If the Rangers have another season where they go to the playoffs, is there any Texas coach or coaches who you see getting serious consideration for manager openings for next season? Is there anyone on Ron Washington's staff who's seen as a rising talent and will be managing in the big leagues in the next few seasons?
-- Aaron R., Dallas
Pitching coach Mike Maddux is the obvious answer, considering he interviewed for the Cubs' job this winter and turned down a chance to interview with the Red Sox. But the guy being overlooked is first-base coach Gary Pettis. He is definitely somebody to look at as far as a future manager. Pettis has made a major contribution to the Rangers as far as his knowledge of baserunning and outfield skills. He is a good teacher, is highly respected by the players, has a strong, positive presence in the clubhouse and has learned much from Washington. Pettis would be an excellent managerial candidate.
What do you think the Rangers' biggest need will be going forward as far as possible trades?
-- Steve M., Oklahoma City
All of that will be dictated by injuries, because right now, this team is quite solid at just about every position. The biggest concern is injuries in the outfield, and what the Rangers really need is for Brad Hawpe, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, to regain his ability to play the outfield. He is currently working on that at Double-A Frisco. But Leonys Martin is off to a good start at Triple-A Round Rock and so is re-emerging prospect Engel Beltre at Frisco.
If the Rangers don't re-sign Josh Hamilton and he departs via free agency, will the organization consider moving Ian Kinsler to center? It seems like he has the tools to play there, and with Jurickson Profar getting a full season of at-bats, could 2013 be the year he and Elvis Andrus play every day together?
-- Jay A., Dallas
Hamilton can be a free agent after this season, and Nelson Cruz and David Murphy can be after the 2013 season. That may be the time when the Rangers look to move Kinsler to the outfield. It would probably be a corner spot with Martin in center, if it happens at all. Remember that Andrus becomes a free agent after the '14 season. It may be that the Rangers need Profar at shortstop and Kinsler to stay at second. There will be a lot of moving pieces in the Rangers' lineup over the next three years.
Two years ago, we discovered that Neftali Feliz was a lights-out closer after Frank Francisco blew a few saves. Any chance we see how Mike Adams will do if Joe Nathan continues to give up runs?
-- Eric T., Temple, Texas
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Francisco had health issues at the time that were of concern to the Rangers. Really, Nathan has had just one bad game. He lost a game when the score was tied by giving up a home run, but that's hardly cause for alarm. Washington has made it abundantly clear that he has complete confidence in Nathan.
I saw an article somewhere that Barret Loux is projected to be a solid No. 3 starter in the future. Nothing wrong with that. But he pitched really well last year and was drafted No. 6 overall. Why is he projected as a No. 3 starter, and why would a No. 3 starter be drafted that high?
-- Matthew P., Denton, Texas
Loux, 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA at Frisco, was drafted sixth overall in 2010 out of Texas A&M by the D-backs, who didn't like his post-signing medical reports. So after much legal wrangling, he was made a free agent and signed by the Rangers. Projections mean squat. No. 1 starters are rare, usually a pitcher who throws 95-plus mph with outstanding secondary pitches. Extremely rare are pitchers who have all three at the time they are drafted. All first-round picks usually have great arms, and the next step is how they develop their overall repertoire. Some never do so. Loux, like many pitchers in the Rangers' system, is still in the process of doing that.
Any insight into why the Rangers made no effort to re-sign Endy Chavez for 2012? He had a very good year in 2011. Chavez is a better hitter than both Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon. He is also at least as good defensively as Borbon.
-- Tim K., Minneapolis
Chavez saw significant playing time because of injuries to Hamilton and Cruz last year. Not willing to bet on that happening again and realizing Martin was moving up in queue, Chavez decided to go to Baltimore, where there was a much better chance of playing time without waiting for injury. Sometimes it's the player that spurns the team rather than the other way around.
Last year, Washington insisted on keeping three catchers to retain flexibility when using Mike Napoli as the designated hitter or at first base, but this year, I have not seen this option considered. Would you please discuss why Ron required the third catcher and whether he intends to do the same in 2012?
-- Ben G., Tyler, Texas
When you have a four-man bench, versatility and flexibility is huge. Look, you need a backup catcher, a backup infielder (Alberto Gonzalez) and a backup outfielder (Gentry). So what does the fourth guy need to do? More than anything, he needs to enhance the Rangers' flexibility, and that's what Brandon Snyder does by being able to catch, play the corner-infield spots and possibly play the outfield. He is the Rangers' third catcher, and that allows Washington to do two things. One is he can use Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba in the same lineup and, secondly, it allows him to make moves late in the game -- maybe a pinch-runner -- without worrying about what to do at catcher in case of emergency.
After the Rangers signed Yu Darvish, I was almost certain they would make way by moving Colby Lewis. I don't understand the logic behind keeping Alexi Ogando in the bullpen after he flourished in the rotation with no starting experience. Considering Lewis is older and could leave via free agency after the season, wouldn't it make more sense to let Ogando develop into a front-line starter with his electric pitch arsenal?
-- Faaiz A., Plano, Texas
Opposing managers have to be shaking their heads in disbelief when they see the Rangers using an All-Star starting pitcher as their seventh-inning reliever. But the Rangers aren't into development at the Major League level anymore. It's all about winning this season and putting the best team on the field right now. That means maintaining as much pitching depth as possible, keeping Lewis in the rotation and letting Ogando be a huge piece to a bullpen that right now looks terrific. Just another reason why the Rangers are loaded this season.
Because of the cultural differences, has Darvish been treated differently in the clubhouse regarding pranks such as pie in the face?
-- Tim L., Phoenix
Other than reporters being forbidden to go near him, Darvish is treated no differently than any other player in the clubhouse. Daisuke Matsuzaka was isolated from his Red Sox teammates, but Darvish seems at ease and in the middle of everything.
Let's say that the Rangers continue to be playoff contenders (and hopefully World Series champs soon) for the next several years. Could Nolan Ryan get reinducted into the Hall Of Fame as an owner even though he's already in as a player?
-- Craig N., Dallas
Once is enough. If the Rangers are as successful as you hope they will be, why not look at one of their other non-playing leaders to be accorded that honor. But that would require a significant body of work that is not accumulated in just a few years, whether it would be for Ryan or someone else.
The next time Napoli belts a home run off of C.J. Wilson, if he gives C.J a good old-fashioned staredown, would that still be considered a breach of baseball etiquette or would the players "allow" it?
-- David N., Corsicana, Texas
To use a favorite Tom Grieve expression, "You can take this to the bank ..." Napoli would never stare down any pitcher.