Thought an interesting point was raised by one well-known sports talk radio personality on Friday -- okay, it was The Ticket's Mike Rhyner -- when he noted that the public's focus on the Ron Washington cocaine bombshell was beginning to shift a little bit away from the incident itself and devolve into a he-said, he-said dispute, with Dallas/Fort Worth's two major newspapers of record taking opposite sides on the sordid blackmail allegations, and the organization itself denying everything. Read into all of that however you'd like.
If another halfway-original thought of some actual value strikes me, I'll likely pass it along, but here's my one closing thought for now: the dichotomy between the stories of team president Nolan Ryan (who told "Dunham & Miller" on Friday morning that, at the time, neither he nor general manager Jon Daniels informed now-outgoing owner Tom Hicks of the Washington situation) and Hicks (who says he was involved in the team's original decision on Washington back in July) is not only awfully damn amusing, but also indicative of the disconnect between ownership and management that became all too apparent last year. By the way, who isn't far more inclined to believe Ryan over Hicks than the other way around at this point?
● The consensus appears to be that Tommy Hunter (left oblique strain) will be out of commission for 1-2 weeks, although this has the distinct look and feel of one of those sorts of injuries that often lingers beyond the predetermined recovery window. Case in point: in late June 2004, then-Athletics ace Tim Hudson complained to the press about being placed on the 15-day disabled list with an identical injury (left oblique strain), asserting that it was an unnecessary measure and proclaiming that he would be "at 100 percent in two weeks." A few setbacks and simulated games later, Hudson was activated ... after 46 days. It's just one example, and perhaps an extreme one at that, but the point is that Hunter might not be good to go until middle-to-late April at the very earliest.
So, where do we find ourselves now? Revisiting the No. 5 starter odds chart I constructed back on February 10th, I'd suggest that Matt Harrison, originally listed as a 15-to-1 long shot to make the Opening Day starting rotation, is now probably more along the lines of 2-to-1; granted, that's attributable to both his rising spring stock and the fact that another spot has opened up. C.J. Wilson's difficult to pin down, but he's obviously higher than 5-to-1 at this point, and I'd be lying if I said that the possibility of a "left-handed Ubaldo Jimenez" in the mix, even one that was only effective for 120-130 innings, didn't light my eyes up.
Brandon McCarthy (4.0 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) grappled with his command early in his latest rotation audition on Friday afternoon, going walk-single-walk-grand slam before recording an out, but he did settle down nicely thereafter, docking a bit of velocity from his cutter for the sake of command and leaning more heavily upon his change-up; what remains unclear is how much damage that early-game sequence did to the way he's perceived within the organization. Should both Wilson and Harrison win their rotation bids, I'm divided as to whether McCarthy should function as a long man or work as a starter at Triple-A Oklahoma City. I'd grudgingly lean towards the former, I suppose.
● If you've ever encountered the phenomenon known as "information overload" in your everyday life (hint: you have), you probably know that it pervades internet baseball coverage as well; the ever-growing breadth and quality of such means that there's always going to be recently published stuff that you would find most interesting, except that you just don't have the time to fully consume it and appreciate its significance. This problem is exacerbated for people like me and Adam Morris and Jamey Newberg, in that we often feel obligated to at least mention -- if not outright discuss -- important team-related matters. Consequently, a few of the stories sometimes slip through the cracks.
Such was the case here when 16-year-old Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro was signed by the Rangers for a cool $1.3 million back in January, yet the news (inexplicably) failed to receive a front-page mention. The gravity of that error has become increasingly apparent over the last several weeks, as Alfaro -- who you might say is the developmental antithesis of catcher-turned-outfielder Cristian Santana, as the 6' 1", 185-pound Alfaro is himself a converted outfielder -- has exploded onto the prospect scene to the extent that Jason "El Magico" Parks, Baseball Time in Arlington's resident prospect expert, is "tempted to call him a legit top 10 player in the system right now":
[Direct link available here. Video courtesy of Scout.com's Jason Cole, whose prospect coverage out of Surprise has been mind-blowingly sharp.]
Wrote Parks of Alfaro, whose apparent current standing as the system's top catching prospect was cemented by Tomas Telis's season-ending elbow surgery: "Alfaro punishes fastballs, showing good weight distribution during a quiet load and excellent extension at the point of attack ... His balance at the plate is impressive, allowing him to use his lower half to generate bat speed ... Well above-average arm strength and quick release ... Extremely unrefined, but has the raw tools, work ethic, and intelligence to eventually develop into an above-average catcher ... I can't think of a player I'm more excited about at the present, and I'm tempted to call Alfaro the most promising 16-year-old I've seen on a baseball field. Yes, I just said that as well." Chew on that for a little while.
● Based on the line of discussion that ensued after I questioned whether Julio Borbon was really the Rangers' long-term solution in center field or more of a short-term stop-gap measure, it would appear that -- surprise, surprise! -- people are higher on him than I appear to be ... but Kevin Goldstein's take on Borbon nicely encapsulates where I fall on Borbon right now: "If the walks come around, everything could change, but for now, the system sees Borbon hitting a solid-yet-unspectacular .286/.335/.394 at the top of the Rangers' lineup without a lot of growth potential from there. He's the kind of player a team is happy to have, while they keep an eye out for something better."