Inbox: How do Rangers arms stay game-ready?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers fans' questions

April 22nd, 2020

Starting pitching was supposed to be the Rangers' strength this year. What are the Rangers doing to keep their five starters ready for the start of the season?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth, Texas

The Rangers' five starters -- , , , and -- are going through an improvised throwing program under unusual circumstances. For example, Gibson lives outside St. Louis and is throwing in a backyard shed that measures 40 feet by 70 feet. He is throwing into a net and a Rapsodo pitching unit collects all the data. His daughter, Hayden, keeps track of pitch counts and other information on her iPad.

The balancing act keeps the arm built up without overdoing it, as nobody knows when the season will begin. The goal is for everybody to stay sharp enough so that they can make three “Spring Training” starts and be properly prepared when real games begin.

Would Adam Jones not have been a decent option to look at this year for the outfield?
-- Ian G., Forney, Texas

Jones, 34 and a 14-year veteran, would have been a great addition to any clubhouse, and signing him might have had the same impact as Hunter Pence last year. Jones opted for Japan relatively early in the offseason, perhaps seeing more money and more playing time there. With the Rangers, he would have been a backup corner outfielder after having played just one game in center for Arizona last year. Barring injury, there wasn’t much opportunity to play behind Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun and Shin-Soo Choo. The Rangers clearly wanted to look hard at Nick Solak, Scott Heineman and other younger options for that role.

Do you think Ian Kinsler would have beaten Dustin Pedroia in the race for the 2008 AL MVP if he hadn’t gotten injured?
-- Terry M., Fort Worth

No, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau would have won: Kinsler did not play after Aug. 17 because of a sports hernia. Kinsler's .319 average, .517 slugging percentage and .892 OPS that season were all career highs. If he plays a full season, he and Pedroia would have had similar numbers and likely taken votes away from each other. That would have allowed Morneau, the runner-up that season, to sneak past both and claim the award.

How would the Rangers have been different if they had never signed Alex Rodriguez back in 2001? Where would they have spent the money instead, and how would it have affected their team? Also, how would it have affected Rodriguez’s legacy?
-- Wiley S., Arlington

Hindsight suggests the Rangers should have gone into a rebuilding mode at the beginning of the new millennium. Signing Rodriguez was not Texas' biggest problem, but the fruitless shotgun attempt to build a contender around him led to too many questionable acquisitions like Chan Ho Park, John Rocker, Andres Galarraga, Ken Caminiti and countless others.

The Rangers had terrific young offensive talent emerge while Rodriguez was in Texas, including Michael Young, Hank Blalock, Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner and more. They just didn’t have the same level of pitching talent coming up with it, but the A-Rod money could have been used in that area instead. It could have also been used to keep Ivan Rodriguez from leaving as a free agent after 2002.

As for Rodriguez, all evidence suggests that he would have signed with the Braves if not the Rangers.

Do you think we see Josh Jung get called up to The Show this season (or whenever we start playing again) to fill our void at 3B?
-- Tanner L. Dallas, Texas

No. The shutdown is going to slow down and delay the arrival of many young prospects. Position players should be fine once they make up lost at-bats and playing time. But it’s going to be a challenge for every organization to find out where all their young pitchers stand as far as arm strength and durability, and what’s the best program that allows them to make up for lost time without risking any physical setbacks.

What was the turning point with the Rangers winning their first division in 1996? Pudge, Gonzalez and Dean Palmer had already been on the team for a while. What were some other key factors?
-- Kyle D. Euless, Texas

Adding winning veterans like Will Clark, Mickey Tettleton, Darryl Hamilton and Mark McLemore had a profound impact on the Rangers' clubhouse. It also helped that two young pitchers -- Roger Pavlik and Darren Oliver -- had their best seasons with the Rangers, and the shrewd additions of Ken Hill and John Burkett certainly upgraded the rotation.

What is the backstory on Juan Gonzalez’s distancing from the Rangers? He is an all-time great and I wish he could be celebrated more.
-- Mark S., Dallas

Gonzalez’s 2002-03 reunion with the Rangers was ill-fated from the start. First of all, Johnny Oates was no longer the manager. Oates did a superb job with Gonzalez, just as Ron Washington did with Josh Hamilton. Secondly, Gonzalez went through injuries both seasons and the club was going bad. Anytime Gonzalez was injured in Texas, the situation was not really handled well by anyone. It always seemed to cause far more controversy and hard feelings than it should have on both sides. The Rangers would love to have him come back -- he is in their Hall of Fame -- but don’t look forward to it anytime soon.