03/02/09 10:00 AM EST
Inbox: Who should be starting catcher?
Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers Rangers fans' questions
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
-- David D., Fort Worth, Texas
It's early, but Saltalamacchia looks good this spring. He has come to Spring Training focused and appears ready and eager to accept the challenge of being the Rangers' No. 1 catcher. The feeling here is stronger than ever that he should be given the opportunity to seize that role.I don't see why anyone should question Teagarden's ability to hit. Looking at the numbers he put up last year in limited action, he batted over .300, slugged .800, and had an on-base percentage near .400. Is there something in the Minors he lacked that I am not seeing?
-- Darrin K., Red Oak, Texas
Teagarden has a chance to be something special. He had an excellent year in the Minors in 2007, hitting .310 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs in 394 at-bats. Last year, he hit .211 with nine home runs and 22 RBI in 246 at-bats, although he was outstanding in his short time with the Rangers. He should have a productive Major League career, but, right now, Saltalamacchia should come first.Is there any chance for the Saltalamacchia/Teagarden-for-Clay Buchholz deal with Boston to re-emerge or even happen?
-- Willy S., Arlington
Maybe not for Buchholz, but there is a real possibility that the Red Sox and the Rangers could re-engage in trade talks at the end of spring.What kind of role, if any, will Frank Catalanotto have on this Rangers team?
-- Brendan S., Carrollton, Texas
My feeling is, if the Rangers can't trade Catalanotto -- even while picking up a substantial portion of his contract -- they will release him at the end of Spring Training. He is still a productive player, but he just doesn't fit on this team and deserves a chance elsewhere.I think Vicente Padilla is the most talented pitcher on the Rangers. People seem to forget he was on the verge of making the All-Star team last year before two awful starts. What kind of impact do you think pitching coach Mike Maddux will have on him, and could he actually get over the hump to become a consistent starter and the ace that his stuff shows he can?
-- Cameron P., Wylie, Texas
In my opinion, former pitching coach Mark Connor did a great job with Padilla. Also, I think that while Padilla has not been an ace, he has, for the most part, pitched well in Texas and deserves to be considered in a more favorable light among Rangers fans.In addition to being a possible future Hall of Famer, I have always heard that Omar Vizquel is an excellent presence in the clubhouse. However, he has obviously never dealt with only being a role player, which is the situation he now faces on the Rangers. Should there be any concern that he won't deal well with his new status and possibly become a malcontent in the clubhouse?
-- Stuart S., Athens, Texas
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I strongly doubt that Vizquel would be a "malcontent" under any circumstances. But I'm still not convinced that Vizquel would be willing to settle for a utility role, especially in the Rangers' current situation. There is little playing time available right now. He may opt to ride into the sunset or ask the Rangers to find a better situation for him.Are the Rangers foolish not to settle on Joaquin Arias as the utility infielder? Ian Kinsler and Michael Young won't come out much, and he can spell Elvis Andrus as needed and get his credentials established.
s -- Bob H., Grapevine, Texas
The Rangers need to keep an open mind as to who is ready to play shortstop right now: Arias or Andrus. There is little doubt here that Arias could be a frontline Major League shortstop if not for his shoulder problems.I have not heard too much about Chris Davis this spring. I know he strikes out a little too much, but why consider Nelson Cruz at cleanup and not Davis, who has had some success in the big leagues?
-- Jim S., Cypress, Texas
Hank Blalock will be the primary cleanup hitter and forget that junk about Young doing it. Davis will ultimately get a chance to move up in the order if he continues to slug away but manager Ron Washington doesn't want to put that pressure on him while he has Blalock.Do you see Neftali Feliz joining the rotation shortly after the All-Star break?
-- Rocky L., Royse City, Texas
That will be determined by his progress and the Rangers' needs. Right now there may be some debate as to whether Feliz ultimately will be a starter or a closer. They need to keep giving him a chance to start in the Minors while he hones -- among other things -- his breaking ball.Where do you see Kris Benson fitting in with this team? If healthy, will he push one of the starters out of the rotation or will he accept going to Triple-A until an injury or ineffectiveness?
-- Alex G., Benbrook, Texas
If there is an injury, Benson right now is first in line for the rotation. If not, the Rangers have to be convinced that either Brandon McCarthy or Scott Feldman is better off in the bullpen to make room for Benson.Why don't we hear about Marcus Lemon that much anymore? I thought he was one of the Rangers' top prospects along with Andrus and Jose Vallejo?
-- Ryan K., Temple, Texas
Lemon was signed out of high school in 2006 and has made the normal progression through the Minors. This would be his junior year at the University of Texas, instead he should be at Double-A Frisco. I've said it before, the jump from Class A to Double-A is the biggest one taken in the Minors. This will be an interesting year for Lemon.How come nobody ever talks about Tommy Hunter when mentioning pitchers who might make a viable option in the rotation either this year or next? He moved through the system faster than I have seen any pitcher in the Rangers' organization and seems to be very durable.
-- Sean B., Frisco, Texas
He moved way too fast through the system and should never have been brought to the Major Leagues last year. Necessity dictated otherwise. He is still highly regarded, but he needs a good season in the Minors that can re-establish his prospect status and be more of a factor next spring or this year post-All-Star break.Being a Rangers fan for more than 30+ years and seeing them not contend for a World Series for all those years, I was wondering if an organization can change the culture of losing into winning?
-- Mark B., Sherman, Texas
Two words: Tampa Bay.