Texas Rangers: Mike Sweeney

Feliz flashes extra firepower vs. Rockies

March, 29, 2010
3/29/10
6:35
PM CT
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Neftali Feliz got the message over the weekend. He then delivered it, at 101 miles per hour, to the Colorado Rockies in a 7-6 Rangers victory Monday afternoon at Surprise Stadium.

On Saturday, Feliz had been summoned to manager Ron Washington’s office.

“He thought we were sending him down,” Washington said. “It scared him.”

Sending him down was the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux wanted Feliz to understand what they wanted from him when he’s called from the bullpen.

On Friday, Feliz had served up a three-run homer to Jake Fox, the fourth time in four A game appearances he’d surrendered runs. His normally supersonic fastball was nestling in the vicinity of 91-94 mph. He’d seemingly forgotten what got him to the big leagues in the first place.

“We told him if he’s going to be out there for multiple innings,” Washington said, “it was OK to pitch a little. But when we need one inning out of him, we want him to leave it all out there.”

In other words, bring back the howitzer.

Feliz did that in the ninth inning against the Rockies, striking out the side for the save and, in the process, hitting 100 mph or higher on the radar gun with at least half a dozen of his pitches. Colorado minor leaguer Chris Nelson could only wave futilely at Feliz’s last pitch, a 101-mph beauty. Two of the triple digit pitches tickled the 101 mark.

Earlier in the day, Washington had been asked what concerned him about Feliz.

“That he doesn’t take how good he is for granted,” Washington said. “That he keeps the fire burning in his belly.”

Feliz got the message and he passed it on to the Rockies, just as Washington had hoped he would.

Other Monday notables:

*Darren Oliver kept his Cactus League ledger squeaky clean -- no runs allowed in an A game -- but only because Michael Young and newcomer Andres Blanco turned an eye-opening bases-loaded double play to bail him out in the top of the eighth.

*How much does Washington love Blanco? Said general manager Jon Daniels, “I think Wash wants to adopt him.” That’s OK. Washington knows infielders like Maddux knows pitchers.

*Hmmm. Maybe Wash should re-think his plan to hit Nelson Cruz seventh in the Rangers’ lineup. Cruz crushed his fifth home run of the spring onto the grassy hill in center, then hit another moonshot that caromed off the centerfield wall for a double. He might drive in 100-plus runs if he hits fourth or fifth.

*Jarrod Saltalamacchia appeared in an A game for the first time since suffering muscle spasms in his shoulder area over a week ago and caught the first six innings without any problems.

*Daniels ranks the chances of the Rangers making a deal for a right-handed hitting first baseman for a bench role at about 50-50. He said if the Rangers do opt to break camp with one of their young players there -- say Matt Brown -- it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t add a veteran later. My guess: If the Red Sox don’t decide to move Mike Lowell, the Rangers will go with Brown. Rangers brass doesn’t seem terribly enthralled by the other options on the trade market, including the Mariners’ Mike Sweeney and the Cubs’ Kevin Millar.

Blanco is utility IF, but who's backup 1B?

March, 29, 2010
3/29/10
12:00
PM CT
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It took about 24 hours for manager Ron Washington to see all he needed to see to officially make Andres Blanco the Rangers’ utility infielder, leaving the team with one final bench spot to fill and there’s potentially a new name to add to the mix there.

Washington is convinced that Blanco can cover the Rangers at short, second and even third, meaning the final bench player he’s looking for is a right-handed hitting first baseman. Talk has centered on trying to re-work the offseason trade for Boston’s Mike Lowell and there’s also interest in veteran Kevin Millar, who is in the Cubs’ camp as a non-roster invitee.

Another name to keep in mind is Mike Sweeney, who has been on fire in Seattle’s camp this spring. It’s difficult to see where Sweeney, hitting .556 with two homers and 7 RBIs in 27 Cactus League at-bats, can fit with the Mariners, who signed both Casey Kotchman and Ryan Garko to play first base this winter.

[+] EnlargeMike Sweeney
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Rangers might think about trading for Mike Sweeney as their backup first baseman. Sweeney hasn't played more than 74 games since 2005, but he still managed to hit .281 last season with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 242 at-bats.
Lowell, Millar and Sweeney are all great makeup players, excellent in the clubhouse and all three qualify as right-handed hitting first basemen who could spell Chris Davis against particularly tough left-handed pitchers.

The Rangers are now hearing that Boston’s ownership is reluctant to part with Lowell for sentimental reasons. Another problem is Lowell’s contract. In the deal the Rangers and Red Sox agreed to this winter before it fell apart because of questions about Lowell’s thumb injury, the Rangers would have sent them minor league catcher Max Ramirez and picked up $3 million of Lowell’s contract. But that was before the Rangers signed free agent DH Vladimir Guerrero and reliever Darren Oliver. It’s doubtful that $3 million is still available now.

There are concerns about how much Millar has left. Scouts say he’s “cheating” at the plate on fastballs because his bat has slowed.

Sweeney has had back trouble for years and hasn’t played over 74 games since 2005, but he still managed to hit .281 last season with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 242 at-bats.

If the Rangers can’t get Lowell, adding Sweeney would be the smart move with Millar as the third option. Any of the three would be a better option for that role than the young players vying for it in camp right now.

What would the Rangers have to give up? Obviously they would like to get something for Luis Mendoza or Joaquin Arias, who are both out of options and will have to pass through waivers if the Rangers want to send them back to Oklahoma City.

If it takes a little better prospect than that, it might be worth it. This is a team that believes it can contend for a division championship and adding a veteran role player who can complement the clubhouse chemistry could be vital.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.18 133 170
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182