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03/08/10 11:28 AM ET

Inbox: Managing the pitching staff

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers Rangers fans' quesions

What is the reason for manager Ron Washington waiting to take the pitcher out of the game when we are already behind three to five runs, and the pitcher keeps putting the team in a bigger hole? I understand Washington, wanting to see if the pitcher can get out of it. But it makes it more strenuous on the other pitchers and players, to get us a win.
-- Anthony M., Fort Worth

Managing a clubhouse and managing a pitching staff are a manager's two biggest tasks. Certainly leaving a pitcher in too long invites immediate disaster. A quick hook invites another kind of disaster though, burning up a pitching staff and a bullpen. A starter who gives up six runs early puts his team in a deep hole, but if he can still pitch maybe five innings, he saves the bullpen for another day. A starter gone in two innings puts his team in a deficit situation for the next day as well.

With so much emphasis put on pitch count/injuries and the young arms that the Rangers have, has there been any thought of a six-man rotation?
-- Dean L., McKinney, Texas

Not sure five-man rotations have been better at preventing injuries than the old four-man rotations. The idea of a six-man rotation might seem to have merit if the Rangers deem Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter all worthy of being in the rotation, but right now they seem committed to a five-man rotation. A six-man rotation takes away another spot from an already thin four-man bench.

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Every spring there are players who are out of options or won't clear waivers. Which players are in that position this spring and how could that affect the 25-man roster for Opening Day?
-- Marla H., Arlington

Five players are out of options and can't be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers: pitchers Scott Feldman, Luis Mendoza and Dustin Nippert, infielder Joaquin Arias and outfielder Nelson Cruz. Feldman and Cruz aren't going anywhere and Nippert's status may give him an edge in making the team as a middle reliever. If the Rangers deem Arias unworthy of being their utility infielder, it seems unlikely another team will as well. If Mendoza can't make the Rangers, there is a good chance he's traded at the end of camp.

What are the chances Justin Smoak makes it up to Arlington this year?
-- Joel H., Italy, Texas

Assuming he is playing well, it would likely depend on the performance of Chris Davis and Vladimir Guerrero staying healthy. Smoak is the first line of defense against both. The bet here is Davis will be fine at first base. If Guerrero stays healthy, Smoak may not make it until September.

We all know about the numerous injuries Josh Hamilton has had in the past, and obviously it's way too early to press the panic button, but with his recent injury, how much of an issue is his durability for the season?
-- Zach P., Belton, Texas

Every player's durability is an issue. Certainly Hamilton's concern quotient is higher given his history both on and off the field. Hamilton is doing everything he can to stay healthy -- his work ethic is unquestioned -- but this is why David Murphy is such an important part of the team.

Why is Rich Harden the leading candidate for the Opening Day start? I understand the contract situation, but Feldman won us 17 games last year ... It would seem obvious that Feldman should be given that honor.
-- Pablo G., Irving, Texas

Of all the Rangers pitchers, Harden is viewed as having the best "stuff" to go head-to-head with the No. 1 starter on the opposing team. If the Rangers had acquired Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, there would be no doubt as to the Opening Day pitcher. But Feldman is certainly quite worthy of the honor and you make a strong case.

I live in Hickory, N.C., and we have the Hickory Crawdads who are a Class A affiliate of the Rangers. Throughout last season I saw Martin Perez pitch a lot of games. Where do you see him at as a pitcher and when do you think we will see him in a Rangers uniform?
-- Lee S., Hickory, N.C.

He'll be at Double-A Frisco to start the season, barring a bad spring. A strong performance there could merit promotion to Triple-A. Hopefully the Rangers will show some patience, give him valuable development time and hold off until at least 2011 before he makes his Major League debut.

Have the Rangers given it any more thought to the possibility of giving Hamilton and/or Murphy some time at first base? Hamilton, I believe, can play any position, and Murphy could be used at first to get more playing time and give Chris Davis a break.
-- Brandon L., Jonesboro, Ark.

Murphy will get some time at first base this spring as a possible contingency. There are no plans for Hamilton to the same. He may have a future at DH, but, right now, if he is on the field, it will be in left field.

Do you see Harrison being in Texas long term? He displays lots of maturity on the mound, but sometimes lacks that knockout punch.
-- Joe R., Butner, N.C.

Prediction: Harrison will be in the Opening Day rotation. He looks great so far this spring and Nolan Ryan, among others, strongly believes the Rangers need 1-2 left-handers in the rotation.

What is the difference between a "single" and a "base hit" if there is any?
-- Anastasia M., Fort Worth

Technically none, according to my former editor Steve Waggoner. A base hit is sometimes used for anything from a single to home run. But it really means a single. A double is a two-base hit, a triple is a three-base hit and a home run is a bomb.

You concluded your article about the Rangers' need for a utility infielder with these words, "Julio Lugo and Mike Lowell were the left side of the Red Sox infield when they won the World Series in 2007. Three years later, they might fit nicely together on the Rangers bench." My question is do you think the Rangers could afford both players, even if the other teams picked up large portions of their contracts?
-- Wayne P., Sherman, Texas

Yes. If the Rangers give up sufficient talent in return, the Cardinals will be willing to trade Lugo and the Red Sox would be willing to deal Lowell while picking up a sufficient amount of the contract. The Cardinals are already picking up a minimal portion of Lugo's contract after acquiring him last year from the Red Sox.

Where will we see the two new players from the Dominican Republic, Alexi Ogando and Omar Beltre, play this year?
-- Will C., Ennis, Texas

There is a good chance one or both could start the year at Double-A Frisco.

Do you know if Robert Earl Keene is going to be playing a postgame concert this year? I love hearing his great western music!!!
-- Darrin K., Red Oak, Texas

Right now that has not been set for sure but his concerts are becoming a popular summer tradition and it's a good thing when certain traditions are established without forcing them.

Would the Rangers ever consider installing a pool or fountain in the lawn in center field?
-- Adam D., Sherman, Texas

That might create some unique distractions for opposing hitters.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.