The Newberg Report

The Newberg Report

Is the Newberg Report Reverse Jinx in full force again?

A week ago I wrote that "I said a couple things in April that I wish I could take back," one regarding my impulsive suggestion that Alfonso Soriano belonged in the fifth spot in the order and the other concerning Ryan Drese's maturity into acehood. I looked at Soriano's numbers with runners on base and with runners in scoring position, and retracted my position. I acknowledged that Drese's complete loss of command led me to begin questioning whether the season's first month had been an aberration for Drese -- or whether 2004 was.

Happily, I was wrong to second-guess myself. At least at the moment. Soriano, since that report, has hit .550/.591/1.400 in 20 at-bats. And Drese fired a complete-game six-hitter on Saturday, needing only 100 pitches to finish off a 6-1 win over Cleveland.

Is it just the law of averages swinging the pendulum back for those two? Maybe a little bit, but each has acknowledged making an adjustment in the last week, Soriano with an acceptance of his new role and Drese with a mechanical tweak, which, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, entails a modified leg kick that keeps his body more closed at release point and helps him keep the ball down. Maybe this isn't just a streak for Soriano or Drese. Maybe both have really turned a corner.

Soriano (10) now trails only Alex Rodriguez (11) in home runs. His 11 doubles trail only Carlos Delgado's and David Ortiz's 12. Nobody has more than Soriano's 21 extra-base hits or 81 total bases. (Or his six errors.)

T.R. Sullivan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram points out that Soriano's two home runs on Saturday (his second straight two-homer game) each led off an inning, ironically.

We're only a fifth through the season, but it's hard to imagine that Soriano's OPS will decline again, having dropped from .879 to .863 to .808 the past three years. He sits at .935, currently 13th in the American League.

Texas is 4-0 when Michael Young homers. And 4-0 when Richard Hidalgo homers. Those numbers may tell you very little, but to the extent they have any meaning, they probably indicate two different things.

Interestingly, none of Young's homers are solo shots. He's the anti-Steve Buechele.

Kenny Rogers, after firing seven shutout innings yesterday, now has a streak of 21 scoreless frames (the franchise's longest since his own 39-inning run 10 Mays ago) and leads the American League in ERA at 1.79. He has thrown six quality starts in seven tries.

As Drese was delivering his masterpiece on Saturday, righthander Ricardo Rodriguez was doing the same for Oklahoma. Rodriguez shut Round Rock out on five hits and a walk, punching out eight hitters and improving to 4-2, 2.30 on the season. In 43 innings, the 26-year-old has scattered 26 hits (.176 opponents' average) and 16 walks while striking out 30.

As I discussed on Saturday morning, Rodriguez's next start should fall on Thursday night in Sacramento, while Pedro Astacio appears to be in line to start Wednesday afternoon for Texas. But after that, assuming Texas doesn't alter its rotation to account for an off-day on May 12, both Astacio and Rodriguez will next be scheduled to pitch on May 17. Is it crazy to suggest the odds may be even as to which gets the ball for Texas that night in Chicago?

Lynn Henning of the Detroit News speculates that Texas might be among the teams interested in Tigers set-up man Ugueth Urbina.

RedHawk left fielder Jason Botts homered, singled, and walked yesterday, lifting his season numbers to .294/.394/.606 (a cool 1.000 OPS). Catcher Gerald Laird singled three times and is hitting .337/.389/.535, with seven stolen bases in seven tries.

Since being converted to reliever nearly two weeks ago, Frisco righthander Juan Dominguez has pitched four times, allowing one run (1.17 ERA) on six hits (.231 opponents' average) and no walks in 7.2 innings, setting eight Texas Leaguers down on strikes.

Four RoughRider hitters (Jace Brewer, Brandon Larson, Ruddy Yan, and Drew Meyer) are hitting over .310. Nobody else on the club is over .240.

With the scary head injury that former Ranger catcher Gregg Zaun sustained breaking up a double play in Toronto's game yesterday against the White Sox, former Ranger Ken Huckaby steps in as the Blue Jays' starter behind the plate.

Lefthander Darren Oliver's retirement lasted less than one pay period. He has signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. Yesterday, in his first start with AAA Iowa, Oliver was spanked by Memphis for nine runs in 2.1 innings.

Second baseman Jason Bourgeois is hitting .211/.286/.284 for AAA Richmond. It's his first swim through AAA.

We're four weeks away from the Rule 4 Draft and seven months away from the Rule 5 Draft, but since it's difficult even at this point to talk intelligently about what the Rangers might do at number 19 (though it stands to reason that the club might seek an impact hitter rather than a pitcher, depending of course on who falls in the draft . . . and that if it's a pitcher, he'll probably be thick in the mid-section), here's something to toss around with regard to December's Rule 5 Draft: every year teams with decent farm systems end up having to expose legitimate prospects to the draft and cross their fingers, and Texas has been fortunate in that respect recently, not losing players like Dominguez, Travis Hafner, Frankie Francisco, Botts, Meyer, and Juan Senreiso in years that they could have.

The Rangers have protected five, three, four, and four players in the four Novembers since John Hart arrived, and as the farm system here gets deeper, the decisions on who to protect get tougher. Among the players not currently on the 40 who will need to be by Thanksgiving in order to be shielded from Rule 5 exposure are righthanders Edison Volquez, John Hudgins, Kelvin Jimenez, Wes Littleton, Matt Lorenzo, and Erik Thompson; lefthanders Wilfredo Rodriguez, C.J. Wilson, Ryan Snare, A.J. Murray, and Brian Mattoon; catcher Lizahio Baez; infielders Ian Kinsler, Joaquin Arias, Marshall McDougall, Nate Gold, Josh Kreuzer, and Micah Furtado; and outfielders Yan, Vincent Sinisi, Will Smith, Rashad Eldridge, Jeremy Cleveland, Anthony Webster, and Andrew Wishy.

And there's two more righthanders on the eligibility list who were non-factors as the 2004 season ended: Frisco reliever Scott Feldman and Bakersfield catcher-turned-reliever Chris Jaile.

The locks are Kinsler, Volquez, and Arias. But there are plenty of names among the rest (Rodriguez, Wilson, Hudgins, Jimenez, and Sinisi perhaps foremost among them, along with Feldman and Jaile) that will at least cause several lengthy discussions in November.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Once Baseball America gets its Draft Preview issue in my mailbox, we'll get a discussion on the June 7 draft going.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.