Some Saturday morning odds and ends:
● The Texas Rangers are reportedly expected to sign free-agent right-hander Kris Benson to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training, possibly as soon as this weekend; Benson logged 67 innings between two Phillies minor league affiliates in 2008, High-A Clearwater and Triple-A Lehigh Valley (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Well, depth is depth, even if it's not particularly high-upside depth, and one of baseball's longest-standing axioms holds that there is no such thing as having too much pitching, so from that standpoint this acquisition makes plenty of sense. Working against the 34-year-old right-hander are several irrefutable facts, however, chief among those being that he hasn't been a league-average pitcher since 2005 (and hasn't actually been what you could legitimately characterize as a "good" pitcher since 2000), when he posted a 4.13 ERA (99 ERA+) and 1.26 WHIP in 174.1 innings for a third-place Mets squad that dramatically underperformed relative to its Pythagorean win-loss record.
Benson worked out in front of representatives from nine teams late last month, and his performance subsequently garnered a rather lukewarm appraisal from one baseball executive from a team previously interested in Benson, who stated that he looked "so-so" during his throwing sessions and "better than expected, but not great."
While Benson doesn't currently figure to slot any higher than eighth on the current major league rotation depth chart (he's definitely behind Dustin Nippert and Jason Jennings at this point, and perhaps Luis Mendoza as well; also, don't forget the likes of Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter and Doug Mathis), a pair of concurrent injuries to the starting five that tentatively comprises Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman and Brandon McCarthy could conceivably push Benson into the role of No. 6 starter very quickly, particularly if those injuries were to pile up during the regular season's first few months before Holland and the approaching wave of young pitching talent was deemed ready to begin contributing at the major league level.
Of course, if Benson logs meaningful innings as a Ranger in 2009, it will also mean something will have gone dreadfully awry.]
● Manager Ron Washington has identified Nelson Cruz, Hank Blalock and Andruw Jones as the leading candidates to bat in the cleanup spot behind presumptive No. 3 hitter Josh Hamilton (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[You know, this begs an interesting question: How many times in recent major league history has a player ascended from non-roster invitee to Opening Day cleanup hitter in the span of less than two months?]
● Texas announced on Friday that it had come to terms with 16 players for the 2009 season, including catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($410,890), infielders Joaquin Arias ($402,000) and Jose Vallejo ($400,000), outfielders Brandon Boggs ($408,540), Nelson Cruz ($408,070), Greg Golson ($400,000) and David Murphy ($414,820), left-handers Kason Gabbard ($407,640) and Matt Harrison ($405,500), and right-handers John Bannister ($400,000), Scott Feldman ($434,680), Tommy Hunter ($401,000), Luis Mendoza ($406,210), Dustin Nippert ($411,760), Omar Poveda ($400,000) and Josh Rupe ($416,310) (Wilson)
[The Rangers now have 29 of the 39 players currently on their 40-man roster under contract; catchers Max Ramirez and Taylor Teagarden, infielders Chris Davis, German Duran, and Travis Metcalf, outfielder Josh Hamilton, and right-handers Thomas Diamond, Eric Hurley, Guillermo Moscoso and Warner Madrigal remain unsigned, as well as the seemingly forgotten Dominican tandem of Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando.
Most, if not all of these pre-arbitration-eligible players should be signed to one-year deals before next Wednesday, and at some point Texas will turn its attention to the task of hopefully hammering out a long-term deal with Hamilton.]
Quick Hits: Jim Reeves's latest column extols the virtues of Ron Washington and submits that the Rangers have allowed their third-year skipper to become a "lame-duck manager" ... The second part of Jamey Newberg's exhaustive Rangers Q&A is out ... Shortstop Elvis Andrus (sore left wrist) has refrained from batting practice the last two days, but has continued to participate in fielding, bunting and baserunning drills; according to Andrus, the injury is "nothing to worry about" ... General manager Jon Daniels said on Friday that Texas did not watch free-agent right-hander Chad Cordero throw in Anaheim, California earlier this week because they want to watch him throw at a greater intensity level than the 70 percent he was throwing at this week; Cordero is expected to throw again sometime next week ... The Rangers' 2009 television schedule features an all-time high of 133 games on FOX Sports Southwest, as well as 24 over-the-air telecasts on KDFI/My27 and the April 6th season opener on KDFW/FOX 4.