EST Notes – Rehabbers, newcomers in Arizona

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Between three major league pitchers rehabbing in games and the arrival of Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin, the Rangers' extended spring training camp has been busy during the last week. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the players' progress.

  • Scott Feldman is continuing his trek back from offseason knee surgery, working in extended spring training games while he regains strength in his knee.

    Feldman underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in early November, just after the World Series concluded. His second extended spring training outing––against the Kansas City extended team––lasted three innings and 39 pitches.

    "Everything is pretty good," Feldman said after the appearance. "My knee is feeling good. It's just a matter of getting it to the point where I can run around and field my position like I should be able to before I can get out of here."

    Although the California native hasn't been favoring his knee on the mound, he must fully regain strength before he is able to join an affiliated club for a rehab assignment.

    "I pitch every fifth day," he said. "Other than that, our strength and conditioning guy, Napoleon Pichardo, takes me through my rehab as far as my leg goes. And then I try to do some cardio and just a lot of work in the pool, because I can't really run and jump on the ground yet. Just stuff like that."

    Feldman says he'll get out of Arizona as soon as he's able to run around comfortably on his surgrically repaired right knee. For now, he's just taking the process day by day.

    "Everything feels good," he said. "It's just a gradual thing where you have to build up. Maybe I'll do something a little more advanced next week, and then after that I'll do something a little more advanced. It's just one of those things."

    When he works in games right now, the 29-year-old says he's just trying to regain the feel for his arsenal.

    "I'm just trying to get the feel for everything––not just the curveball," Feldman said after his second appearance. "I was pretty happy. My fastball––I had a pretty good feel for that. The changeup is getting better. The curveball was a little shaky, but I threw some good ones there at the end. I'm just waiting for it to all come together before I can get out of here, hopefully."

    Feldman showed slightly improved stuff and command in his third outing, which came on Tuesday morning against Seattle. The hurler worked four innings plus three extra outs (so technically five frames), tossing scoreless ball. He was particularly sharp in the first two innings but lost some command of his 87-90 mph fastball and 71-76 mph curveball in the final two frames. His fastball reached as high as 92 mph in the second inning. He has had a good feel for his 80-82 mph changeup in each of the last two games.

    As Feldman mentioned in the above interview, the most important aspect for him at this point is regaining the strength in his knee to where he's able to run and field his position. The gradual outing-by-outing progress is promising, and he'll likely need at least a few more games in Arizona before he's able to join an affiliate.

  • Of the three rehabbing major league pitchers currently working in extended spring training games, righty Tommy Hunter (groin strain) appeared to be easily the closest to returning. Hunter's stuff looked sharp and he had no physical issues during a recent three-inning, 41-pitch outing against the Seattle extended club. Hunter logged five strikeouts––three on 78-83 mph curveballs, one on a 92 mph fastball, and one on an 86 mph cutter.

    Hunter's fastball sat between 91-92 mph, bumping up to 93 and 94 mph at times. His cutter and curveball both appeared to be in mid-season form. He surrendered a long home run on an 84 mph changeup that he left up in the zone during his first inning. The changeup was featured in the third, as he threw it seven times (six strikes). Hunter threw his change only sparingly last season (5.9% per FanGraphs), as it was below-average and little more than a show-me pitch. But it appeared to be a point of emphasis for him in early-spring outings.

    After the outing, the 24-year-old was shipped to Double-A Frisco, where he will make a 45-to-50 pitch rehab outing against San Antonio on Wednesday. He is expected to pitch in two or three games with the ‘Riders––assuming all goes well––before returning to Arlington.

  • Webb topped out at 81 mph.
  • The early rehab returns haven't been as positive for former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb.'s Jason Grey reported on Webb's first game action, a two-inning rehab where his sinking fastball sat between 78-81 mph and touched up to 84 mph.

    The velocity was more of the same for Webb in his second appearance––a three-inning stint––although he didn't hit above 81. He worked at 78-81 mph with the same excellent life that his sinker has always shown, but the lack of velocity is obviously troubling. The right-hander still has some strength work remaining in his rehab routine, and it's possible that he could have a little more velocity in there (although he also worked at 78-82 mph during instructional league last fall). But Webb is going to need quite a bit more velocity––likely 86-88 mph––in order to have a realistic chance of contributing to the Rangers this season. His sinker sat in the 86-90 mph range when he won 22 games and logged 226.2 innings with the Diamodnbacks in '08. He hasn't appeared in a major league game since opening day '09.

    While his command and the life on his sinker is enough to miss barrels against extended spring training hitters, it's simply too soft to fool upper-level hitters that can make the adjustment in mid-pitch. Even if Webb's velocity improves, it likely won't be in the immediate future and he shouldn't be expected to contribute for the Rangers any time soon.

    A chart of Webb's first two innings is posted on the subscriber-only message board. In addition to the fastball, he mixed in a slow 65-69 mph curve and a 70 mph changeup.

  • Left-handed pitcher Richard Bleier is returning from a broken left wrist that he sustained in a car accident over the offseason. He was sharp in his recent rehab outing––so sharp, in fact, that the club decided his scheduled second five-inning rehab wouldn't be necessary. Bleier shipped out to Double-A Frisco––where he will join the starting rotation––on Tuesday morning.

    The 24-year-old's mixture of command and sink did a number on the aggressive extended spring hitters, as he worked a total of 5.1 innings on just 45 pitches (38 strikes). He struck out five and didn't have a two-ball count on any of the 19 hitters he faced.

    Bleier's results were solid, but more importantly, his stuff looked improved from last season. With Frisco in 2010, the hurler threw strikes and induced lots of ground balls but posted a 5.04 ERA in 28 starts. In the rehab outing, Bleier showed good command of an 87-90 mph sinking fastball. He has generally worked between 84-88 mph over the last two seasons, sitting in the mid-80s.

    In addition to the sinker, Bleier mixed in an effective 76-80 mph changeup, a 70-74 mph curveball, and an 81-82 mph cutter. The cutter is a new addition, as he's looking for another offering to help him against right-handed batters. He threw the pitch three times, getting a swinging strike (strikeout), a called strike, and a foul ball.

    With Bleier's combination of sink and control, he should be effective in Double-A if he is able to work in the upper-80s while occasionally bumping 90-91 mph. But the key will be proving he can do it consistently. When he sits at 84-88 mph, the margin for error is minimal––even with the excellent sink.

    de los Santos is throwing live BP.
  • Following his strong finish last season, hard-throwing righty Ovispo de los Santos appeared primed for a breakout in 2011. But the 23-year-old was slowed by an elbow injury in spring training, and he still hasn't seen any game action. De los Santos seemed to take a positive step forward on Tuesday, throwing a live batting practice session. The reliever features a fastball that routinely touches the upper-90s to go along with an improving slider. He struck out 34 and walked eight in 26 innings between short-season Spokane and Single-A Hickory last year.

  • Middle infielder Omar Quintanilla, 29, is playing in extended spring training games while he serves the remainder of his 50-game suspension. The University of Texas product tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in August 2010. When the suspension is completed, he's expected to join Triple-A Round Rock.

  • Another player waiting out a suspension in Arizona is centerfielder Engel Beltre, who was sidelined 15 games by the Texas League due to his involvement in an incident with fans in San Antonio. He reportedly threw a trash can into the stands. Beltre has not been playing in games.

  • While the Rangers have been finalizing the paperwork on Leonys Martin's five-year, $15.5 million deal (plus a $5 million signing bonus), the outfielder recently arrived in Surprise to begin working out. Martin took his first batting practice in a Rangers uniform on Monday morning (seen at this link). It was undoubtedly his first time to see live pitching in quite some time, and he is expected to continue working in Arizona until he gets into game shape. When Martin is ready to join an affiliate, he will likely play at Double-A Frisco.

    Martin, 23, defected from his native Cuba last year and established residency in Mexico. After working as a reserve outfielder for Team Cuba in the '09 World Baseball Classic, he starred in the World University Championships last summer. Baseball America's John Manuel had a writeup of the prospect in September, discussing his plus speed, small-ball skills, and glove. Martin has also shown some plate discipline, leading the Serie Nacional (Cuban major leagues) with 78 walks in 90 games during the '08-'09 campaign.

    Because there isn't a wealth of information available on Cuban-born players, Martin is still somewhat of an unknown as he enters the U.S. According to's Keith Law, some teams have questioned his hit tool. The overall lack of information on Martin will make his debut this season all the more intriguing. The Rangers certainly like him enough, giving him a long-term deal worth more than $20 million overall.

  • Dutch middle infielder Nick Urbanus became the Rangers' first European-born amateur signee when he inked with the club in late 2010. The 19-year-old didn't attend spring training––as he was finishing school at home––but he arrived in extended spring training on Monday. Urbanus is currently taking batting practice, and he said he could see game action by the end of the week. He's expected to play in the rookie-level Arizona League this summer.

  • Catcher Guy Edmonds, an Australia native who signed for more than $150,000 prior to the 2010 season, also recently arrived in Arizona. After working out for a couple days, the 18-year-old has begun playing in extended spring training games. He belted a game-tying homer with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning during a recent contest against the Padres' extended club.

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