1. What are your thoughts about not using Cliff Lee on short rest to get him on the mound before games 3 & 7?
I think that Cliff Lee has never started on short rest before, his history shows he's better on long rest than on regular rest, and both the Phillies and the Rangers have made the decision in consecutive years not to try to push Lee on short rest. That suggests to me that it is probably the best decision. It would be great if Cliff Lee could be Cliff Lee while coming back on 3 days rest, but his history suggests that would be pushing it, and I think the Rangers have made the right decision in not rolling the dice on him pitching on short rest.
2. The Yanks and Rangers split the season series this year; what do Rangers fans have to be optimistic about?
First and foremost, Rangers fans can be optimistic about the fact that they are in the playoffs for the first time in the new millenium, and that the team has advanced to the ALCS for the first time in its history. Aside from that, we can be optimistic about the fact that we have Cliff Lee starting two games, a strong set of starters behind him, and a pretty solid lineup top to bottom. Vegas has the Yankees as pretty heavy favorites, but if you compare who will be pitching most of the innings and getting most of the ABs, I think the teams match up pretty closely, and this is a series the Rangers have the ability to win.
3. What worries Rangers fans the most right now? Where does Josh Hamilton's ALDS .311 OPS rank on the list?
The biggest worries for Rangers fans right now has to be the bullpen and the 2-3-4 hitters. Neftali Feliz struggled in both of his outings in the LDS, 8th inning guy Frank Francisco is out for the series, and Darren Oliver is showing his age. The bullpen had been a Ranger strength for most of the season, but with the Rangers juggling the roster to add a couple of new relievers in Clay Rapada and Michael Kirkman, I don't know that there's anyone out there right now that Ron Washington has a ton of faith in. Meanwhile, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and Vlad Guerrero all performed poorly against Tampa, and if Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz hadn't stepped up in a big way to carry the offense, this series would probably be the Rays and the Yankees. The lack of offense in the last series from the heart of the order was discouraging, and Rangers fans have to hope that those guys -- and Hamilton in particular -- step it up.
4. Ron Washington is getting a lot of well deserved attention for Manager of the Year; but, home fans are rarely as impressed by their manager as visitors are. What would you say are Washington's strengths and weaknesses?
There are still a lot of fans who think the Rangers win games despite Ron Washington, not because of Ron Washington. His tactical and in-game management probably isn't a strength, and he tends to go with his "gut" more than the book, which drives a lot of us crazy. Still, there's no question that he's respected by his players, and he gets high marks for his people skills and his ability in the clubhouse to deal with his guys.
5. The media is focused on Cliff Lee. Tell me why I should be afraid of your 2-4 starters.
Tommy Hunter, the #4 starter, you should be afraid of because he's about 6-3, 275, and is a former judo champ. That being said, he's sort of another Joe Blanton, a strike thrower who won't miss a lot of bats and who can be homer prone, but can keep the team in games. As for C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, Yankees fans should at least be aware of and concerned about them because they've been pretty damn good this year. Wilson has had control issues, leading the league in walks, but he's also racked up high strikeout totals while keeping the ball in the yard. Lewis is a strike thrower who can record Ks and who came back from Japan as a completely different pitcher from the guy we saw in his first stint in Texas. Wilson and Lewis aren't Cliff Lee, but they are both very good pitchers capable of giving you 7 or 8 innings and holding the opposing offense down.
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