Rangers “Hammer” Mariners, and some 25-man roster annoucements

Hanks_swing Things are certainly shaping up in Suprise. One of them is Hank Blalock, who practically single-handedly beat the Mariners last night, going 4-4 with 3 RBI. That included a first-inning 2-run homer off Miguel Bautista, and an RBI single later in the 7th inning off lefty Eric O’Flaherty. And all this after "The Hammer" apparently put on an impressive show in batting practice earlier. Save some for opening day, will ya Hank? Other offensive highlights included Milton Bradley (making his first appreance in RF this spring) who tripled in the first inning and scored, and Ian Kinsler, who popped an RBI double in the 5th.

But in more significant news, the Rangers put the rubber stamp on some roster decisions yesterday. One at least, was no surprise, as CJ Wilson, everyone’s favorite blue-gloved lefty, has officially been annointed the Rangers closer. I’m sure it must have killed Ron Washington to make the announcement: "It’s down to the point where he’s shown me enough and that he’s healthy," Washington said. "I just didn’t want anybody taking anything for granted. He’s thrown the ball well.  He’s the obvious choice." Really Ron? Are you sure he has the "experience"?

Cj_delivers_1Another announcement that perhaps was seen in the crystal ball was the fact that Jason Botts has offically made the club. I’m glad the club has finally given Jason a certain vote of confidence here, as he gets a fairly ringing endorsement from Jon Daniels:

"He has always been a productive hitter except his limited time in the big leagues," Daniels said. "We like the way he’s gone about it this spring. He is better defensively in the outfield, solid at first base and a right-handed option at [DH]. He has played the game more aggressively and looked more comfortable."

I’m still not sure exactly how many at-bats he’s going to get though, as once again, Ron Washington doesn’t seem to enthusiastic about this decision, either: 

"That was a hard decision to make," Washington said. "Botts just did what we asked him to do. His game has improved. He worked hard on his game and showed he could improve. He’s somebody the Texas Rangers had high hopes for, so we’ll see what he can do."

Notice how Ron says "He’s somebody the Texas Rangers had high hopes for, so we’ll see what he can do." Based on that, I can only assume Ron doesn’t share the same sentiments – and unfortunately, he’s the one who’ll be doling out the playing time. Sigh.

The news was not as good for Nelson Cruz, though. It’s also noted in that article that he has been told he’s not making the club. This means he’ll have to clear waivers if he’s to be sent to AAA. Daniels isn’t nearly as charitable in his statements regarding Cruz:

"[Cruz is] just [missing] the consistency at the plate," Daniels said. "He’s a very good defender and shows the obvious physical abilities. In the role of competing for an everyday job, he just hasn’t proven himself."

He’s also 28, just a year younger than Milton Bradley, too old to be considered a "prospect" anymore. And with his lack of offensive production on the field (.231 AVG, .282 OBP, and 119 K’s to 30 BB’s in 442 career AB’s) over multiple chances the last two years, it appears Texas is ready to cut bait with Cruz. And that’s not something I’m really dissapointed about, either – the athletic potential has always been there for Nelson, but he’s just never been able to put it all together. He’ll likely be picked up by another team off waivers and given another shot, but I wouldn’t say it’s premature to file Cruz under the list of Texas experiments who have just never panned out (e.g., Laynce Nix, Marshall McDougal, Ricardo Rodriguez, John Koronka, ext).

Turning back to the bullpen, things are heating up in the competition for those final spots. Franklyn German and Jamey Wright have officially been told they have made the bullpen, leaving just two spots left. Frank Francisco has been sent to the minors, and is out of the picture for now, leaving Wes Littleton, Robinson Tejeda, Josh Rupe and Kam Loe as the candidates. Tejeda seems to have the inside track on one spot thanks to his lack of minor league options (although he didn’t impress the Rangers when he coughed up a triple and a walkofff single with 2 out in the bottom of the 9th inning agains the Cubs Monday). Wes Littleton is favored for the other spot, but Josh Rupe, who tossed two scoreless innings against the Mariners last night, is still lurking as well. Both of them have minor league options, and would likely be sent down to AAA come April 12th when the 5th starter is needed.

It should be noted, though, that the Rangers will have to do some juggling on the 40 man roster with the decisions they are making: Jamey Wright and Franklyn German are both on minor league contracts, and will need to be added to he 40-man roster. Those two spots will likely be opened by the DFA’ing of Nelson Cruz, and by putting John Rheinecker, who is out till mid-season after thoratic outlet syndrom surgery, on the 60-day DL.

But then there’s Adam Melhuse, who would be the clubs backup catcher if Jarrod Saltalamacchia is sent to AAA. He could probably be added by putting Thomas Diamond on the 60-day DL, but it’s still an interesting situation, because the Rangers haven’t made an official decision between Salty and Gerald Laird at catcher (something Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Jim Reeves has recently written an excellent piece on). The general feeling is, Laird will be the starter, and Salty will be sent to AAA (the scenario Salty seems to be reluctantly bracing for). But the Rangers have all of a sudden become strangely silent and noncommital about the whole thing all over again. And Gerald Laird hasn’t started behind the plate since Saturday.

Maybe I’m reading too far into this, because I’m willing to cling to any shred of hope that I will not have to watch Gerald Laird spare up the offense for half the season, but maybe, just maybe, the Rangers are second guessing themselves on this. Will they come to their senses? We’ll have to wait and see. But if they do, it will be the best news of spring training.

Just one last order of business, and I will end this marathon post: the Kansas City Royals don’t have a lot of star players. But one of their guys, at least, has a pretty unique talent: check out Joey Gathright and his pitcher jumping! Could this be baseball’s 6th tool?

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5 comments

  1. briant77@gmail.com

    My hope is that things are quiet on the catching front because JD is on the phone talking trade for Laird (and as an aside, any interest out there in Kam Loe, who doesn’t appear to be making the cut) Salty in AAA is backing up the procession of catchers, and really should be avoided as you have well stated. I guess I can live with it if Laird is moved at the ASB, though it doesn’t mean I’ll like it.

    My other thought is the Botts situation, and how it will affect the relationship between JD and the ‘baseball man’. Could it be that baseball man’s unwillingness to play Botts during the season will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Could his resistance to youth (not just Botts) lead to his dismissal? The difference is philosophy between the two is apparrent (and has been the source of some confusion for me). I think this bears watching. Especially when injuries take place – and they will with this roster – does Botts play OF or does Mench come up and play. Hmmm…

    I still haven’t unhitched my horses from the Matt Walbeck bandwagon.

  2. Jon

    Yeah, it now appears today that Salty is indeed headed for AAA, unless there’s an 11th-hour trade here. The Cinncinatti Reds reportedly are making a push however, but we’ll see if they’re willing to offer what JD wants – I kind of doubt they will, though, as JD appears to be overplaying his hand with Laird this spring, just as he did with Marlon Byrd and the Cubs.

    As for Ron Washington, I agree – his and JD’s differing philosphies are going to be a grindstone for this team this year, IMO. That’s a huge problem, one that the Rangers need to address – I’m right there with you on Matt Walbeck. I think he’ll be the manager in 2 years, if not less.

  3. Micah

    That pitcher jumping clip is amazing!!! I haven’t watched that sports network in a long time, so I guess I’m missing things. Ha ha ha.

    That quote about Botts from RW is a bit unenthusiastic. I guess we’ll see what happens.

    My hope for the catcher situation — Gerald starts (obviously) has a phenomenal first half of the season, and teams are vying for him at the trade deadline. By then, Salty has gotten a good handle on catching at AAA and is ready to slide in. It’s not that I don’t like Laird. I think he’s a great catcher, but Salty is the future. The Mariners have the same thing in Jeff Clement — heck of a hitter, but his defense still worries them, so they’re leaving him at AAA so he can play every day and get better.

    http://diamondgirl.mlblogs.com

  4. Jon

    You know, Micah, it’s funny you should bring up Jeff Clement – there where several young “prospects” or young players such as Salty around the majors this year that where deemed ready to break in prior to the season, but whose clubs have sent them back to AAA despite that.

    Aside from Clement, most notable are Jay Bruce of the Reds, who was slated to take over in CF for Josh Hamilton this year, but wound up losing out to Corey Patterson, and Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria, a great hitting prospect who was tabbed by many as the ’08 AL Rookie of the Year favorite. Both of them will start the year in the minors, despite all the potential they offer their organizations – but then again, neither one has seen any playing time in the Majors like Salty has. There is Chicago White Sox third baseman Josh Fields though, who like Salty, saw some playing time last year when Joe Crede was injured, but has lost out to a supposedly healthy Crede this year.

    So apparently, it’s not just the Rangers who are reluctant to play their young players.

    That doesn’t mean I’m any happier about Salty going to AAA – I still don’t think Laird’s trade value will increase anymore than it has already, and I still think Salty’s bat should be in the Majors.

    But there’s another angle to consider: him being down there in AAA also backs up the entire catching situation – it means Taylor Teagarden, who was supposed to start at AAA this year, remains in AA, and Max Ramirez, who was supposed to start in AA, will start in class A Bakersfield. So there’s really more at stake here than just Salty’s development, the entire system is now a little backed up.

    Admittedly, that probably won’t matter too much if Salty is only in AAA for a month or two, but if he’s down there till the All-Star break or the trade deadline, it’s not going to be a good thing for anyone.

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