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Inbox: Confidence in improved lineup?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from Rangers fans

Inbox: Confidence in improved lineup? play video for Inbox: Confidence in improved lineup?

Do you believe the Rangers' offense is improved? Nelson Cruz was on pace to hit 40-plus homers and was hitting about .270. It's been a long time since Prince Fielder hit 40 homers, and he has only reached that number twice. I hated all the popups, but don't see Shin-Soo Choo as a significant improvement over Ian Kinsler.
-- Dennis G., Sherman, Texas

You can sit around all day long and argue the merits of Fielder and Choo vs. a lineup with Kinsler and Cruz. It makes for a great argument. But for the Rangers' lineup to be significantly improved this season, much will depend more on the continued development of Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar and how much more the team gets offensively from Mitch Moreland and the catchers. The top half of the lineup will be good. Most American League lineups are good at the top. The bottom half will make the biggest difference one way or another.

Is there any possibility of Michael Young coming back to the Rangers in 2014 to provide the needed right-handed bat for DH and as the utility infielder? He can still give a team base hits, and it would be nice to see him finish his career back in Texas.
-- Larry B., Fort Worth

Forget the all the past issues, real or imagined. From a clinical baseball standpoint, it's hard to see why Young would want to play for the Rangers in such a limited role that promises just 100-150 at-bats unless he desperately wants to play and has no other options. It's highly doubtful that would have much appeal for Young.

Adam Rosales, J.P. Arencibia, and Michael Choice are the leading candidates to be backup position players out of Spring Training. That leaves one more spot on the bench vacant. Who do you think it should go to and why?
-- Samuel J., Lewisville, Texas

Mark Reynolds. He is a power-hitting corner infielder who hits left-handers decently and can give the Rangers needed depth at third base if something happens to Adrian Beltre. He would seem like a good fit.

What is the Rangers' current deal with Round Rock? With Nolan Ryan now gone, is there a chance the Triple-A club would move back to Oklahoma City?
-- Travis A., Edmond, Okla.

The Rangers negotiated a contract extension with Round Rock that keeps them there through the 2018 season. The Rangers probably aren't interested in giving up a major presence in central Texas, even though Oklahoma City served them well for so long.

Should the Rangers put Alexi Ogando back in the bullpen? It seems that he can't stay healthy in the rotation.
-- Sean C., Muenster, Texas

The Rangers should have left Ogando in the rotation after his All-Star season in 2011 and let him continue to build as a starter. Now that Derek Holland is out with a knee injury, Ogando is needed more in the rotation.

This is the year that a non-player is recognized with induction to the Rangers Hall of Fame. Shouldn't Chuck Morgan be placed in it, due to his many years as the ballpark announcer? He brings so much to the ballpark experience for the fans.
-- Richard A., Granbury, Texas

Morgan will be a great and well-deserved addition to the Rangers Hall of Fame. My vote -- which doesn't count -- right now would go to Tom Schieffer, the Rangers' former club president. The Ballpark in Arlington is the best thing that happened to the Rangers since the move to Texas, and Schieffer was the driving force behind it.

During the 2013 season, the Rangers missed many opportunities to move runners into scoring position because of poor baseball fundamentals having to do with bunting. Do you predict an emphasis on bunting practice this season?
-- Richard W., Dallas

The Rangers emphasize bunting every year in Spring Training. They emphasize proper baserunning. They emphasize every single fundamental in the game. Manager Ron Washington does not allow them to overlook anything. The Rangers' workouts in Spring Training, using the best facility in the Major Leagues, cover everything comprehensively and that doesn't include the extra work players get early in the morning.

Here is the thing you have to understand. Just because the execution isn't there during the regular season doesn't mean it was neglected in Spring Training. It often means the player just didn't get the job done.

I understand that the Rangers have more than likely closed the book on Cruz with the signing of Choo. But the free-agent market for Cruz now seems extremely weak with the possible takers all turning in other directions. At what level would the Rangers consider bringing Cruz back as a right-handed DH and part-time outfielder on a one- or two-year basis?
-- DeWayne B., Fort Worth

As long as Cruz is out there, he remains an option for the Rangers. He would probably have a job right now if it did not cost the signing team a Draft pick as compensation. It still seems more likely that he will get a job somewhere else as an everyday player. Draft picks are important, but some teams' drafting track record suggests they shouldn't agonize too much over losing a late first-round pick in order to sign a productive free agent.

I was wondering why people still talk about the Ballpark in Arlington as having a jetstream? I thought that it was taken out with the renovations to the ballpark last year. It didn't seem to be there last season. Discussion from broadcasters from other teams and the Hot Stove suggest people seem believe it is still there.
-- Angela B., Arlington

There is a complicated formula devised to measure ballpark effects and how much a particular stadium favors hitters or pitchers. The Ballpark in general has always favored hitters but only slightly last season and that probably was due to the renovations behind home plate. Washington, among others, noted that the jetstream wasn't a big factor last year. But there have been other years when the Ballpark didn't favor hitters as much. Some of it has to do with the weather, and some of it has to do with the quality of the Rangers' lineup.

Is Neftali Feliz truly ready to be the Rangers' closer after recovering from Tommy John surgery? Do the Rangers have any worries?
-- Marcus G., La Feria, Texas

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to injuries, especially Tommy John. But many pitchers do come back strong, Feliz was outstanding as a closer in 2010-11 and the Rangers have Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers as quality candidates along with him.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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