BOHLS: Rangers could use a bat

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Con­tin­ued from C1 Texas needs to one-up the An­gels once more be­cause both could use an­other stick in their lineup, even with the Rangers com­fort­ably ahead by seven games in the stand­ings af­ter a 6-4 win Sun­day night.

The Rangers could use a bat to re­place the strug­gling Chris Davis at first and per­haps give the ag­ing Vladimir Guer­rero some rest at des­ig­nated hit­ter dur­ing this sec­ond half. But gen­eral man­ager Jon Daniels play­fully de­nied the club had three scouts in Bal­ti­more on Fri­day night to check out the Ori­oles’ ex­pen­sive first base­man Ty Wig­gin­ton. Two, maybe.

Texas would be more likely to go af­ter the more eco­nom­i­cal Wes Helms for less than $1 mil­lion, or a vet­eran spare part like Mike Low­ell, as some have sug­gested. That said, Texas has to get the ap­proval of pres­i­dent Nolan Ryan, po­ten­tial owner Chuck Green­berg, bank­ruptcy judge Michael Lynn, ma­jor league base­ball and, I think, the mayor of Frisco to work an­other deal. For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush sat in the front row Sun­day night and stayed till the last pitch, but I don’t think he has a vote in this.

When Daniels said the club re­mains in “the same spot as we’ve been in,” I asked if that meant he didn’t feel ham­strung to make a deal. Replied Daniels, “I didn’t say that.”

So, all bets are off. Any­thing and ev­ery­thing are in play.

The An­gels did land an in­fielder with some pop in Kansas City’s Al­berto Cal­laspo, but still doesn’t have an of­fen­sive an­swer for the ir­re­place­able Kendry Morales.

For now, the front-run­ning Yan­kees in the AL East are the least of these two teams’ wor­ries, but they have to be frus­trat­ing the pin­stripers, who were in­ter­ested in both Lee and Haren.

Texas has, if not big­ger fish, then ear­lier fish to fry. The An­gels can’t be dis­counted with two months to go.

“We’ll con­tinue to sur­vey the mar­ket,” Daniels said. “If there’s some­thing out there that helps us, we’ll move on it, but that’s the same as it was yes­ter­day. I’m not go­ing to hand­i­cap any­thing. We’ve got some guys com­ing back that could help us.”

He’s right. Texas is wait­ing on catcher Matt Tre­anor to get well, and for both Rich Har­den and Derek Hol­land to mend and take a ro­ta­tion spot away from the scuf­fling Scott Feld­man, the biggest dis­ap­point­ment in an oth­er­wise spec­tac­u­lar sea­son.

Har­den was ex­pected to be Texas’ ace — or no worse than their No. 2 start­ing pitcher — in April, un­til an­other set­back in his chron­i­cally in­jured ca­reer. He will make his fourth re­hab out­ing at Triple-A Ok­la­homa City to­day and could join the big club and throw against these An­gels on Satur­day.

If he doesn’t re­turn to form — ac­tu­ally, he hasn’t been in form all year — the Rangers’ front of­fice will wait for Hol­land in mid to late Au­gust, af­ter his shoul­der in­flam­ma­tion sub­sides and his sprained knee heals.

The An­gels’ move to ac­quire Haren caught no one in Ar­ling­ton by sur­prise. Af­ter all, Daniels said, they’ve been the class of the di­vi­sion for quite some time.

He wouldn’t say whether Texas had sought Haren but did in­sist that Lee had topped his club’s wish list.

In his first three starts with the Rangers, Lee has “done just what you’d hoped for. He gives us a chance to win, saves the bullpen and pro­vided a real en­ergy for our fan base, our club, and set the tone for some of our other pitch­ers, as well.”

He’s done more than that. As team leader Michael Young said: “He’s been in­cred­i­ble. For one, we get a great pitcher ev­ery fifth day, and you’ll see a trickle-down ef­fect for the rest of the staff. He’ll chal­lenge the rest of the staff.”

He prob­a­bly al­ready has. Un­de­feated Tommy Hunter won for the eighth time this year Sun­day and re­tired 12 straight at one point, to help give Texas three wins in this four-game se­ries. C.J. Wil­son has fol­lowed Lee’s last two starts and has come close to match­ing Lee’s per­for­mances.

While most man­agers would pre­fer not to use two left­ies back to back, Ron Washington would pre­fer that is­sue over Los An­ge­les Man­ager Mike Scios­cia’s dilemma. The An­gels traded Joe Saun­ders to get Haren and won’t have a left-han­der in their ro­ta­tion un­til Scott Kazmir comes off the dis­abled list.

At this rate, it doesn’t fig­ure to be a horse race to the fin­ish line. In fact, the An­gels may be hard-pressed to keep the Rangers within sight, even though Los An­ge­les has a much bet­ter record against the rugged AL East and po­ten­tial play­off op­po­nents New York, Tampa Bay and Bos­ton at 10-11 than do the Rangers at 9-16.

So more help would be nice, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Texas has never won a play­off se­ries.

The Rangers and An­gels both se­ri­ously bol­stered their chances by land­ing pitch­ers who po­ten­tially could top their ro­ta­tions. But Texas has the clear edge, bring­ing in Cliff Lee in his prime. He’s as good as any Rangers pitcher ever, from Ryan to Fergie Jenk­ins to Gay­lord Perry to Kevin Brown. Haren’s as good as they come right now, but the 29-year-old right-han­der has been in the dol­drums all sea­son for the Di­a­mond­backs.

He’s av­er­aged 15 wins in each of the last five sea­sons but has al­lowed more hits than any other pitcher in the Na­tional League this sea­son. The An­gels are wisely bet­ting that Haren will get an ex­tra jolt of adren­a­line by ex­it­ing a 37-62 Ari­zona club in fa­vor of a pen­nant race.

Maybe Haren and Lee will can­cel each other out and leave the two pen­nant con­tenders in ex­actly the same po­si­tion as be­fore: With Texas com­fort­ably in the lead.

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