Visions of 2009.

When Jon Daniels addressed reporters who had gathered on Tuesday for the announcement that Tom Hicks had extended his contract through 2009, he said, when asked how he intended to go about righting this ship: "What we tried to do was to win and develop at the same time. What we're in the middle of right now is showing that's extremely difficult . . . . [In the future] there will be an increased emphasis on the long-term planning, laying the foundation and making sure we have a sustainable base of talented players coming up."

It reminded me of something I've been thinking about for a couple weeks.

I think the Rangers will be playing for a playoff spot in mid-September 2009.

There's no science to this. No sabermetrics or other statistical projections that I ran to come to the conclusion that Texas will win a certain number of games in 2009. It's just a hunch.

Vicente Padilla will be in a contract year, effectively. Texas has a $12 million option on him for 2010.

Kevin Millwood probably will be, too. He's probably not going to get to 180 innings this year, meaning he'd need to average that workload in 2008 and 2009 -- or reach that level in 2009 alone -- to lock in his $12 million option for 2010. Otherwise, it's the club's discretion whether to pick the option up.

By 2009, Eric Hurley is likely to have settled in as a member of the rotation, after getting acclimated at some point in 2008.

Hopefully he'll be joining a dependable 25-year-old Brandon McCarthy or an established 27-year-old Robinson Tejeda, if not both.

A high-level prospect or two that Daniels acquires in the next six weeks will be ready by then.

Jason Botts will be a full-time major league hitter. Hopefully here.

A couple guys from the group containing Taylor Teagarden, Travis Metcalf, German Duran, Johnny Whittleman, Chris Davis, Brandon Boggs, John Mayberry Jr., Chad Tracy, Kevin Mahar, Joaquin Arias, Ben Harrison, and Steve Murphy will be ready to help offensively.

Fabio Castillo won't quite be ready, but Omar Poveda might be. Maybe Doug Mathis and Zach Phillips, too. What will have become of Edinson Volquez? Thomas Diamond? Michael Schlact?

A.J. Murray will be the most dependable middle-inning lefthander in the pen, replacing C.J. Wilson, who will have moved by then into one higher-leverage role or another.

Our outfield will once again have range, and a better ability to keep runners from taking an extra base.

Ron Washington's contract currently expires in 2008. The next year and a half of big league results will dictate whether he's around in 2009.

It's sort of strange, but I have a clearer hunch about 2009 than I do about 2008.

Mainly because of Padilla and Millwood.

I was ready a couple weeks ago, against my will, to write Nelson Cruz off as far as his future with the Rangers is concerned, since he'll be out of options at the end of this season. But the way he has responded to his demotion to AAA two weeks ago, it's almost certain that he's going to get a second extended stretch of time to prove himself in Texas in 2007. Cruz homered again last night -- his seventh bomb in 14 games -- and is now hitting a stupid .356/.455/.911 in 45 Oklahoma at-bats. Of his 16 hits, 11 have gone for extra bases.

We know Eric Gagné's contract allowed him to designate 12 teams to which Texas can trade him without his consent, but we don't know who those teams are. A Fox Sports report suggests, however, that the Yankees, Mets, and Angels are on the list of 12, and that Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Detroit are not.

Daniels told reporters that Mark Teixeira could remain sidelined until early July. The All-Star Break is July 9-11.

How positive was Washington's relationship with outfielder Milton Bradley in Oakland? The A's designated the mercurial 29-year-old for assignment and then traded him last night to Kansas City for enigmatic reliever Leo Nunez -- but the trade then fell through when the Royals learned that Bradley suffered a strained oblique muscle on Tuesday. Wonder if Texas was in on the Bradley talks, and if so, whether the injury kills those talks. (If nothing else, it certainly lowers his price.)

Lynn Henning of the Detroit News writes that the Tigers have talked to Texas about Gagné and Akinori Otsuka, and that the Rangers "have had an eye on some of Detroit's Class A and AA starters." We've mentioned Andrew Miller, Jair Jurrjens, and Eulogio De La Cruz before. Add Chris Cody and Duane Below to that mix. This is getting interesting.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Texas has discussed outfielder Jacque Jones with the Cubs.

aDuran and Whittleman will play for the World Team and the U.S. Team, respectively, in the July 8 Futures Game in San Francisco.

A pitching hand blister has forced Volquez (6-0, 3.57 with Frisco) to the disabled list.

Davis was Bakersfield's lone representative in the California League-Carolina League All-Star Game, playing right field (he's played nothing but third base all year for the Blaze) and hitting a solo home run.

Frisco righthander Luis Mendoza (7-0, 5.51) was named to replace righthander Hurley in the Texas League All-Star Game. Hurley makes his AAA debut tomorrow.

McCarthy makes a rehab start tomorrow as well for Oklahoma, which has a doubleheader. McCarthy will reportedly make two rehab starts (the second for Frisco) before a planned return to Texas on July 4.

If Jamey Wright isn't spectacular today, shouldn't Mike Wood be held back a day and given his start in Detroit on Thursday? Wood has yet to allow more than three earned runs in any of his nine AAA starts, and he sits at 6-1, 2.28 for the RedHawks. His peripherals are just as impressive: 40 hits (.193 opponents' average), nine walks (1.4 per nine innings), 51 strikeouts (7.7 per nine). Two home runs allowed. A 2.25 groundout-to-flyout rate. Left-handed hitters (.193/.225/.298) just as inept as righties (.194/.242/.258).

I don't know whether the 27-year-old Wood or the 32-year-old Wright, given their outright status, will figure in for this team in 2009, or even 2008. But I know which one I'd rather find out about.

Hank Blalock threw 20 times from 10 feet yesterday.

Arias has surfaced. He played shortstop in the Arizona League squad's opener yesterday, making an error and contributing a single and double to a 9-6 Rangers win over the Royals.

Harrison was activated from the disabled list and sent down from Frisco to Bakersfield, and in his first Blaze game last night he homered and singled.

Clinton lefthander Zach Phillips, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning last night and exited after the frame having given up just one hit and two walks while fanning eight, has kept the opponent completely off of the scoreboard in five of his last nine starts. The 20-year-old stands at 7-2, 2.62 in 14 LumberKing starts.

Two interesting splits for 19-year-old Clinton shortstop Marcus Lemon, who sits at .245/.336/.314 for the season: after a slow start, he's hitting .314/.405/.371 in June; and since a move from the number nine spot in the order to the leadoff spot, he's hitting .303/.409/.368.

While the Rangers apparently aren't on the verge of signing Blake Beavan (he's now threatening to go to Navarro Junior College but chances are he'll still sign before the August 15 deadline), they have come to terms with fellow first-rounder Michael Main (for a reported $1.2375 million bonus), and this is interesting: Texas is going to allow Main, who would have been a premium pick as a center fielder if he weren't such a promising pitching prospect, to hit about once a week in the Arizona League, likely as a designated hitter. Cleveland, incidentally, did the same with its top prospect, lefthander Chuck Lofgren, getting him 13 plate appearances in his debut season of 2004.

The Rangers also signed second-rounder Matt West, who played shortstop for Houston Bellaire High School but will probably see time all over the infield and possibly even behind the plate in Surprise.

Round 26 pick Kevin Keyes, a toolsy outfielder out of Austin Connally High School, played on the Rangers' Area Code Games squad two straight years. That likely means Keyes played for Randy Taylor, the Rangers' area scout who was responsible for the Keyes selection. Taylor also coached Teagarden, Whittleman, and Mayberry in the Area Code Games prior to the Rangers drafting them.

Texas signed undrafted University of South Carolina Upstate catcher Bret Story, who hit .246/.285/.324 for the Spartans this spring.

The Rangers released 24-year-old righthander Edwin Vera, who went 4-20, 4.32 in four seasons since signing out of Venezuela.

Pittsburgh signed Matt Kata to a AAA contract, and designated righthander Danny Kolb for assignment.

Kansas City signed righthander John Thomson. He'll debut for the Royals on Monday.

Baltimore purchased the contract of righthander Rob Bell.

The Atlantic City Surf of the independent Can-Am League signed righthander Greg Runser. The Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League traded outfielder Cameron Coughlan to the Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent American Association for a player to be named.

Padilla has allowed 33 hits (.458 opponents' average) in 13.2 June innings and has a 7.90 ERA in that stretch. McCarthy, the club's hottest starter, has been out two weeks. Teixeira and Blalock are out.

And yet Texas has won three straight, four of five, and six of eight.

Given that we could never have seen this coming 10 days ago, you are encouraged to dismiss my speculation about what could happen here in 2009.


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title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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