The Rangers traded minor leaguer pitcher Jose Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 26-year-old reliever Dustin Nippert. Nippert is a big boy at 6’8 and weighing in at 225 lbs. and has a hard fastball, but struggled this spring, posting an 0-2 mark with a 14.40 ERA in eight appearances. He gave up 24 hits in 10 innings with 14 walks and eight strikeouts. Marte was 4-4 with a 5.23 pitching in Class A ball last season.
The Rangers have one place left on there roster and are looking to fill it with a pitcher for the bullpen. Right-hander Wes Littleton and Robinson Tejeda had been competing for that final spot, but Nippert is looking to slip in and take it away from both of them. The Rangers are clearly still looking to improve there bullpen by bringing in Nippert, so if he makes the final roster spot look for him to try to prove himself as a good go to guy.
As spring play comes to an end, managers have to make tough decisions. This was one of them. Ranger’s Manager Ron Washington made a decision for who is going to be the starting catcher for the 2008 season. After much debate, starting catcher from last season Gerald Laird beat out 22-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the starting spot, which will mean that the young catcher will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma. It was Laird’s starting spot to lose and he played good this spring batting .293 with four homers and 11 rbi’s, where as Saltalamacchia wasn’t horrible but didn’t keep up with Laird, batting .250 with eight rbi’s. Laird’s poor offensive performance last season gave Saltalamacchia a chance to take the starting spot but proved he can still play at a higher level then the 22-year-old. The young catcher talked to the Dallas News about the unfortunate event, “I’m a little disappointed because I did everything I possibly could. I left it on the field, but at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough. That upsets you. But I’ll take it and go to Triple-A, and be an MVP there.” I mean at least he has a good mentality about it. I always thought he was going to take the job but after this spring you see that he still is not ready to do that. He’s very young and has still a lot of time to learn and thats very good for the Ranger’s franchise.
Pitchers Sidney Ponson and Elizardo Ramirez were assigned to Minor League Camp on Saturday. Ponson started his second game this spring, but left the game in the top of the fourth with a mild right ankle sprain. He finished the game pitching three innings with three hits but no earned runs, strikeouts, or walks. Ponson finished his spring training with a 1-0 record and a 4.91 ERA.
The 25 year-old Ramirez didn’t give up any runs this spring in eight appearances and finishing up with a 1-0 record as well, along with one save and had seven strikeouts to only one walk. The right-hander has a lot of potential, but will not be on the roster come the opener. Look to see him in the bullpen sometime through the year.
Eddie Guardado had one of the more unfortunate outings when he pitched against the Chicago Cubs yesterday. Although the Rangers beat the Cubs 5-4, Eddie came in the fifth inning and pitched to four hitters giving up two hits, two earned runs, one home run, and his first blown save this spring. To go along with his poor performance, he limped off the mound with what he later found out as a strained left knee tendon. The injury is not considered serious.
Guardado’s injury puts another name on the list of injured pitchers. A day earlier it had been Vicente Padilla, who left the game with a pulled muscle. They join Brandon McCarthy (out at least a month with forearm inflammation), Kevin Millwood (sore hamstring), Joaquin Benoit (weak arm) and C.J. Wilson (biceps tendinitis). The Rangers are hopeful the only injured pitcher who will miss time during the regular season is McCarthy, who will likely be out 4-6 weeks.
On a more positive note, Jason Jennings threw three good innings while trying to earn himself a rotation spot and Sidney Ponson pitched his Rangers debut throwing two hitless innings and getting the win.
This is a small minor league deal but the Rangers have signed pitcher Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract and an invitation to join the team at camp in Arizona on Monday. Ponson is a 31 year-old right-hander that had a disappointing seven starts for Minnesota last year going 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA. This gives the Rangers another option to look in to while they go over the health of the current pitchers on the roster. He has a career record of 82-101 with a 4.94 ERA in 245 starts over 10 seasons with Baltimore, San Francisco, St. Louis, the New York Yankees and Minnesota.
The Rangers also invited right-hander Doug Mathis to spring training. A 13th-round draft pick by Texas three years ago, Mathis was 11-7 with a 3.76 ERA at Double-A Frisco last year.
The Rangers improved their spring training record to 4-1 today when they beat the San Francisco Giants 8-6 in 10 innings. So far they have played the Kansas City Royals (three times), Los Angeles Angels, and the Giants where the only team they lost to was the Angels last friday with a score of 2-3. In the three games the Rangers played the Royals, they beat them 6-1, 15-6, and 8-7. When the Rangers demolished the Royals the second time they played them 15-6, they accounted for 17 hits, 15 rbi’s, 1 double, 1 triple, and three home runs. On a smaller note, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is competing with Gerald Laird to be the Rangers’ starting catcher, was 2-for-3 with an RBI triple and scored twice in that game. Although this was a large game for Jarrod, Lair has the slight edge on batting average for spring training, currently batting .500 where Saltalamacchia is batting .400.
Although it’s only spring training, the Rangers are first in the Cactus League Standings and have shown a lot of improvement from their young players. They have been getting solid hitting from the majority of their probable starters along with players trying to make the roster. The pitching has been good as well playing 6-8 pitchers per game, usually giving them an inning or two.
The Rangers look to continue their success when they play 15 games in the next 15 days.
Yes, the Rangers’ pitching was terrible last season and yes, offensively they put together the fewest runs by a Rangers’ team in a decade. But despite that, Manager Ron Washington now believes the main priority for spring training is defense.
I obviously understand why Washington is concerned with the fielding because the statistics show how horrendous they were: ranked last in the AL in fielding percentage (.980) and errors (124) and allowed the most unearned runs (89). Without a doubt they need to do something to improve those numbers because they are god right awful, but I still think if they want to win, pitching should be the main concern.
The Rangers also have their own method, using a zone rating as an index, that measures a player’s efficiency at balls hit into their typical fielding zone. The Rangers ranked below the major league average in five of the seven positions (not including pitcher and catcher) in which a zone rating is calculated. Although there is no official team statistic, this is another indicator of how bad their defense really is.
Yet again, another injury occurs for the beleaguered Texas Rangers pitching staff. According to the Dallas News, John Rheinecker will undergo shoulder surgery that will be to alleviate symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, in which a rib bone is pinching a nerve and creates swelling and pain. Although last season the 28 year old lefty had more wins then losses (4-3), he had an awful 5.36 ERA that definitely didn’t help one of the worst pitching staffs in the MLB. Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock had the same surgery last year and was out from May 16 until September, but was not up to par to play third base when he recovered, limiting him to being the designated hitter. The Rangers’ pitchers were plagued with injuries all of last season (as I stated in my post on February 9th) and losing a left-hander in the bullpen is definitely not helping the cause, leaving the team shorthanded once again.
The Texas Rangers finally got Ian Kinsler the deal he wanted. On Tuesday, they locked up the promising second baseman to a five-year, $22 million contract extension. The deal also includes a sixth-year club option worth $10 million. If the Rangers decline the option, Kinsler would get a $500,000 buyout. The 25 year old noted that regardless how much money he gets, he’s going to play hard each and every game and his play would be the same. Kinsler, who made $390,708 in 2007, said he is “not really too worried about” the pressures that arrive with a big salary. A year after signing all-star shortstop Michael Young to a five-year extension worth $80-million, the Rangers now have secured the shortstop and second base position for many years to come.
Two-year vet. Gerald Laird and the upcoming Jarrod Saltalamacchia are currently battling for the starting catcher spot. Laird started most of last season and was strong defensively, although he hit just .224 letting Saltalamacchia, one of Atlanta’s top prospects (before he was traded to the Rangers), have a chance to take the spot. The loser could end up at Triple-A Oklahoma, although that’s more likely with the younger Saltalamacchia.
Ranger’s Manager Ron Washington said the catching competition is “open” and both men arrived to camp looking “trimmer and fitter” then a year ago. If I had to decide now, my guess would be that opening day the starting catcher is going to be Saltalamacchia. He’s young, he has a fresh arm, and is only going to get better with time. Both catchers arrived at Surprise, Arizona, where spring training is taking place, last Friday and the other players are reported to be at camp on the 20th. The job is up in the air as of now, but come March 31st, one of those two will be the starting catcher against the Mariners.
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