Inbox: Is Darvish exceeding expectations?

Inbox: Is Darvish exceeding expectations?

Inbox: Is Darvish exceeding expectations?
Is Yu Darvish making a faster transition to the big leagues than expected? He looked completely unfazed by his surroundings on Tuesday night and just dominated the great Yankees.
-- Paul F., Fort Worth, Texas

The Rangers did not just call up Darvish from Triple-A Round Rock or draft him out of high school superpower Arlington Heights. He spent seven seasons in Japan pitching in big games in front of big crowds, and also pitched for his country in international competition. So Darvish should be relatively unfazed by such surroundings. That said, there is still work ahead, and the Yankees intimated as such. They admitted they were surprised and impressed by Darvish, but also suggested they would make adjustments the next time around. Darvish must continue to improve, because as teams become familiar with him, he will have to adjust accordingly. It's an ongoing process for every pitcher.

Josh Hamilton is off to a blistering start this season (for which I am thrilled). He and the Rangers did not agree on a contract extension before the start of the season (for which I was disappointed). What are the chances it will happen during the season? If it doesn't, and he has another MVP year with little time on the DL, will the high-dollar contract he would command likely take him away from us?
-- Brian M., McKinney, Texas

This is going to be an ongoing public debate all through the season as people opine as to what eventually will happen. Right now, everything is conjecture, although it is safe to say that the Rangers remain in contact with Hamilton's agent, and Hamilton appears to be highly motivated this season. The Rangers can afford him if they so desire: again, it comes down to the length of the contract, possible protection against injury, and if the Rangers are willing to risk that against re-signing the guy who may be the best player in baseball right now.

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Did the money spent to get Darvish prohibit the Rangers from re-signing the good core players who will be free agents next year, and do those players resent not being approached sooner with offers to stay?
-- Mark F., Fort Worth, Texas

The Rangers in particular, and baseball in general, are going through one of those boom periods where the financial going is good from the proliferation of lucrative regional television contracts. This has happened before, particularly in the early 1990s after baseball landed a big national contract with CBS and clubs spent the money before the ink was dry. The Rangers experienced it around 2000, at the outset of their current local-television contract, and that led to the big deals for Alex Rodriguez, Chan Ho Park and others.

No telling how long it will last or when the day of reckoning will come, as it did for the Rangers midway through the last decade. Right now, the Rangers appear flush, but they need to be circumspect on what they do, or they could end up with a roster that is old and inflexible. Rangers players are lining up to say how much they want to stay here, but their alternative is unrestricted free agency, a treasured right players fought many labor wars over.

Do you expect Elvis Andrus' added bulk to give him a little more pop, justifying his spot batting second? What about slowing him down on the basepaths and limiting his range in the field? Is it a net gain?
-- Steven T., Austin, Texas

Right now, Andrus is fine and playing at a high level, especially on defense. But increased bulk over time is always a danger for a shortstop, and Miguel Tejada is a prime example of one who faded as he moved into his 30s. On the other hand, watching Derek Jeter this week was an example of a shortstop who has maintained the proper balance between strength, agility and quickness over time, and is once again playing at a high level. Tejada, who lost his ability to play shortstop the way he once did in his prime, is a month older than Jeter but without a job.

Regarding Mike Napoli getting beaned in the head the other day, I heard comments saying if he didn't have the ear protection on his helmet, it could have been more serious than it was (and rightly so). I remember Buddy Bell wearing a helmet that didn't have ear protection on either side of the helmet. Any reason for this, or is it personal preference?
-- Brandon H., Ada, Okla.

Bell played 30 years ago. Since then, ear flaps have become mandatory for all hitters, and next year, baseball is planning to introduce a new helmet that is stronger and offers more protection.

Any reason why Fox Sports Southwest doesn't cover Friday games?
-- Cary W., Amarillo, Texas

Not everybody has cable, and the Rangers wanted at least one game a week on an over-the-air station to allow those fans to be able to watch a game.

Do the Rangers have a barber that travels with them? With the facial hair that is on Napoli, Mike Adams, and now Colby Lewis, it just seems that the beards are too perfect to be done on their own.
-- Jeff S., Richardson, Texas

No, but visiting clubhouse managers often bring in barbers to offer players haircuts. One set up shop in the shower at Fenway Park last week, although not every player was wise enough to take advantage of the opportunity.

I know the obvious reason why pitchers talk with their gloves over their mouths during mound meetings, but is there a particular incident that caused this to start? One time when it seemed clear that something was overheard or lip-read? I don't remember pitchers and others doing this when I was a kid.
-- Glenn M., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Legend has it that during Game 1 of the 1989 National League Championship Series, the Giants had the bases loaded with Will Clark at the plate. Catcher Joe Girardi went to the mound to talk with Greg Maddux. Clark read Maddux's lips say "Fastball, high, inside." Clark hit the next pitch -- a fastball high and inside -- out of Wrigley Field for a grand slam. That supposedly led to pitchers talking with glove over mouth.

I don't quite understand why manager Ron Washington takes David Murphy out late in the game. I always thought that Murphy was a fine fielder. I know Craig Gentry is fast, but is he really that much better defensively than Murphy?
-- Jon D., Alexandria, La.

As always, Washington's philosophy is simple. When the Rangers have a lead late in the game, he wants his best defensive team on the field. Being replaced defensively by Gentry is hardly an indictment of Murphy's improved defense. But every Rangers fan should know by now how important defense is to the manager, and this is another case in point. Gentry is an excellent defender.

What is the current thinking on Leonys Martin? Is he definitely in line to play center field for the Rangers in 2012 or 2013?
-- Robert H., Mesquite, Texas

He is off to a great start at Round Rock, and definitely first in line if there is an injury at the Major League level. There is a very good chance he will be the Rangers' Opening Day center fielder next year. If the Rangers do sign Hamilton to a significant extension, they will be far more motivated to protect him by moving him to left field.

Do you know the make and model of Nelson Cruz's outfield glove?
-- Aaron K., Wills Point, Texas

He uses a TPX model made by Louisville Slugger and signed by Nelson Cruz. He used it in batting practice last year to break it in, and now uses it during games. Cruz said the glove should last him through next season.

For a while now, Rangers fans have been trying to come up with a good nickname for this great batting lineup. The search is over. ... The Boomstick Battalion.
-- David N., Corsicana, Texas

Your suggestion is vetoed. You're living in the past, when all the Rangers could do offensively was bomb away. Their offense is much more diversified now, and they rely on speed and other weapons as much as power. Try again and re-submit.

Please submit these song requests to Chuck Morgan: "Pencil Thin Mustache," for a game started by Derek Holland, and "9 to 5" when Nelson Cruz throws someone out at third.
-- Jim S., Cypress, Texas

Used to be everybody wanted to second-guess the manager. Now every baseball fan wants to work in marketing.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.