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Saturday morning Rangers stuff

Terrific outing by Derek Holland in his first major league start.  Through 5 2/3 innings, it looked like he wouldn't give up a run.  And then he allows a bunt single to Michael Bourn and a softly hit single to Kaz Matsui to put two on with two out, and then he hung either a slider or a changeup (there's mixed reports on what it was) to Lance Berkman, who took him deep and messed up his line (and, it looked like for a while, the game).

But Holland was terrific.  No walks, 4 Ks, 52 strikes against just 24 balls.  Excellent outing.

Z ran down the starting debuts of the most notable Rangers pitching prospects over the last couple of decades, and Holland's performance compares very well.

Jeff Wilson says the most frequently asked question in the clubhouse after the game was who was better yesterday -- Derek Holland or Elvis Andrus, guys who were teammates at Frisco less than a year ago. 

T.R. Sullivan echoed that sentiment, with Holland saying he didn't run out of gas in the 6th, but just made a bad pitch, and Washington saying that the double play Andrus turned in the 8th saved the game for Texas.

Elvis had his first career four hit game along with his usual excellent play in the field, bringing his line for the season to .289/.331/.458.  He's not got a higher OPS than Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy, and is just one point behind Hank Blalock.

Speaking and Davis and Blalock, both sat yesterday, although both ended up getting into the game.  Ron Washington says he sat Davis because he needed a mental break:

"I'll get Chris back out there, I just wanted to give him a day," Washington said. "I just think he needs a mental break and watch the ballgame. He's trying too hard. Usually one day kick-starts you, so I'm going to give him a day."

Before his recent 0 for 18 stretch, Davis had been hitting .283/.330/.626 in his last 28 games, and had looked to be getting on track. Davis says that against Anaheim, he was having good ABs even if he wasn't getting hits, but things just went south in Detroit.

Wilson says Washington plans on starting Davis today.

Jim Reeves says that Davis and Blalock sat in part because Ron Washington was trying to send a message to the clubhouse about his dissatisfaction with this team's hacking ways -- something that we've been talking about all season, it seems like.  He suggests that Nolan Ryan needs to have a talking-to with the players about the importance of working counts, and has this to say about Davis:

Davis, on the verge of becoming a basket case after an 0-for-16 streak, and Blalock sat while Jones, who took a crash course on playing first from infield coach Dave Anderson during batting practice, fished his barely broken-in first baseman’s mitt from the back of his locker and batted cleanup in Washington’s batting order.

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In other words, Washington is scared that Davis, who tends to overthink situations and is obviously trying too hard, will fall into such a black hole mentally, he might never crawl out.

Jones said he played first base "five or six times" in Triple A years ago, but had no qualms about accepting the challenge. Anything to get into the lineup.

"It gives some guys a chance to get a day off and clear their heads, not think about it," Jones said. "We had a tough series in Detroit and this gives [Davis] a chance to get away from things mentally for a day, let him work on things he needs to work on and get back in there [today]."

The concerns about Davis date back to early in March, when I think there was a sense that he was pressing too much and putting too much pressure on himself to produce in the early part of spring training.  And I think that's part of the challenge that Washington has to deal with right now...the organization has made it clear it views Davis as a key part of this team going forward, and the last thing that's needed is for Davis to, as Reeves suggests, fall into a "black hole" mentally. 

If Andruw Jones is going to hit and Hank Blalock isn't, Jones can replace Blalock and Blalock, who is gone after this season regardless, and it doesn't matter.  But this team is going to need Davis in 2010 and 2011 and 2012, and even with a divisional race, I think it is still important to handle him in a way that is going to be most conducive to his long-term development.