Results tagged ‘ Tommy Hunter ’

What If Koji Uehara…?

In 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, Koji Uehara threw 47 innings, allowing only 25 hits, walked a mere 8 batters and struck out 62. He allowed only 9 earned runs and had a 1.72 ERA.

In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.

In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.

In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.

Why?

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.

Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.

The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.

If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.

If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: Davis, Hunter Sent To O’s For Uehara

While all eyes were on the Rangers in their pursuit of the PadresHeath Bell, the asking price from San Diego might have been too high. Instead of Bell, the Boys From Arlington instead went to the AL East today and picked up Koji Uehara in exchange for two major leaguers, Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter.

Uehara is a soft thrower, but has a 7.75 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio and opponents are hitting a miniscule .152 against him this year. Since Hunter is involved in the trade, a roster move won’t be necessary to make room for Uehara. Indeed, the trade actually opens up another roster spot on the offense.

While I understand they were both expendable in terms of the overall make-up of this Rangers team, I will miss both Hunter and Davis, especially Chris Davis. Tommy Hunter has a place in my heart because he was the starting pitcher in the first World Series game I ever got to attend, picking up the loss in Game 4 against the Giants. He was a major factor for the Rangers in 2010, winning 13 games in 17 decisions. Still, Hunter started 2010 on the DL before coming back in June. This year, he was all set to be the 4th starter in the rotation when he pulled a groin muscle in his last spring training start. Then, he pulled the same muscle again while on a rehab assignment in Round Rock. By the time he finally came back, Alexi Ogando was firmly entrenched in the 4 hole and Hunter was relegated to the bullpen. Hunter’s overall fitness regimen has been questioned, not surprising because he is a heavyset young man.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Chris Davis

Davis is one of those guys you can’t help but root for, even when he drives you nuts with the pitches he chooses to swing at (the closest equivalent for a Rangers fan would be Pete Incaviglia). I’ve always liked Chris, but he’s in the situation he’s in because he couldn’t take advantage of his opportunities. Davis torched his way through the minors and forced his way onto the big league roster in 2008 with his prodigious power. He teased us with his potential. When he came to Texas at the midway point of the season, Davis hit .285 in 80 games with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 55 RBI. Yes, he struck out a lot (88 K’s vs. 84 hits on the year), but one could live with the K’s if power like that continued.

Davis entered 2009 as THE choice to man first base for the Rangers and hopes were high entering the season. Sadly, Davis played himself right back into the minors. It’s not that he did horribly- in 113 games, he hit .238 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. The thing is, that’s how the season ended. When Davis was sent down to the minors on July 5th, he was down to .202 with 52 hits and 114 strikeouts with just 17 walks. When he came back in late August, Davis hit over .300 the rest of the way to recover to that .238 final. Again, a teaser to make Rangers fans hopeful for 2010.

Last year, hopes were high for a Rangers AL West championship, with Davis anchoring first base on a potent offensive team. Defensively, Davis was getting very favorable reviews as one of the better first basemen in the league. Offensively, things kept getting worse. This time it would take less than a month for Rangers brass to make a move. Hitting a lowly .188 on April 22nd with no homers and just 1 RBI, Davis was sent back to the minors to make way for highly regarded prospect Justin Smoak.

Smoak didn’t make anyone forget Davis’ defense, but offensively he was an improvement, albeit not by much. Davis’ career with Texas may have been over at that point, except Smoak became the linchpin in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to the Rangers July 10th. Davis came back up to the cheers of the Arlington faithful (seriously, you should have heard the applause he received in his first at bat when he came back). With another chance to prove himself, Davis spent the month of July doing almost exactly what he did in April- a .189 average, 0 homers and 2 RBI. Again, he was sent down, this time in favor of rookie Mitch Moreland.

Since that date, Davis has been unable to do anything to change the Rangers’ mind on him. To his credit, he has done everything the Rangers have asked him to do. He’s kept his head up and worked hard to earn another chance. The problem this time has been that Moreland has done nothing to merit having the first base job taken away from him. Davis has burned up AAA Round Rock this year and had three different stints with the parent club, one lasting all of one game. The most recent was a week ago, when he was recalled to play third base with Adrian Beltre going on the DL.

Still, Davis’ days with the Rangers had appeared to be numbered, the only question being when he would become part of a trade. That trade happened today.

I truly hope Davis makes the most of his opportunity with the Orioles. He works hard, plays a mean first base and has the power potential to make a mark on the league. Maybe playing for a club that still has a way to go before being in playoff contention will help, as he’ll probably be given more of a chance to prove himself.

As for me, I hope Uehara makes me forget about Hunter and Davis quickly.

Trade Targets

As the trade deadline fast approaches, I’ve read all kinds of speculation of who the Rangers are going after. Among the prominent names are Mike Adams and Heath Bell of the Padres, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, maybe even a starter along the lines of Matt Garza of the Cubs. Carlos Beltran of the Mets has been mentioned as an offensive possibility, but it appears doubtful the Rangers have any interest in changing up their offensive line-up.

A lot has also been written about the minor league players the Rangers are likely to give up in making any trade. Among those names listed as “untouchable” among Rangers prospects are Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez.

What’s been mentioned less and what may bear looking into is this: are there any players on the current Rangers 25-man roster who could be leaving in the next two weeks in a trade?

Minor leaguers are sure to be changing hands, but chances are at least one major league player will be leaving Arlington. It happened a year ago when Justin Smoak was the player that ended up bringing Cliff Lee to Texas instead of sending him to the Yankees.

The idea of losing a member of the major league roster was less likely a couple weeks ago, when Julio Borbon was being talked about as a major bargaining chip while he was rehabbing in Round Rock. Unfortunately, Borbon has just had ankle surgery and is unlikely to be anything but a minor piece of any trade, if at all. Chris Davis is also down on the farm in Round Rock and the odds are pretty good he’ll be included in a trade, with San Diego a definite possibility as a destination.

On the current major league roster, though, there also exists a possibility of 4th/5th outfielder David Murphy being moved. Murphy was a valuable part of the 2010 team and remains valuable today, although the performances of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry has meant less need for Josh Hamilton to play center and that has lowered Murphy’s playing time.

Yorvit Torrealba‘s name could come up in a trade. He’s a proven starting catcher and, while he’s performed fairly well for Texas in his first year here, Mike Napoli has performed much better than expected behind the plate, he has more power and a much higher on-base percentage than Torrealba. Thus, the R’s might be willing to let him go and, instead of the current 60-40 playing arrangement, make Napoli the regular catcher with Taylor Teagarden as strictly a back-up.  

It would be a surprise, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Nelson Cruz become part of a deal. Cruz has 21 HR and 58 RBI this year, yet most regular watchers would agree Cruz just hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate most of the year and is striking out much more frequently.

On the pitching side, Derek Holland‘s name has come up in trade talks. Holland has great potential, as judged by his two consecutive shutouts recently. He’s also been inconsistent with his command all year, making it possible the Rangers would be willing to part with him if they got the right starter in return. I’d hate to see it, but would understand the reason if it were to happen.

Other than those four, I don’t see any other Rangers being part of a trade package. Texas is looking to upgrade the bullpen especially, so it’s doubtful another team would want any of the Texas relievers not named Feliz, although maybe Scott Feldman or Tommy Hunter, both bullpen parts who have had some success starting could be of possible interest. Darren O’Day, currently at Round Rock, is another pitcher with previous major league success that could go elsewhere. Feldman and O’Day in particular have higher priced contracts, thus lowering their trade potential.

Those are the players on the current roster who could go elsewhere in a trade. The next question would be, who are the most likely players to get dropped from the roster to make room for new players coming in? That’s a subject for another day.

No Baker’s Dozen: Angels 9, Rangers 8

If the Rangers had won Wednesday night, Twitter followers already know how this story would open up: with a reference to a baker’s dozen cooked up in the “Dutch” oven- signifying a Derek Holland win.

Sadly, it was not to be. The second longest win streak in Texas Rangers history came to a sad end at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a game that just plain hurt.

It isn’t that the Rangers lost. I can deal with that, especially after such a lengthy winning streak. I can even handle that the R’s gave up nine runs in the game after only giving up only eight in the previous seven games combined.

No, what hurt about this one was the Rangers handled one of the two Angels aces in Dan Haren and still lost the game. When you face someone of the caliber of Haren and you send him to an early shower, you want to come out of the game with a W, but Derek Holland (and maybe even more so Tommy Hunter) couldn’t seal the deal. That’s what hurt.

Holland had his control but didn’t have his command last night and his consecutive scoreless inning streak came to a quick end when the Angels plated three in the first. Dutch settled down after that, throwing goose eggs from the second through the fifth. Meanwhile, Texas teed off on Haren. By the time the dust had settled, the Rangers were heading to the bottom of the 6th with a lead of 8-3.

 Then the wheels came off the bus. Holland only managed one out in the 6th, giving way to Hunter as the Angels creeped back to 8-6. In between the second and third outs recorded, Hunter allowed five straight Angels to reach base and the 6th ended the way the game did, with the home team on top 9-8.

While the game was still in progress, I went online to peruse how the Texas minor league affiliates were doing on the night. The last two nights, the farm clubs have been a combined 9-3. When I saw the Round Rock Express had given up a 7-spot in the 9th to lose 14-11, while the Frisco Roughriders lost a 1-0 heartbreaker, I got the feeling this wasn’t going to be the night for my boys.

Michael Young made it interesting in the 9th with a two out double down the line, while pinch runner Craig Gentry brought the tying run to 3rd on a wild pitch. The game ended, though, with a once-again slumping Nelson Cruz swinging and missing at strike three to end the game.

The series closes out with a day game and a great pitching match-up: CJ Wilson vs. Jered Weaver. Time for a new winning streak to start!

 

 

Definition Of A Well-Rested Bullpen

Below are the current members of the Texas Rangers bullpen and when they last pitched, as of 7/18/11:

Pitcher                                                Last Pitched

Arthur Rhodes                                      July 4

Yoshinori Tateyama                          July 6

Tommy Hunter                                    July 9

Darren Oliver                                       July 9

Scott Feldman                                     July 14 (Activated from DL. Hasn’t appeared in a game since activation)

Mark Lowe                                            July 17 (Only 2 2/3 IP since July 4)

Neftali Feliz                                          July 17 (Only 5 1/3 IP since July 4)

Only Lowe and Feliz have appeared in a game since play resumed after the All-Star break. All told, the seven members of the Rangers relief corps have only thrown 17 innings TOTAL in the last 14 days.  Rangers starters have compiled 82 IP in the same time frame.  In the last 11 games, all Rangers wins, the opposition has gone scoreless 4 times and scored just one run twice. Being a reliever for the Rangers is a good gig to have right now.

 

The News Gets Out Fast, Tweet Tweet, Tweet Tweet

Having become a recent Twitterer (@RangersBlogger if you want to “follow” me), I have just recently come to realize how quickly news spreads through the Twitterverse compared to the real world.
Take Tommy Hunter, for example. Remember Tommy Hunter? Big, beefy guy. Won 13 games for the Rangers in 2010. Started Game 4 of the World Series (the game I was at!). Hasn’t been heard from in 2011 due to not one, but TWO pulled groins- one at the end of Spring Training, the other on his last pitch of a rehab outing. Oh, yeah, that guy!
Hunter has been making rehab starts at AAA Round Rock for the last couple of weeks. Today it was announced he would be pitching tonight for Round Rock- in relief. Further, all his rehab appearances from here on out will be in relief.
Ladies and gentlemen, within a span of three minutes, this tidbit had reached my Twitter In-Box from no fewer than six sources I follow. This is now news because it gives every indication that the Rangers brass has decided Hunter’s role with the big league club in 2011 will be in the bullpen. This is a nod to the job Alexi Ogando has done as a starter in Hunter’s place. Now the question is, will Hunter serve in short relief or long relief/spot starter duty?
Best guess here is that Hunter will be used as a 2-inning guy, in there to get Texas through the 7th inning before making way for Mark Lowe, Darrin Oliver and maybe Darren O’Day in the 8th. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of pitcher you’d use for one inning two out of every three games.
Speculation is also running rampant in Ranger Land that Derek Holland‘s days as a starter in 2011 may be coming to a close, as Hunter’s fellow rehabber Scott Feldman has had two pretty good outings at Round Rock. Not sure yet how I feel about that. At some point, the Rangers have to stick with a plan for Holland instead of yanking him back and forth. On the other hand, Feldman won 17 for the Rangers in 2009. If he can come close to that form, he’s a definite asset as a starter. As they say on 1st place teams, this is a good problem to have.
One other note from the minors: Chris Davis has been playing left field lately down at Round Rock. While some may say this is another way the Rangers have of increasing Davis’ trade value, I think it’s more indicative the Rangers may be trading David Murphy before the deadline, bringing Davis back to the bigs after it happens. Davis has more power potential than Murph and if he shows he can cover left field even close to what Murphy has, it would make more sense to have Davis there.
Ten minutes away from the first pitch of Texas-Houston Game 3 at RBIA. Looking forward to a sweep!

The Natural

Alexi Ogando, Pitching God!

For a brief inning or two, Alexi Ogando actually looked mortal.

The man who entered the game at 6-0 with an ERA in the low 2′s and a WHIP below 1 struggled with his command from the outset. He was touched for a solo home run in the 1st, albeit on a pretty decently located fastball. He went to three ball counts on a number of hitters, one even culminating in a walk. No, this was not the Alexi Ogando Texas Rangers fans have come to know and love.

Then the Rangers took the lead.

From the time Texas scored 4 runs in the third to the time his night came to a close in the 8th inning, Alexi Ogando was the same nearly flawless pitcher he’s been all season long. Now Alexi Ogando is the only starting pitcher in the bigs to start the 2011 season at 7-0.

For those who don’t know the story of Alexi Ogando, he was originally an outfielder in the A’s system. Then he got caught up in a scheme to get illegals into the country, agreeing to marry someone so she could get to the US on his work visa. Ogando was caught in the web and his work visa was denied. After the A’s released him, the Rangers saw potential in him as a pitcher. Ogando spent years in the Dominican Summer Leagues, pitching to teenagers while hoping to get his visa reinstated. It took years, but it finally came to fruition last year for Ogando and Omar Beltre.

After an apprenticeship at AAA Oklahoma City, Ogando came to the bigs last summer as a reliever. He was the winning pitcher of record in each of his first three outings, plus he had a hit in his first at bat. Three appearances. 3-0, a 0.00 ERA and a 1.000 batting average.

Roy Hobbs- Alexi Ogando Impersonator?

Ogando was supposed to be the 8th inning set-up man in 2011, but Tommy Hunter‘s strained groin at the very end of Spring Training ended that. Pressed into service as an emergency starter, Alexi Ogando hasn’t looked back. Even Rangers fans keep waiting for Ogando to regress, but it just never seems to happen. At this point, considering the twists and turns his path to the majors has taken, I’d say Alexi Ogando is the pitching version of Roy Hobbs in “The Natural”.

Thanks to Ogando’s strong pitching, the Rangers salvaged the final game of the three game home stand against the Tigers. It sucks to lose the series, but the Mariners didn’t gain any ground and Texas actually put another game’s distance between the Rangers and the Angels and A’s.

Now it’s on to the longest road trip of the year- ten games starting with a 4-game set against the Twins in Minneapolis. Minnesota swept the Rangers at home in 2010 in their inaugural year at Target Field. This year’s Twins don’t bear any resemblance to last year’s playoff team, however. They have been playing a little better of late so, for most of you who know me, I am far from overconfident. Still, it would be nice to put those demons of last year to bed right away.

I only wish Alexi Ogando was scheduled to pitch one of those games.

What Goes Around Comes Around: Yankees 2 Wins, Rangers 1 Win

I have to confess: I did something Sunday that I have never done while attending a Texas Rangers game: I left early.

Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with the final ugly score. I actually left while it the game was still within reach at 6-5, with the Yankees on top. No, I left because it was Mother’s Day and, after the game, we still had a three-hour drive ahead of us in order to have a Mother’s Day dinner with our Texas kids. As much as I love the Rangers, family still comes first!

Sunday’s series finale was a hot one with occasional breezes taking some of the edge off those of us sitting in the left field foul line seats. The game started out well, with a combination of CC Sabathia walks and horrid Yankees defense contributing to a 3 run first and, after two, the Rangers sported a 4-0 lead on the Bronx ace. Meanwhile, fill-in starter Dave Bush (oh, how I wanted to see Alexi Ogando pitching this game) surprised most Rangers fans with two quick efficient innings.

The Yankees bit back with two runs in the third and added another pair in the 5th, tying things up at 4. Texas brought in Arthur Rhodes in the 7th, who immediately gave up back to back jacks by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to make it a 6-4 Yankees lead. Jeter must have gotten some great Gatorade on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had no steals and three extra base hits all year (all doubles). Sunday, he stole his first base and jacked two out of the park. I’d say more nice things about him, but the guy three rows in front of me wearing the Jeter shirt keeps me from doing so. Said fan kept pointing to himself after both home runs, generally trying to take credit for it all like he hit the homers himself. Sorry, dude, your guy would’ve gotten more love from me if not for you!

I really thought we might have a comeback in us when Texas chased Sabathia with a run in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-5. Joba Chamberlain came close to giving up home runs to Michael Young and Mike Napoli, but both were caught on the warning track. After the 7th, it quickly got ugly. Fortunately, I didn’t witness the carnage of the 8th.

When the smoke cleared, my second live game was a complete mirror of my first game of 2011. That one saw the Rangers beat the Red Sox 12-5. This one saw the Rangers lose 12-5. Texas had four home runs in the Red Sox win. The Yankees had four bombs in their win. Adrian Beltre had a grand slam in the Red Sox game, Francisco Cervelli had one in the Yankees game.

It was a shame, becase the Yankees really did not look that great in the field (4 errors and it probably should’ve been 5) or even on the mound, but that’s just how bad the Rangers are playing right now.

It would be easy to say the Rangers never should have brought Rhodes in to start the 7th. At 42, he’s not a pitcher you should be bringing in on back to back days, let alone when it’s a day game following a night game. Unfortunately, the Rangers bullpen is a mess these days, and there really wasn’t a good alternative.

Now, after Monday’s 7-2 loss to Oakland, the defending AL Champs find themselves a pedestrian 18-18 and in 3rd place in the AL West. This team is just not playing well right now. The hitters are pressing, the defense is pressing, the bullpen is failing and the starting pitching is inconsistent. To top it off, it was hopeful that Tommy Hunter was about ready to return to the Rangers, but then he tweaked his groin again on the final pitch of his rehab start at Round Rock Monday. Now it’s time for an MRI and it could be another month before he’s ready to return.

These are the times that try fans’ souls.

Looking For Silver Linings: A’s 3 Games, Rangers 1 Game

After the euphoric three game home sweep of the Royals, the Rangers celebrated by dropping three of four at home against the Blue Jays, and now three of four on the road to the A’s.

It’s been aparticularly gruesome time to be watching Texas Rangers baseball. The starting pitching that was so strong in the early going has encountered some problems, particularly Matt Harrison or, as one web site so aptly put it, “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Harrison.” As good as Harrison’s first three starts were, his last two have been the polar opposite, including Sunday’s 1 2/3 inning, four run debacle.

It would be easy to lay much of the blame on the lack of Josh Hamilton in the line-up, but the reigning AL MVP doesn’t have anything to do with the Texas defense committing 18 errors in the last 12 games. Even a defensive whiz like Elvis Andrus has been affected. He’s up to 7 errors already on the young season, putting him on pace for almost 40 errors (Elvis had 21 a year ago). As much as I ragged on Michael Young in a previous post for his abysmal D at first base when he plays there, EVERYONE is joing the E parade. Outfielders, infielders, pitchers. If there was a way for the DH to commit an error, right now the Rangers would find a way to do it.

Even without Hamilton, this should be a potent line-up, but the offense is bipolar as well. Sandwiched in between a one and two run performance against the A’s was an 11-run outburst in the second game of the set. The problem has been, outside of Young, nobody is hitting with any consistency, although Elvis is starting to hit a little better. But the biggest culprit to the Rangers offensive inconsistency is Nelson Cruz. The boomstick has fizzled. Since Hambone went down, the Rangers #5 hitter has sputtered, hitting a weak .203 with 26 strikeouts in only 77 at bats. It’s awfully tough to get a sustained rally going when your biggest power hitter is barely contributing.

Still, I take comfort in the following:

1) The Red Sox, who lost three in a row to the Rangers and almost lost three in a row to the Mariners, are an astounding 5-0 against the Angels this year, helping the Rangers stay tied for the AL West top spot at 16-13.

2) That 16-13 record is a game better than the Rangers’ mark a year ago, and we all know where Texas went from there.

3) It’s pretty funny watching the message boards at the other Rangers sites, where the Michael Young haters are really digging deep to explain why the only consistent offensive force right now for Texas is still somebody the team could easily do without. Even I have to admit that, despite his defensive shortcomings, Young played a GREAT defensive game at second base in Monday’s series closing loss.

4) Chris Davis still doesn’t have an RBI for the Rangers this year, but he’s not stinking up the joint in his latest stint. Since striking out in three of his first four at bats, Davis has since gone 4-13 with two doubles, three walks and only two K’s. I still think Texas would be better served with another outfielder on the roster as opposed to Davis, but he is being productive in his limited playing time.

5) Seeing the young pitchers get an opportunity in important situations. Cody Eppley, Ryan Tucker and Pedro Strop have all gotten some meaningful innings. Strop has command issues, but has also gotten out of some jams of his own making. Eppley has given up only a solo home run in his first four appearances. Tucker struck out the side in his first outing against the A’s on Friday and gave up an unearned run in his second outing on Sunday. While the bullpen is in desperate need of Neftali Feliz coming off the DL on Friday to close games out, these three show the loss of Darren O’Day as a 6th/7th inning righthander might not be as severe a loss as initially thought.

6) CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland all had pretty good starts against the A’s. Not great, but pretty good. Harrison has posed a problem, but there’s been good news reported on the rehabbing Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman. Help could be on the way soon.

7) Osama’s gone bye bye.

Three games against the Mariners to close out the road trip. Lay an egg in Seattle and I might not be seeing quite so many silver linings. Still, it’s pretty easy to see that, with better defense and Nelson Cruz coming out of his slump, this team could improve a lot very quickly. It’d be great if it started tonight.

Brain Freezes: Rangers 7-2, Blue Jays 6-5

If you were to conduct a poll of Texas Rangers fans as the month of April comes to a close, you would probably get near unanimous agreement on this statement: The Rangers are the worst first place team in the majors.

 

After dropping three of four to the Blue Jays, it’s easy to see why we’d feel that way. With injuries to Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day along with the general ineffectiveness of Mark Lowe and Michael Kirkman, the Texas pitching staff bears little resemblance to the corps that dispatched the Rays in 5 games and the Yankees in 6 to get to their first World Series. Already, the Rangers have used almost as many pitchers in the month of April (17) as they used in the entire 2010 season (22).

 

Offensively, Josh Hamilton has missed half of the first 25 games of the season. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and Julio Borbon are all off to slow starts at the plate. And, as was prominently on display in Thursday’s series wrap-up with the Blue Jays, mental errors have been piling up. Thursday alone, Kinsler missed an easy double play chance, allowing a Jays runner to safely reach second. Fortunately, that didn’t cost the Rangers. It just might have cost them the go-ahead run when Kinsler led off the 5th with a double and promptly got picked off second base. I don’t have the stats, but I know Texas baserunners have been picked off at least four times already this season- David Murphy twice.

 

Nothing topped the mental lapses of the 9th inning Thursday when first, Adrian Beltre committed his first error of the season on an easy grounder, bringing home an insurance run. Then, when time hadn’t been called, the Jays’ Jose Bautista made a mistake taking off for 3rd when it was already occupied. Instead of getting an easy out and getting out of the inning with no further damage done, Darren Oliver threw the ball past second and into center field, allowing the 5th and final run to score.

 

And yet, through all the bleakness, the Rangers are still in first place in the AL West. With a successful West Coast swing for seven games against the A’s and the Mariners, they could even put some more distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.

 

To do that, though, they’ll have to get their heads back into the game. It’s been woefully lacking of late.

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