If I didn't know any better, I'd say that it was time to start directing some concern towards the backstop who's beginning to make the likes of 2009 Jarrod Saltalamacchia and 2003 Einar Diaz almost look preferable by comparison ... and maybe I will do just that, but not quite yet:
● After leading by a 3-0 margin with only 13 outs to go, Matt Harrison (7.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) yielded a three-run homer to light-hitting White Sox third baseman Brent Morel, and the Rangers ultimately went on to lose the game -- and their shot at a two-game series sweep -- by a 4-3 margin after a late-inning Cody Eppley wild pitch scored the go-ahead run; of particular note is the fact that the Rangers' offense worked John Danks for two runs on 63 pitches in his first two innings, but then only scored one more run the rest of the way and ultimately allowed Danks to go 6.1 innings on 109 pitches (Anthony Andro, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[I think that what Harrison is and is not comes into clearer focus with each passing start, and I believe that it's this -- a 4.60-4.80 FIP guy with greater-than-average start-to-start variance, owing to the fact that nobody (Harrison included) really seems to know what he's going to end up doing on a given night, or even in a given inning. On Tuesday night, Harrison lit up Pitch f/x to the tune of 98 mph and averaged around 94-95 mph on the heater, but struggled to consistently command it and seemed apprehensive overall in his approach, which isn't conducive to short- or long-run success. Eppley, meanwhile, was victimized by a walk-strikeout-single-wild pitch sequence where having the platoon advantage proved quite useless.
As for the offense -- well, stuff like this is going to happen when you're down Mitch Moreland, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Hamilton simultaneously, but it was disappointing to see the offense largely fail to capitalize upon its scoring opportunities after the second inning, and perhaps even more disappointing to see the Rangers let Danks off the hook to the extent that he ended up with a six-walk quality start. Three outs recorded on just three pitches across two different failed bunt attempts didn't exactly help in that regard. There's probably more to be said about how all of this went down, but a new day is a chance to forget about yesterday.]
● Jon Daniels on Neil Ramirez and Tanner Scheppers, who are probably the two pitching prospects currently in the Rangers' system with the greatest chances of earning big league promotions yet this year: "[Ramirez has] a real chance [of being promoted] if he continues to do what he's doing. Neil's conditioning and work ethic rivals anyone in the organization. He's really grown up and takes a lot of pride in his craft. He's still working on the finer points of pitching, but he's on the ML radar." [...] "Tanner's working on his core strength and flexibility in AZ. He has a herniated disc in his back that causes a pinched nerve in his leg and leads to weakness there. Correctable, but takes time. Fortunately it was addressed in time and shouldn't impact the health of his arm. We expect he'll be back out relatively soon." (DallasNews.com)
[Daniels also remarked that the Rangers were looking to go back to only seven relievers come Friday, when the necessity of a deep bench is amplified by interleague play and Nelson Cruz is expected to return from the disabled list. One of Ryan Tucker or Cody Eppley is likely to be purged from the active roster at that point, followed by one of Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry next week when Josh Hamilton is, amazingly enough, slated to be activated from the disabled list after a mere 6-7 week convalescence. In this case, the presumption on my end that Hamilton would be slow to heal was off base, though this was fortunately a straight-up case of a bone merely needing time to mend rather than a more unnerving muscular problem.]
● Jim Callis's latest mock draft -- published five days ago -- had the Rangers snapping up switch-hitting New Mexico prep catcher Blake Swihart with the 33rd overall pick in the Rule 4 draft; standing 6' 1"-6' 2", 175 lb., Swihart was named to Team USA's junior national team last summer and hit .448/.492/.845 with six doubles and five home runs; more recently, he was designated as a 2011 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American (Baseball America)
With a clear and absolute disclaimer that the draft is still three weeks away and that all mock drafts become progressively more unreliable the deeper you go (especially when you're running as deep as the low-30s), I nevertheless feel that we all stand to benefit from learning a bit more by way of ESPN.com's Keith Law: "He's an athletic kid with bat speed and arm strength who plays all over the diamond and hasn't had a chance to develop much as a catcher, but I think that's his ultimate position in pro ball. His arm is plus, but he's currently not quick to release the ball, and while his hands are fine his receiving needs work. As a hitter, he has bat speed and his hips start to rotate properly, but he gets out on his front foot early and doesn't finish that hip rotation at all, producing weaker contact and cutting off his chance not just to hit for power but to hit."
Law does go on to qualify this final statement by indicating that Swihart could boast dual plus tools (hitting and power) if he learns to keep his weight back better and lets his hands follow his hips; that said, he also indicates that Swihart has struggled down the stretch in his senior season and is only catching in one-third to one-half of his total games, earning him a present ranking of 17th-overall on Law's draft rankings board. His present commitment to the University of Texas is expected to render him a difficult sign, one who will apparently demand a significantly above-slot bonus ... and while we're still on the subject of potentially sizeable bonuses, Jason Churchill suggests that his draft stock may have difficulty surpassing the bottom of the first round. There's something to think about.]