit, who has spent parts of the last five seasons shuffling between the starting rotation, the long relief role, a setup role and then back to the long role. "If you don't know how you are going to be used, it's tough to prepare. I think everybody here has a pretty good idea of how they will be used."
The Rangers other seventh-inning reliever will come from this trio of right-handers: Scott Feldman, Frank Francisco or Wes Littleon. It could be down to a duo by today. Littleton, who has struggled with his command all spring, allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in an inning Tuesday.
"I think Feldman is doing a good job when he's out there, but we haven't figured it out," Washington said.
Feldman was scheduled to pitch in Tuesday's 24-7 loss to San Diego, but the arrival of waiver claim Ezequiel Astacio had the Rangers push him back. He may pitch today and Thursday. Francisco is expected to pitch today and Thursday. Their performances in back-to-back outings could end up being the deciding factor.
Decision day: The Rangers are expected to add right-hander Jamey Wright to the roster today, all but insuring he'll be on the club on opening day and the most likely fifth starter. If Wright is not added to the roster today, he can take free agency.
Manager Ron Washington said he expected Wright to be on the team for the opener. General manager Jon Daniels said after a staff meeting Monday evening the club had a "pretty good" idea the direction it wanted to go with the starting rotation. Daniels did not respond to questions Tuesday about Wright's roster status.
While right-hander Kameron Loe has outperformed every starting pitcher in camp, it appears to be more logical to place Wright in the rotation and Loe in the bullpen to start the season.
The fifth starter will get four starts by May 1 (April 10, 21, 26 and May 1). Putting Loe in the bullpen gives the Rangers a more reliable long man, which may be a more valuable asset in the first month when starters pitch fewer innings and have more closely monitored pitch counts.
No worries: Though opening day starter Kevin Millwood and closer Eric Gagne combined to allow 13 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday, manager Ron Washington waved off any potential concerns.
Millwood, who will next start the opener Monday at Los Angeles, said he left several fastballs up in the strike zone but said he feels physically ahead of last year at this point. Millwood struggled in his first two outings of the season, then went 16-10 with a 4.37 ERA the rest of the way.
As for Gagne, he threw 20 pitches and allowed five hits and four runs. While the Rangers don't expect Gagne to pitch more than two consecutive days without rest for the first month of the season, he will be the primary closer.
"He's the closer," Washington said. "I'm not going to take the ball away from him."
Briefly: The Rangers remain hopeful INF Joaquin Arias could make his fielding debut in the final two days before the club leaves Arizona. Arias has been bothered by shoulder soreness and an infected thumb for much of the spring. ... LHP John Rheinecker appears headed for the disabled list. His back acted up again on him.
Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:58 PM
10:08 PM CDT on Thursday, March 29, 2007
By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Hank Blalock finished up his extreme Arizona spring makeover Thursday with one fly ball out to left field and one to center to drop his average to .227. He did not have a home run in his 18 Arizona exhibitions.
Was he concerned?
Perhaps about the small stain on the tie of his traveling suit. But about the spring swing results, he had not a care in the world. The swing, Blalock said, Thursday afternoon is progressing just fine.
"I feel great going into the season," he said. "I've tried like 20 different things with Rudy as far as changing stances and mechanisms. And over the last four or five days, I feel like I've found it. I feel comfortable and feel like I am ready to do some damage when I'm in the batter's box.
"At the beginning of camp, it was always one thing or another, but I tired not to worry about results. All I've worried about is the feel. And now I feel like if the pitcher makes a mistake, I'm going to crush it."
The results, however, did seem to improve at the end. Blalock was 7-for-34 (.206) over the first three weeks of exhibitions. He went 3-for-10 over the final five days. In addition, Blalock took a team-high nine walks during the spring.
Final decisions: General manager Jon Daniels all but acknowledged that utility man Matt Kata had made the team on Thursday.
After Daniels rattled off a planned infield at Triple-A Oklahoma that didn't include Kata, he was asked if the utility man would be on the Rangers' opening day roster.
"Quite possibly," he said with a smile. "But I'm not going to commit to that just yet."
Kata, who had two hits Thursday, seems to have outplayed OF Marlon Byrd for a spot on the bench. If that decision is finished, the Rangers have two more to make: backup catcher (Miguel Ojeda vs. Chris Stewart) and the extra relief arm for the first week of the season until Jamey Wright is needed (Bruce Chen vs. Mike Wood).
Both Chen and Wood have pitched very well this spring, but because the need is for such a short period of time, Chen's contract situation might work against him. If he makes the opening day roster, he is guaranteed $1.1 million whether he stays with the Rangers past April 10 or not. Wood, on the other hand, has only a $420,000 major league contract and his deal also includes a minor league split. If he is in the majors for a week, it would only cost the Rangers about $25,000.
Briefly: RHP Francisco Cruceta cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma. Though he could have elected free agency, Cruceta has agreed to the assignment. He's told the Rangers he'd like to return to starting. ...The Rangers optioned OF-DH Jason Botts to Triple-A Oklahoma and re-assigned INF Ramon Vazquez to minor league camp. ... LHP John Koronka is expected to start the season opener for Triple-A Oklahoma at Memphis on April 5.
Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:59 PM
By JAN HUBBARD
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
FRISCO -- A year ago, Sammy Sosa was in a different world.
"Brazil," Sosa said Friday night in the minor league locker room of the Frisco RoughRiders. "I went to Brazil for vacation."
That's a long way from Frisco, and odds are the weather was better, too.
The Rangers' game against Milwaukee was rained out Friday. The teams will close the exhibition season tonight at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, with a 6:05 start.
For Sosa, it will be the final step in his comeback before the regular season begins Monday in Anaheim. After taking a year off, Sosa has returned and had an excellent spring, but he is ready for the real games.
"Spring training, sometimes a lot of people say it's too long, and it is too long," Sosa said. "It is what it is. Thank goodness spring training is over. I had a good spring training, the whole thing. Coming back now to the season, I know I'm ready to go for it.
"Being out for a year isn't like being out seven or eight years. A lot of people keep talking about that, but for myself I'm feeling great. I feel great mentally and everything. Everything is going good and I have to continue that."
Sosa hit .404 with five home runs and 15 RBI this spring and knows that the Rangers' organization and fans are excited.
"I know there's a lot of expectations," he said. "I know I'm feeling great. Ju
st praying to God to keep me healthy and everything is going to be there."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said final cuts will be announced tonight. With Jamey Wright starting the season in Frisco and Eric Gagné on the disabled list, there would seem to be spots for pitchers Bruce Chen and Mike Wood.
Chen, however, has a clause in his contract calling for him to receive $1.1 million if he makes the major league roster. If Chen is released after Wright and Gagné return, the Rangers would owe him 45 days salary, or about $275,000, a high price to pay for a week on the roster.
Washington said he knows who will be released, but declined to say. He still has decisions to make for the final position player (Matt Kata vs. Marlon Byrd) and backup catcher (Miguel Ojeda vs. Chris Stewart).
Good for nothing?
Preseason prognosticators and professional gamblers don't think too highly of the Rangers' chances this season. Several betting lines have the Rangers in the bottom one-third, and they are generally pegged to finish third in the four-team AL West.
But don't tell that to shortstop Michael Young.
"I could absolutely care less," Young said. "Who picked Detroit last year? What genius did that? It just didn't happen. So I could absolutely care less. If they had us in first place, I could care less. If they had us in third or fourth, I could care less even more. You can throw it down the toilet as far as I'm concerned."
Taking it like a man
Ron Washington said he was a bit concerned when he had to tell Eric Gagné that he would start the season on the disabled list.
"We wanted to make sure he gets strong," Washington said. "We've been talking about it for about three days, and it ended up being last minute because time caught us on the last day.
"We didn't know what his reactions were going to be. He handled it like a champ and made it easy on us to tell him that. Actually, I had my boxing gloves in the drawer, ready to pull them out. I might have had to punch him out a little bit, but he didn't let me do it. He was great."
Posted 01 April 2007 - 01:02 PM
Thrilled to be playing ball again, he says, 'I'm ready to go for it'
01:56 AM CDT on Saturday, March 31, 2007
By RICHARD DURRETT / The Dallas Morning News
FRISCO – Sammy Sosa said it was all the little things that he missed most after a year off from baseball.
He missed talking and joking with his teammates. He missed the sound of the ball each time he made contact with a sweet swing. And he missed the anticipation of opening day.
"I'm ready," he said before Friday's game between the Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers was rained out. "If you work hard, you get results. I've prepared for this situation and this moment. I wanted to come back and show I could be successful."
Sosa has certainly had success this spring. He's batting .404, the best average of any Rangers player with at least 20 at-bats, and has a team-high five home runs. He is tied for second in RBIs with 15, two behind Ian Kinsler.
"I had a good spring training, the whole thing," Sosa said. "Coming back now to the season, I know I'm ready to go for it."
Manager Ron Washington declined to say whether Sosa will be in the lineup when the Rangers open Monday in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels and right-hander John Lackey. Washington could elect to play left-handed hitters Frank Catalanotto or Brad Wilkerson as the DH instead.
But Washington said when Sosa is in the lineup, he'll bat fifth. That was where Washington wanted to bat him before spring training started, provided Sosa showed he could still swing the bat. Washington said he wasn't surprised by Sosa's success.
"He didn't exceed my expectations; I knew he would perform," Washington said. "All I'm doing is seeing what I thought he had. I knew if they threw balls in the wrong spot, he had the capability of hitting them out of the ballpark. He's going to fight. He may look bad, but he's going to fight. That's something you can't teach."
Sosa, flashing his wide smile, said he was proud he proved a few people wrong.
"Other people said I couldn't come back and be in perfect shape, and I was," Sosa said. "I proved there's nothing wrong with me. I'm feeling great."
His next job: Show he can swing the bat during the regular season.
A few roster moves left: The Rangers still have some decisions to make before Sunday's 2 p.m. deadline to set the 25-man roster. Washington said the club will make its roster choices official today after it speaks with the players involved.
With Eric Gagne on the disabled list and Jamey Wright starting the season on the Frisco roster, the Rangers can put two more pitchers in the bullpen. Mike Wood is a leading candidate to get one of those spots, and the Rangers could call up a pitcher who has options from Oklahoma. LHP Bruce Chen's salary may hurt his chances of making it. He's guaranteed $1.1 million if he makes the opening-day roster.
The Rangers must also decide between Miguel Ojeda and Chris Stewart at backup catcher and Marlon Byrd and Matt Kata at the other utility spot.
Byrd and Kata said they did all they could to make the opening day roster. It appears the Rangers are leaning toward Kata, whose ability to play both the infield and outfield helps his cause.
"I was told early in my career that versatility was important to have," said Kata, who is batting .396 with two homers and 15 RBIs this spring. "I feel like I've played well and have done enough good things to justify a position on the team."
Byrd said he answered his biggest question coming into the spring: hitting.
"I worked with Rudy, and I feel like I've shown I can hit," Byrd said. "What may hurt me is that I don't play the infield. It's a numbers game, so we'll see."
Byrd has batted .314 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
Briefly: Rangers fans who had tickets to Friday's game have a few options to redeem their tickets. One ticket can be exchanged for two tickets to tonight's exhibition game against the Brewers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Fans can also exchange one ticket from Friday's game for one ticket to any Rangers home game this season except April 6-7 (Red Sox), May 1-3 (Yankees), May 25-26 (Red Sox), June 22-23 (Astros) and July 4 (Angels). Those tickets can only be exchanged at the ballpark ticket office. Fans can also redeem their Friday ticket for one ticket to any RoughRiders game in 2007.
Posted 01 April 2007 - 02:33 PM
Posted 01 April 2007 - 09:04 PM
Closing shop here and opening up somewhere else Jay?
Unpinning this thread and starting a new 2007 season thread. Probably very soon.
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