Name: Michael Bumstead
DOB: July 8, 1977
Bumstead, 29, came into the Mexican Pacific League following a fantastic 2006 regular season with the Frisco RoughRiders. The tall right-handed pitcher appeared in 33 games – all in relief – with Double-A Frisco and posted a 1.81 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .199 average. Bumstead became a six-year Minor League free agent at the end of the 2006 season, but the Rangers re-signed him to a Minor League contract shortly after the season ended.
Unfortunately for the tall righty, his winterball season was not nearly as successful. Playing for Mochis, who finished with a record of 30-38, Bumstead allowed 17 earned runs on 25 hits in just 12.1 innings. The native of California made just six appearances – three starts – before returning back to the states for the remainder of the offseason.
Despite the poor performance, Bumstead's subpar winter should not overshadow his solid summer, which came over a much larger sample size. Expect the right-hander to work out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks in 2007.
Name: Matt Kata
DOB: March 14, 1978
The Rangers gave well-traveled utilityman Matt Kata a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training well after he had begun playing in Mexico. The former Vanderbilt Commodore has played parts of three seasons in the Majors between 2003 and 2005, but he failed to reach the show last season. Kata played in 130 games for Louisville, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, and hit .263 with nine home runs.
The 28-year-old hit .273 and displayed excellent power in his 44 games with Navojoa this winter. Kata hit eight home runs in 176 at bats, just one less than he had in a full season with Triple-A Louisville. Though he was often streaky, Kata's ability to play all around the diamond helped him to gain extra playing time.
Kata's versatility is sure to be a mark in his favor when he enters spring training looking to win a spot on the 25-man roster. Even if the utilityman is not able to make the big league team out of spring training, he could very well see some time in the Major Leagues as the season progresses.
Name: Luis Mendoza
DOB: October 31, 1983
Shortly after the Rangers acquired the right-hander from the Red Sox in July of 2006, he became a mystery. Mendoza seemed to follow each outstanding start with a poor one. His final line with Double-A Frisco, despite a couple of solid efforts, was a 2-4 record and a 7.75 earned run average.
The native of Veracruz, Mexico, was much more consistent while playing in his home country this winter. Mendoza was one of Obregon's best pitchers throughout the season, as he posted a 3.05 ERA in 44.1 innings pitched. Even though he made just five starts in 18 appearances, the righty was much more effective as a starting pitcher. Mendoza had a 2.59 ERA as a starter, holding opposing hitters to a paltry .212 average.
A solid winter in the Mexican Pacific League is surely an encouraging sign that the pitcher, who possesses a solid fastball, could be turning a corner. Mendoza pitched very well at several Single-A levels for the Red Sox, but the lack of a consistent breaking ball has given him trouble in Double-A. If he is not able to develop a solid breaking ball, a move to the bullpen could be in his future. Because he is just 23 years of age, the righty appears likely to return to Frisco in 2007.
Name: Miguel Ojeda
DOB: January 29, 1975
The Rangers acquired Miguel Ojeda from the Rockies late in the 2006 season to provide depth behind catchers Gerald Laird and Rod Barajas. Following a respectable showing with Triple-A Oklahoma and the Texas Rangers in August and September, the Rangers decided to re-sign the veteran catcher to do the same thing – provide depth behind starting catcher Gerald Laird.
Although Ojeda excelled offensively between four stops last summer, the catcher struggled to do much of anything at the plate with Mazatlan, the 2005 champions of the Caribbean. Ojeda hit just .226 with seven extra base hits in 155 at bats while splitting his time at catcher, first base, and left field.
The 32-year-old will compete for a job as Gerald Laird's backup, but it will not be an easy job to win. The Rangers have just recently added two younger catchers – Guillermo Quiroz and Chris Stewart – to their 25-man roster. However, Ojeda should go into spring training as the favorite to win the job.