03/04/11 11:26 AM EST
Inbox: Will Lowe close if Feliz moves?
Beat writer T.R. Sullivan answers Rangers fans' questions
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Will Mark Lowe be the Rangers' closer if Neftali Feliz goes to the rotation?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth, Texas
It definitely looks that way at this point. Although no decision has been made about Feliz going to the rotation, Lowe is clearly the front-runner to be the closer if that does happen. He has the ability and the experience.The most significant thing to come out of the Rangers' 11-9 victory over the Indians on Thursday was not the work of Feliz or Eric Hurley, but Lowe setting the side down in order in the ninth with two strikeouts. He wasn't facing Major League hitters, but he has looked sharp this spring and appears over the back problems that ruined his 2010 season. Lowe has been a big highlight for the Rangers to this point. David Murphy appears to be getting cheated. Julio Borbon is being handed the job in center field without a fight. Michael Young is the designated hitter and being promised he will play every day. Mike Napoli will get some at-bats. If the Rangers go according to plan, Murphy may not get to play at all. He should be the most unhappy guy in camp.
-- Thomas R., Houston
If anybody ever saw Murphy unhappy, angry or complaining, it would be a first. Murphy's playing time always seems to be a mystery in Spring Training, but he's had over 450 plate appearances in each of the past three seasons. That's about 200 fewer than Young, but it certainly doesn't qualify as being cheated. The Rangers need four outfielders. Every team does, but Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz have been on the disabled list a combined five times in two years. Rarely do things go according to plan with the Rangers -- or any other team.
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Is there somebody in the Minor Leagues that you think will have a breakout year?
-- Ronny R., Lawton, Okla.
Two former supplemental picks: third baseman Michael Olt and pitcher Neil Ramirez.
Olt was the 49th overall selection in last year's Draft out of the University of Connecticut. He hit .293 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 69 games at Class A Spokane. He can hit and is excellent defensively. He was also 2-for-2 with a game-tying ninth-inning single in Thursday's come-from-behind victory against the Indians.Ramirez was the 44th pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft who was 10-8 with a 4.43 ERA in 28 games at Class A Hickory. He walked 37 and struck out 142 in 140 1/3 innings with a fastball that is 95-98 mph. Watch out for these two this season. Zach Phillips, a left-handed reliever, is on the roster, but you don't hear much about him, if at all. Do the Rangers not think much of him?
-- Diane B., Sacramento, Calif.
If a player is on the Major League roster, the Rangers think highly of him, and Phillips is no exception. Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver aren't going to pitch forever, so Phillips has a chance to earn a significant role in the bullpen over the next year or two. He had a 3.22 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City last year and left-handed hitters batted .169 off him. If he gets off to a good start at Triple-A Round Rock this season, he could be a primary option if the Rangers need bullpen help at some point this year. He is also someone to watch.What are the chances the Rangers sign Kevin Millwood with an incentive-laden contract to help the rotation if Brandon Webb isn't ready?
-- Brendan S., Carrollton, Texas
Club officials don't see that happening. The Rangers signed veteran pitcher David Bush in the offseason to give them rotation depth, and they seem content with what they have in camp. The Rangers appear committed to their young pitchers at the back end of the bullpen.With the Rangers moving out of Oklahoma City and the Astros moving in, does that mean Fox Sports Oklahoma will be carrying the Astros games now, or will they continue airing the Rangers?
-- Jamie C., Norman, Okla.
Oklahoma is still Rangers territory and their games will still be the primary ones shown in the Indian Nation. Oklahoma still belongs to the Rangers.Where will Scott Feldman fit into the rotation once he is healthy?
-- Adam D., Sherman, Texas
Feldman is still throwing off flat ground and is not yet up on a mound. That won't happen until later this spring, and he will likely require at least two weeks of that. Then, he'll need about six outings in extended Spring Training to build up to six to seven innings and 90-100 pitches. That will likely take him into May. Beyond that, the Rangers could send him to Triple-A on a 30-day rehab assignment. In other words, it could be June before Feldman is Major League ready. At that point, it comes down to whatever needs arise and who are the other options for the Rangers.What are the plans for Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden this year?
-- Michael D., Abilene, Texas
Teagarden will likely be at Round Rock, possibly splitting time with Kevin Cash. There is no other way to put it except Teagarden needs a big year at Round Rock. Davis has looked good in camp, with two doubles and a walk-off home run on Thursday against the Indians. He'll likely be at Round Rock, but there are other clubs scouting him. If he hits, somebody will want him and they might want him enough to hand over a quality arm for the bullpen.Why name an Opening Day starter before Spring Training even starts? Isn't that where the best players are supposed to be chosen?
-- Ron K., Powderly, Texas
No, that's where the best players are supposed to get ready for the season. The Rangers go into Spring Training with a pretty good idea of where everybody will be pitching in the rotation once the season starts. That's how pitching coach Mike Maddux sets up the workout schedule for Spring Training. Maddux comes to camp with every pitcher's throwing schedule set up for the entire spring. Injuries force alterations, but Maddux starts with the first week of the season and works backwards to set up throwing programs based on a pitcher's potential spot in the rotation or bullpen.Someone once said they would rather have 200 innings than 70 innings out of a pitcher. Which then is better -- 45 saves or 15 wins?
-- Ken B., Kilgore, Texas
That's a great point, and that is the debate here in Rangers camp. Believe it -- there are some here in Surprise who believe that 45 saves are better.It seems, looking at this season, there are fewer days off for the team than there have been in recent seasons. Is that the case?
-- Keith G., Hamilton, Texas
It shouldn't be. A Major League season is 181 days, and they play 162 games. It should be just about the same every season.Does Brian Barden have a chance to make the team? When he was with Marlins, he did not get to play a lot. He went to Triple-A and tore it up last year. He is a good utility player.
-- Ron P., Garden Grove, Calif.
Barden, a member of the 2008 Olympic team that won a bronze medal in Beijing, signed a Minor League contract with the Rangers before Christmas, basically to be the Rangers' third baseman at Triple-A. As far as his Major League chances, they took a turn for the worse when the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre. Barden is a utility infielder, his best position is third base and the numbers in his best years in the Minor Leagues resemble Young's at the Major League level. In other words, his chances aren't good.What do you predict for Craig Gentry this year? Any chance of an extended stay on the big league roster?
-- Chris K., Norman, Okla.
He is the fifth outfielder on a team carrying just four outfielders. He is also trying to come back from a broken right wrist. The guy is still a talent with terrific speed, a strong arm and some good offensive numbers in the Minor Leagues, but his chances of being at the Major League level right now are dependent on injuries to others.What level will Barret Loux start at this year? Additionally, is there a current/former Major League pitcher who embodies his potential?
-- Greg H., Amarillo, Texas
Loux is a 6-foot-5 right-hander out of Texas A&M who will likely start the season at Class A Spokane. He was the sixth overall pick of 2010 First-Year Player Draft, taken by the D-backs. Drafted high because of signability, he signed relatively quickly for a $2 million bonus subject to passing a physical. The D-backs' medical staff didn't like what they saw on his physical and rescinded the offer. The Commissioner's Office ultimately made Loux a free agent and the Rangers signed him in the winter. He has a chance, but he has to be healthy. It's hard to compare him to a Major League pitcher, but he does have a Chris Carpenter-like build.Just out of curiosity, why do the Rangers wear regular-season jerseys during Spring Training, but not regular-season caps?
-- Brendon N., Arlington
Marketing. Major League Baseball mandates that all clubs wear special Spring Training caps so you have a nice choice of Rangers headgear.