Results tagged ‘ CJ Wilson ’
Home Opener. Rangers vs. Angels. What a great way to start the season!
I know I’m only going to be lucky enough to see maybe one of the three games on TV, which will be the already highly anticipated pitching match-up of Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver, but still I’m looking forward to the series as a whole. Even though it’s only games 4-6 in a long haul of a season, the Angelenos will get their first chance to see if the revamped Rangers have talent enough to compete with their heavily favored selves in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Rangers get their first chance to see if their pitching staff can neutralize the vaunted Angels offense to any great degree.
For the teams, it’s strictly business. For Rangers fans, though, this weekend will be personal.
It’s not that Rangers fans have really hard feelings about Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels. Sure it didn’t help he went to a rival in the West. What we didn’t really do is begrudge Josh the money. Most of us know the Texas front office didn’t want to give Josh the number of years the Angels did. Most of us agreed with the front office on this one, too, that anything over four years was a risky move.
No, what many of us Rangers fans took offense with was Josh (and his wife) dogging the front office in the media. Then Josh compounded the problem when he didn’t choose his words carefully and appeared to dis Rangers fans as being spoiled and not being a real baseball town.
In one respect, I understand what Josh was saying. The Dallas area is a football town overall. The Dallas Cowboys rule the sports conversation by a wide margin over the Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. But when he goes on to say that any fan that boos him at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington isn’t a real fan and just doesn’t get it, you’ve just made a major misstep, my friend, no matter what city you just left.
If Josh hadn’t said anything, I think he would have received a healthy dose of applause his first time up as a thank you for what he meant to this franchise over the past five years. Instead, he said things (as CJ Wilson did the year before) guaranteed to spur a negative reaction from the home crowd.
For the Rangers, this weekend is business. For the fans, it’s personal.
I’ll be interested in hearing the reaction this afternoon on the radio feed of the game when Josh steps to the plate for the first time. There’s been a movement afoot to try to get the crowd simply to not react at all when Josh steps to the plate. Silence. No applause, no booing. I don’t know if it’ll be pulled off, but it’d be a hoot if it happened.
Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Wash decides to do with Josh. Will he have his pitchers treat him like any other player or will he defer to his former star and do something like intentionally walking him if the game is on the line? Yesterday, Hamilton came to the plate against the Reds with two outs in the 9th and the tying run at second. The Reds pitched to him and Josh struck out to end the game. Will Wash pitch to him in the same circumstances? Later on in the season, he might take the same approach as the Reds. This weekend? In front of the home crowd? I’m not so sure. It may be business as usual for the Rangers, but if they’re to lose a game in the opening series at home, I’m not sure if Wash wants Hamilton to be the difference maker.
Nothing becomes official, of course, until after the World Series concludes. I know the score, though.
The day after a new World Series Champion is crowned, free agency begins. Everyone knows Josh Hamilton will become a free agent. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has already announced Texas will “allow” Josh to shop for the best deal instead of Texas trying to make him a preemptive offer to stay in Arlington.
Josh’s agent has further allowed that after Hamilton has done his shopping, they’ll give the Rangers a chance to top the best offer.
But come on. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. The odds are 99% in favor of Josh Hamilton wearing someone else’s uniform in the 2013 season.
Like CJ Wilson before him, it’s a pretty sure bet the Rangers brain trust already knows the top dollar and contract length they’re willing to give him. More than likely the scenario will be this: The annual dollars won’t be the issue, the length of the contract will be.
Texas would love to have Hamilton back, but I doubt they’re willing to offer him more than four years, unless the fifth year and beyond are for lower dollars with heavy performance incentives. Texas could very well be willing to pay Josh $90 to $100 million over the next four years. But someone else is going to offer five or six years at $110-$125 million. Guess which one he’ll take.
Nope, the Rangers are already preparing for life without Josh. They started the other day by hiring Dave Magadan away from the Red Sox as the new hitting coach. Magadan is very much a Ron Washington philosophy type: do what the game asks you to do. Magadan’s Red Sox teams were known to be patient and took a lot of pitches, something the Rangers stopped doing in 2012, especially Josh Hamilton. He also has a reputation for getting the best out of young batters coming up. This lends credence to the possibility of Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt being on the roster for Opening Day 2013 and pretty much a certainty that Leonys Martin will be on that roster too.
While he wasn’t the only one for whom this was said, Hamilton has never been one to worry too much about instruction. He doesn’t watch much video, he loves swinging at the first pitch. He likes being the guy with the big bat, so much that he’d rather swing for the fences all the time than settle for a solid single even when the game situation calls for the base hit.
This isn’t to hate on Josh because he’s been the spotlight guy that’s led Texas to two World Series appearances. He’s put up MVP numbers in the past and still may in the future. If and when he goes, I won’t tear up or throw away my Josh Hamilton jerseys. Whoever signs Josh, though, know this: When his decline starts (and who knows, it may have started this year), I don’t think it will be pretty. Josh has succeeded because of his pure athleticism. He plays the game all out, which is good. On the other hand, because he trusts his athleticism, he’s also slow to make adjustments. When the inevitable decline comes, it could be a much steeper drop than most players have. But that likely will be someone else’s problem, not the Rangers.
Mike Olt, whose name had constantly been brought up in trade deadline discussions, will join the Rangers tonight for the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels. With AA Frisco, Olt was hitting .288 with 28 homers and 82 RBI. Olt was a first round supplemental pick in the 2010 draft and moved rapidly through the Rangers farm system. His power in the Arizona Fall League last year earned him the promotion to Frisco this year. While strikeout prone, Olt has a good eye at the plate, drawing 60 walks in 95 games this year.
Olt will be replacing Brandon Snyder, who was optioned to AAA Round Rock. This is a case where Snyder didn’t do anything wrong, hitting .281 with 3 homers and 9 RBI as a part-time player. No, Snyder didn’t do anything wrong. Olt has just done a lot of things right and Snyder was the odd man out.
The implications of the move are huge. Olt was drafted as a third baseman and is said to be an outstanding defensive third baseman. The Rangers, however, have the game’s best defensive third baseman already in Adrian Beltre and will have him for the next four years. So there isn’t room for Olt at third. He has played some first base, so here’s where it gets tricky.
Mitch Moreland is the Rangers first baseman, at least against right-handed pitchers. Moreland just returned from the DL and has hits in each of his first three games back. Moreland isn’t going anywhere. So Olt is blocked at third and you can’t imagine he’s being called up simply to be used like Snyder, meaning rarely. No, Olt is being brought up to get some at bats. Those at bats can only be coming two ways: as a platoon first baseman or as a designated hitter. So guess who the Rangers are currently using in that role? None other than the oft-described “Face of the Franchise”, Michael Young.
Young is having what is easily his worst year as a fulltime player. His batting average is hovering around .270. He has only three extra base hits since the All-Star break and no home runs since late May. Largely in the 5 spot of the batting order, Young has only managed 40 RBI. His walk rate has also declined drastically. Even when he hits the ball, he’s had a lot of weak ground balls over the past couple of months.
I don’t see any other way Olt is going to get at bats other than by getting them at the expense of Michael Young. Olt will probably see his first action tonight against CJ Wilson, either as the DH or the first baseman. Young will most likely play tonight as well at whatever position Olt doesn’t play. But what happens after tonight?
I think Olt becomes the platoon first baseman or DH when a left-hander starts. Against righthanders, Young will take a seat on the bench occasionally while Olt plays third and Adrian Beltre gets a DH day. He might DH when Young gives Ian Kinsler a day off to play second. But what happens when Geovany Soto gets the start at catcher? Young could ride pine then as well, so the Rangers can use the power bat of Mike Napoli at DH while Olt plays first.
The Next Generation of Texas Rangers is here. Today it’s Mike Olt. Next season, he will probably be joined by Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez. With last night’s move, even with another year left on his contract, there is no other way to view this than the Rangers have started preparing for a life without Michael Young.
When you talk about the first World Series run by the Rangers, the names that come to mind are Josh Hamilton, American League MVP; Cliff Lee, mid-season acquisition and Yankee Killer in the ALCS; Michael Young, the long-time “Face” of the franchise; and Nelson Cruz, who can carry a team on his back for two-week stretches, including the playoffs.
Those players deservedly got a lot of the press, but another key to the Rangers first run to the pennant were the spare parts. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went on the DL after just two games. Enter last-minute Spring Training acquisition Matt Treanor. Treanor held down the fort so well until the July acquisition of Bengie Molina, Saltalamacchia never again wore a Rangers uniform. Salty was optioned to AAA after coming off the DL, then went to the Red Sox in a September deal.
The Rangers had a winning record during Nelson Cruz’ three trips to the DL in 2010, thanks to the emergence of David Murphy as a viable 4th outfielder. Murphy remains an integral piece of the Rangers today, though speculation grows he’ll become part of a deal sometime this summer.
Ian Kinsler also had two DL stints in 2010. Again, Texas survived just fine, especially in mid-August when Andres Blanco filled in for 19 games and hit .333 with 8 doubles and .818 OPS, playing sterling defense as well.
The pitching staff also had its moments. Rich Harden and Scott Feldman, expected to be the top two rotation pieces, never panned out. It was new acquisition Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, who helped keep the Rangers above-board until the trade for Cliff Lee. Likewise, the bullpen got a boost when Alexi Ogando was recalled from Oklahoma City. All Ogando did was earn wins in his first three relief appearances and ended up being the Rangers 7th inning go-to guy.
The pattern repeated itself in 2011. When center fielder Julio Borbon went down in May with an injury, Endy Chavez was called up from Round Rock, hit .301 in 83 games and banished Borbon to the minors, where he remains today. Ogando again served as a vital piece, this time moving into the starting rotation when off-season signee Brandon Webb proved not ready to go out of Spring Training. Ogando thrived as a starter, making the All-Star team. Yorvit Torrealba was expected to be the primary catcher, until Mike Napoli had an offensive year that nobody saw coming.
The stars propel teams, but the spare parts are often the ones that give winning teams the extra edge. The previous 400 words were all written with Robbie Ross in mind.
Just a year ago today, Ross was pitching for High-A Myrtle Beach. The Rangers 2nd round draft pick in 2008, Ross compiled a 9-4 record with a 2.26 ERA as a starter to earn a late season promotion to AA Frisco. In 6 games with Frisco, Ross was 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Those stats earned Ross an invite to big league camp for Spring Training in 2012.
Ross was expected to do what most rookies his age (21) do. Stick around big league camp for a couple of weeks, mop up a few games, then return to minor league camp, where he would most likely start the season at Frisco, maybe Round Rock if he was lucky.
Ross, however, didn’t recognize his long odds. He just did what he’d been doing since being drafted. He threw strikes. Because he threw strikes, he got outs. There were veteran southpaws in the Rangers camp this year, looking to fill the role vacated by Darren Oliver when he departed for the Blue Jays, chief among them Joe Beimel. He didn’t pitch badly, but a late camp injury ended his chances. Michael Kirkman, who contributed key late-season innings in 2010 but slipped in 2011, was another prime candidate. Kirkman struggled from the outset and has continued to struggle at Round Rock in 2012.
By the time Spring Training was over, Ross had leap-frogged everyone and earned a spot on the Rangers roster. He was expected to be brought around slowly, used in mop-up roles to get his feet wet. Most thought Ross would just hold down the fort until the Rangers either re-signed Mike Gonzalez or traded for another lefty in the pen.
All Ross has done is succeed, in whatever role the Rangers have asked him. Sunday, he was asked to replace another famous spare part, Alexi Ogando. Ogando, who was made a starter again when Derek Holland went on the DL, threw three hitless innings, then strained his groin legging out a bunt single that was supposed to be just a sacrifice bunt. Ross came in and this time threw four innings of 1-hit ball at the Giants and earning the victory. Ross is now 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA. If Ogando goes on the disabled list, Ross could be the Rangers starter this Saturday against the Astros.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t even projected to be in the big leagues until next year at the earliest. Let’s hear it for spare parts!
For all the build-up, Mother Nature made it a no big deal affair.
It was Darvish vs. Wilson in name only. The rains came with one out in the bottom of the first and when play resumed two hours later, CJ Wilson was already done for the night.
Wilson was roundly booed when he popped out of the dugout to start the bottom of the first. I’m not one who agreed with that initial reaction. After all, Wilson did help bring the Rangers to the World Series the past two years. But I do understand the reasons some Texas fans would choose the negative approach.
If you look at baseball like TV’S “Survivor”, CJ is the guy you love to have on your tribe. He’s good at challenges and helps you earn rewards. The thing is, he doesn’t play the social game well. When the game becomes an individual one, you don’t mind taking CJ to the end because you know he won’t get the votes to be the overall winner. The people on the jury just don’t like him.
CJ said the Rangers never really made him an offer in the off-season. That may be true. On the other hand, you’d have a hard time convincing me Wilson would’ve re-signed if the Rangers had matched or slightly topped the Angels offer. Wilson’s a California guy and I think once the Angels entered the bidding he had what he wanted most: the chance to go home. Add in the whole Mike Napoli Twitter scandal and the fact the Angels are division rivals and the atmosphere was as ripe for boos as the gathering clouds were for an outpouring of rain at game time.
CJ didn’t come back out after the rain delay, but apparently is now going to start Game 2 Saturday. I can’t remember officially how long it has been since the same pitcher started two games in a row, but I recall knuckleballer Wilbur Wood started both ends of a doubleheader for the White Sox sometime in the early 70′s.
As to Friday night’s game, it was all Rangers. Another two home runs for Hamilton (I think Hamiltonian is a great way to describe Josh’s blasts). Another oh-fer for Albert. Another win for Yu. An 8 game lead at the end of the night.
The question is, what will CJ do for an encore today?
Colby Lewis today turned in one of the truly weird pitching performances I’ve ever heard (hey, it was a workday with no cable in my office). Here’s what Lewis did in the Rangers Game 1 6-5 loss to the Orioles:
1st Inning: HR, HR, HR, Out, K, K.
2nd Inning: K, K, K.
3rd Inning: K, Out, K.
4th Inning: Out, K, K.
5th Inning: K, Out, Out.
6th Inning: K, Out, Out.
7th Inning: HR, W, HR, HBP, Out, Error, K.
So that’s back-to-back-to-back home runs to start the game, followed by 18 in a row retired, followed by two more homers, a walk and a hit batter.
In the end, Lewis gave up a career-high 5 home runs in the game. He also recorded a career high 12 strikeouts in the game. He’s the first Rangers pitcher since Charlie Hough in 1989 to have a start giving up only five hits, but all of them home runs. A truly weird game.
Also weird: The Rangers came into the doubleheader second in the AL in fielding. The Orioles scored all three of their runs in the second game in the second inning, due to three Texas errors in the inning. Fortunately, Derek Holland threw goose eggs the rest of the way, the offense picked it up in the late innings and Texas came out on top 7-3.
The Rangers ended this 10-game road trip at 5-5, pretty good considering they started it 2-4.
The bullpen was only needed for four innings tonight. That helps heading into the Angels series.
New Ranger Yu Darvish vs. former Ranger CJ Wilson tomorrow night. What a match-up, and I won’t be able to see it. Friday games are only available on local TV in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so I’ll have to be content with the radio feed. Big weekend coming up. More important for the Angels than the Rangers, but you can bet Texas will come out like they’re the ones with something to prove.
It took four starts, but Rangers fans have finally seen the future, and the future is Yu.
Yu Darvish pitched his first gem as a pitcher in the United States, dominating the Yankees in a 2-0 win. Darvish got stronger as he went, getting all three outs in the seventh via strikeout. For the night, he gave up seven hits in 8.1 innings with two walks and ten strikeouts. Darvish’s fastball, in the lower 90′s most of the night, was hitting 95 in the 8th inning.
This was the pitcher the Rangers paid over $100 million for in the off-season and tonight he showed why Texas was willing to shell out that kind of money when they could have gotten CJ Wilson to come back for less.
The key to the game came early, in the third inning. Nursing a 1-0 lead, Eric Chavez got the Yankees first hit of the night with a clean single to right. Russell Martin followed with a walk. Derek Jeter proceeded to lay down a bunt down the first base side. Darvish started signalling for first baseman Mitch Moreland to field it, but by the time he realized the play was his alone, it was too late. Jeter was on first with a bunt single and the bases were loaded with nobody out. With a 2-2 count, Darvish threw a 78 mile per hour slider that froze Curtis Granderson in his tracks for strike three. One out. Two pitches later, Darvish got A-Rod to ground to third for a 5-3 double play. End of inning, end of threat.
The Yankees would get a runner to second in the 4th and the 5th, but the threat ended almost as soon as it began. One sequence to Nick Swisher in the 4th stood out. Darvish got a called first strike on a curve Swisher thought was out of the zone. The umpire disagreed and it set Swisher up for the rest of the at bat. Another curve had Swisher feeling he had to swing. He missed. Strike two. An almost identical pitch came next. Swisher swung and missed again for strike three.
When Darvish gave up a one out single to Swisher in the 9th, he left to thunderous applause from 47,000 plus fans. Joe Nathan came in, threw one pitch and got a game-ending double play for his fifth save and Darvish’s third win.
To be sure, the Yankees Hiroki Kuroda pitched a good game too. Only problem was, Kuroda gave up two runs, the first on an Ian Kinsler lead-off home run in the 1st.
In another highlight, Elvis Andrus’ behind the bag snare of a Russell Martin grounder followed by a full turnaround and strike to first was his 212th consecutive chance without an error, a new Rangers record for a shortstop. Elvis has been known to make mental errors leading to bad throws on easy plays, but he’s been mentally sharp all season long so far and has played flawlessly in the field.
Monday’s loss to the Yankees was tolerable because of the ceremonies honoring Ivan Rodriguez’ retirement. One night later, a rookie had his official coming out party. Life is good in Arlington, Texas.
It’s great getting off to a 5-2 start, ESPECIALLY when your expected closest competitor, the Angels, stumble out of the gate at 2-4.
But Rangers fans are glass half empty kind of people. There’s always danger lurking in the shadows. So it is that a nice successful homestand has the home fans happy, yet already worried about one thing: Joe Nathan.
The way they see it is this: Were it not for Joe Nathan, Texas would be 7-0 right now instead of 5-2. Nathan has taken both of the Rangers’ 2012 losses thus far and accounted Wednesday for their first blown save of the year. They will also turn to the fact Thursday’s afternoon finale against the Mariners had Mike Adams picking up the save and not Nathan as a sign the Rangers are already regretting their decision to sign the former Twins closer to a two-year deal.
While I’m not thrilled that both losses have come with Nathan in the game, I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button yet, the way the Rangers did two years ago when Frank Francisco blew his first two save opportunities and was replaced in the first week by Neftali Feliz.
In Francisco’s case, he had been somewhat inconsistent in 2009 as well, splitting closing chores with CJ Wilson. The Rangers were in their first year with high expectations and they were quick to pull the trigger on Francisco.
In Nathan’s case, while he has lost both the Rangers games thus far, he also has saved two games, both in impressive fashion. While Wednesday’s blown save and loss was a true clunker (3 runs in one inning pitched), his first loss was in a tie game with one misplaced pitch being punished. He wasn’t brought in to the 9th inning Thursday because it would have been three straight games for him to pitch, with the third being a day game after a night game.
A two-year contract means Nathan will be given some slack by Rangers management to get it together. Meanwhile, Adams and Alexi Ogando remain ready as quality back-up plans should Nathan continue to struggle. With solutions like that, this isn’t a bad problem to have.
The first road series of the year begins tonight in Minnesota. The Twins aren’t expected to do much in 2012, but playing in Minnesota has been problematic for these Rangers over the past couple of years, whether it be at the old Metrodome or the new Target Field. The Twins took two of three at home against the Angels, so Texas can’t take anything for granted.
If there’s a save to be garnered tonight, though, Joe Nathan will get first crack at it.
Think Red Sox-Yankees is intense? It looks like Rangers-Angels is starting to heat up.
Before even playing a regular season game in 2012, we’be already seen the following:
1) CJ Wilson tweeted Mike Napoli’s phone number.
2) The Rangers decided not to start Yu Darvish against the Angels in exhibition play Sunday, pitching him instead in a minor league game.
3) The Angels quickly followed suit, pulling Wilson from starting Sunday against his old team and pitching a minor league game himself.
The regular season is two weeks away, but it sure looks like the games, or at least the gamesmanship, has already started.
After 42 years of watching this game and being a fan of this team, there’s one thing I’ve learned about Spring Training: Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
When a veteran player says he’s in the best shape of his life, don’t believe it. When coaches say so and so has been the best pitcher in camp thus far, don’t mentally pencil him in to your starting five for the season. Most of all, when you hear great things about a rookie, resist the temptation, at all costs, of declaring him Rookie of the Year or even Cooperstown bound before he’s even played a regular season game.
Needless to say, I’ve learned how not to drink the Kool-Aid over the past 42 years. I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised by someone, like Mike Napoli in 2011, than bitterly disappointed, like with Rich Harden in 2010.
A few days ago, the Rangers coaches said Koji Uehara has had the best stuff of any pitcher in camp thus far. Uehara had an outstanding season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011. He had a terrible end of season with the Texas Rangers in 2011. He also kept the Rangers from trading him twice in the off-season. In other words, I don’t care how good Koji looks in camp right now. I’m not going to be a Koji fan until he pitches for Texas the way he did for Baltimore or he finally allows the Rangers to trade him.
Ditto Nelson Cruz. Yesterday, Nellie gave the often heard “I’m in the best shape of my life” speech and said he’s ready to put his hamstring problems behind him for good. Yes, I’ve read Nellie came to camp some 20 pounds leaner, that he did off-season workouts specifically to improve the durability of his hammies, etc. Again, I’ve learned. Cruz has had five DL trips over the past two seasons, all due to his hamstrings. I will not drink this Kool-Aid until Nellie appears in his 140th game of the regular season for the first time. Until then, I’m expecting at least on DL trip for him in 2012.
Yes, when it comes to Spring Training hype, I am known as Mr. Skeptic. So imagine my surprise, in the midst of all my disbelief, that somehow I am totally buying in to the man who has yet to throw a pitch in a major league game and is still a week away from throwing his first pitch in a Spring Training game. Yep, I am officially drinking the Yu Darvish Kool-Aid.
So when I listen to MLB Radio and hear Kevin Kennedy predicting a 13 win season for Darvish, I talk back to the radio and say, “You’re crazy!” When I hear commentators say it will be a rough transition to the American game, I call BS. And when I hear every Rangers minor league hitter who’s stood in against him at batting practice talk about what great stuff he has and how Darvish is going to win a lot of games for Texas, I buy it 100%. Not an ounce of disagreement in my mind.
Why? Because I trust the Rangers front office of Jon Daniels and his staff. They have been on a roll the last few years and I can’t see them committing this much money to an unproven MLB player if they weren’t pretty dang sure it was a good bet.
If Texas didn’t think Yu Darvish was going to perform better than CJ Wilson over the next six years, they would’ve made Wilson a much more substantial offer than they did. Will Darvish do better than Wilson in 2012? Maybe, maybe not. But if JD & Company think Yu will do better over the next six years than CJ, I believe it.
So when minor leaguer Ryan Stausberger says: “Faced
#Darvish today. He’s got some wins in him for us this year”. And Jake Skole adds: “filthy stuff Awesome addition to #rangernation“. And when reports say he’s reaching out to bond with his teammates and working at fitting in instead of standing out? I buy it. 100%.
Put me squarely in the Darvish camp in 2012. Reports are he’s already talking to teammates in English. And Spanish. My last post was having fun with his Japanese tweets. Now he (or someone translating for him) is issuing tweets in English.
Will Darvish win more than 13 games for the Rangers, as Kennedy predicted? I think so. He may not win 20, but 15 is in reach. And here’s the REALLY weird thing. While I’m not willing venture much above 15 in predicted wins, I have had this funny feeling for weeks now that we may see a Darvish no-hitter sometime in 2012.
Yep, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I hope it tastes as sweet in October as it is right now.