Cryptic, worrisome comments from manager Ron Washington about superstar free-agent-to-be Josh Hamilton? Check.
Another clunker of an outing from $56 million import Yu Darvish? Check.
Tommy John surgery for 100-MPH throwing righty Neftali Feliz? That would be a check.
Death-defying, 10-inning win over arch-rival Angels? You guessed it, check.
Stunning recall of top prospect Mike Olt? You better believe that’s a check.
Yes, it was a busier day than normal in Arlington on Wednesday, and one that left the twice-defending American League champions with a lot more questions than answers.
Namely, just what in the world is going on with Josh Hamilton? And we don’t mean his .202/.288/.399 slash since June 1 (that was before his 0-for-5 night Wednesday).
Four days after Hamilton made vague allusions to issues in his personal life, Washington expressed a desire for his No. 3 hitter to tell the whole truth, and nothing but it.
“The issue is something that I think Josh would definitely have to be the one to expose,” Washington said. “It’s certainly not physical. It has nothing to do with injuries. Josh is the one that made the statement and got all the inquiries going, and I think Josh is the one that has to put a rest to the inquiries, not Ron Washington. I can just tell you one thing: It is not because he’s hurt.”
What Washington is referring to is anyone’s guess, but considering we are talking about a player whose personal issues once had him banned for life from baseball, the implication isn’t good.
Which brings to something considerably less mysterious — Darvish’s pitching. As in, it hasn’t been any good of late.
The Rangers’ would-be ace got tagged for seven runs on four hits and six walks in just five innings of Texas’ 10-inning win over the Angels. He needed 108 pitches, only 59 of which found the strike zone, to record his 15 outs.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old Japanese import has now allowed five or more earned runs in three of his past four starts, and handed out 20 free passes in his past 31 2/3 innings of work.
That’s not what the Rangers and fantasy owners signed up for, and it’s something that can’t continue if Texas is going to hold off the hard-charging Angels (and A’s) in the American League West.
Now the owner of a 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 145/70 K/BB ratio through 127 1/3 frames, Darvish is pitching more like Daisuke Matsuzaka than anybody thought possible, or would care to admit. Yu is going to have to master the American game in a hurry if the Rangers’ injury-ravaged rotation is going to have what it takes to clinch a third-straight pennant.
Nearly every season brings with it an unforeseen prospect thunderbolt — think Eric Hosmer in 2011, Starlin Castro in 2010 — but Olt’s recall feels particularly stunning.
For one thing, this isn’t a cellar-dwelling club looking to juice ticket sales or a stagnant lineup — it’s baseball’s best team, and more particularly, its best offense.
For another, there are roadblocks as far as the eye can see, from Adrian Beltre to Mike Napoli to Michael Young.
Finally, Olt has never taken an at-bat above Double-A. Again, this doesn’t make him exceptionally special — see Castro, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Altuve — but hints at real desperation for a 60-43 Rangers club that’s watched a runaway become a race.
The most obvious player for Olt to supplant would be Young, who’s hitting a pathetic (going into Wednesday) .252/.278/.324 since May 1. But such a move would come with a bevy of complications.
A. Like Young, Olt is also right-handed, negating the possibility of a strict platoon at first or DH.
B. Olt has made all of 12 professional appearances at first base.
C. The Rangers seem to prefer a rotation at designated hitter.
D. There’s Young’s much ballyhooed/maligned status as the “heart and soul” of the Rangers.
Benching Young for a 23 year old in the thick of a pennant race would be an extremely bold, and complicated, statement from GM Jon Daniels.
So how will Olt be used? He won’t rot on the bench, that’s for sure. The Rangers didn’t jumpstart their .287/.399/.575 hitting No. 2 prospect’s service-time clock for nothing. Between first, DH and the outfield, he should make at least 3-4 appearances per week, and start against most every lefty.
Will that be enough to earn him mixed-league relevance? It’s hard to say. You certainly need to take the chance that it will be, however. Outside of Wil Myers, no one has been putting on a more impressive minor-league lasershow than Olt.
Like with any prospect, the chances Olt struggles his first time through the bigs are high. But unlike most prospects, the kind of rookie success he’s capable of could be a true game-changer, from AL-only leagues to 10-12 team mixed formats.
Indians DFA Lowe
There’s bad, really bad and then there's 41/45. That was Derek Lowe’s K/BB ratio in 119 innings before he was designated for assignment by the Indians Wednesday. A cosmically, preposterously, legendarily and hilariously bad number.
Coupled with his 5.52 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and awful 2011, it’s pretty compelling evidence the 39-year-old righty is done. In a league where Kip Wells is currently holding down a job, Lowe will get another chance, but it shouldn’t be from fantasy owners.
Game Notes: Visiting his old stomping grounds, Matt Holliday homered twice and drove in five runs at Coors Field. In the process, he tied teammate Carlos Beltran for the NL-RBI lead with 75. Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz, Holliday is hitting .421/.497/.759 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 39 games since June 16. That’ll do. … Albert Pujols hit two home runs for the second straight night. Per ESPN, it’s something the greatest player of his generation had never done before. The bombs also give him seven in just 12 career games in Texas. … Jimmy Rollins had his first two-homer night of the year. … Miguel Cabrera did his thing. … Carl Crawford’s only hit in five trips to the plate was a solo home run. … Ryan Ludwick stayed hot. … Ruben Tejada hit his first home run since 2010. … Eric Thames went yard against his former team in his first game in a Mariners uniform. … Carlos Zambrano won in relief. … Starling Marte and Welington Castillo added some youthful flavor to an afternoon tilt at Wrigley. … Matt Cain had a rare five-inning outing. … Carlos Santana continued to heat up.
Short Hops: David Ortiz (Achilles) declared himself “pain free,” but he remains without a return date. … Jordan Zimmermann (shoulder) had his next start bumped from Friday to Saturday. For now, it’s not a concern, but is certainly something to monitor. … Teammate Ryan Zimmerman sat again with a minor back issue, but managed to pinch hit. ... Giancarlo Stanton (knee) expects to return on Tuesday. … The Mets promoted top prospect Zack Wheeler to Triple-A Buffalo. He’s unlikely to pitch in the bigs this season. … Jayson Werth (wrist) will return Friday. … Brandon Phillips (calf) could return over the weekend. … Bobby Abreu got DFAd. He should latch on elsewhere fairly quickly. … Evan Longoria (hamstring) was diagnosed with “general soreness.” … Josh Beckett (back) avoided the disabled list, at least for now. … Troy Tulowitzki (groin) took batting practice.