And so it turns out that the Rangers will play host to the ALDS-winning Tigers -- who prevailed by a single run in Game 5 over the Yankees, with Alex Rodriguez making their final out for a second consecutive season -- on Saturday at the Ballpark, in a game that will feature C.J. Wilson against Justin Verlander ... and hopefully, a much, much brighter outcome than the last Game 1 played at the Ballpark:
● Per ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett, the Rangers are contemplating rolling with a 12-man pitching staff in the ALCS due to concerns about the bullpen being stretched thin by a comparatively longer playoff series, and per the Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson, the top two candidates for activation in the next round are sidewinding right-handers Darren O'Day and Yoshinori Tateyama. Cutting Matt Treanor out of the mix would leave the Rangers with just two catchers again, and would leave me wondering if their intent was to simply roll with Mitch Moreland at first base regardless of opposing pitcher handedness * the rest of the way, and strictly relegate Yorvit Torrealba to backup catching duties. I'm not sure how great of an idea that really is, but given the Rangers' apparent proclivity for burning through lots of relievers thus far in these playoffs, perhaps an eighth reliever ends up being better utilized by this coaching staff than a third catcher.
[* I originally wrote this bullet point before the Tigers nailed down the ALDS, and since the prevailing Tigers have an exclusively right-handed starting rotation, you would figure that Moreland and Michael Young will start every game at first base and designated hitter, with Mike Napoli being the Rangers' starting catcher the rest of the way and Torrealba holding down backup catching duties. The Tigers also boast a very right-handed lineup, so it would seem to make quite a bit of sense to carry a righty-killing sidearmer like Tateyama or O'Day for matchup purposes.]
● Say what you will about SI.com's Jon Heyman, but he has a very nice (and expansive) column out right now detailing Jon Daniels' rise to prominence within the game and his many successes to this point in his general managerial career. It's a worthwhile read in its own right, but there are four major things disclosed within the piece that really jump out at me:
(a) the Angels' attempts to sign Adrian Beltre were undermined when Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins declined to meet with him even though Beltre lives less than an hour from Angel Stadium ...
(b) Rangers team consultant John Hart preferred Cliff Lee to Beltre last off-season, in part because of (ultimately actualized) concerns about how Michael Young would react to Beltre being signed and losing his starting job at third base ...
(c) the Rangers would have eaten "a bit more than half of Young's $16 million salary" and received Eric Young Jr. and "one other young player" had they actually traded him to the Rockies (it's unclear whether the Rangers' absorption of around $9-10 million would have signaled the end of their financial involvement, or whether they would have had to further subsidize the remaining years on his deal), and ...
(d) perhaps most significantly, one "Rangers person" believes Texas has "only" a 40 percent shot at retaining C.J. Wilson's services into the 2012 season and beyond.
Of course, the conveniently placed cloak of anonymity saps us of much of our ability to take this really seriously; a "Rangers person" could be anyone from a high-placed baseball operations man to a scout, with the latter -- and everyone else outside of the heart of the Rangers' front-office braintrust -- obviously not being privy to the same degree and quality of information. The other thing about this, though, is that a 40-60 shot at keeping Wilson actually sounds pretty damn good, in that it leads you to believe that the Rangers' odds of prevailing in the Wilson sweepstakes are greater than those of any other individual team. "Only" just doesn't seem like the right word to invoke here.
● After Matt Harrison's gem of a first start against the Red Sox six months ago (has it really been that long?), I took the stance of "nice effort, but I want to see a lot more." Three months ago, I admitted to being ready to buy into the hype, but still expressed my expectation that he wouldn't keep pitching at the level that he did over the first three months of the season. Today? It turns out that all of my prior apprehension was off the mark, as Harrison not only maintained a sub-3.50 ERA over the final three months of the season, but also posted a brilliant sub-2.90 FIP over that same stretch, and now has a decent five-inning, two-run, nine-strikeout playoff start in hostile territory under his belt.
By Baseball Reference's measure, Harrison posted an even four wins above replacement this season -- the 10th-best full-season mark by any left-handed pitcher in franchise history, and borderline All-Star-worthy. Matt Harrison: All-Star-caliber pitcher, and playoff strikeout monster. I never thought I'd get the chance to bestow him with labels as lofty as those, but hey, here we are.