Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Series Preview: Q&A with Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball

USA TODAY Sports

Date Time Probable Pitchers
4/19 5:05 pm PDT Yu Darvish vs. Joe Saunders
4/20 5:05 pm PDT Nick Tepesch vs. Brandon Maurer
4/21 12:05 pm PDT Justin Grimm vs. Aaron Harang

The Mariners are back at it against the Texas Rangers (weather permitting) after taking a quick break to face the Detroit Tigers. This time in Arlington, the Mariners get another crack at Darvish, Tepesch and Grimm, but the Rangers luck out by not having to see Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma this time around.

Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball pops back in to answer three more questions.

Jon: It's easy to forget that Elvis Andrus is still just 24 years old. He's already an incredibly valuable player, but what does he need to do to push his game to the next level? What do you think of his long-term prospects?

Adam: I'm a huge Elvis Andrus fan, and was thrilled the Rangers inked him to a contract extension. Elvis is someone whose value is sometimes not all that appreciated because he doesn't have a great slash line -- a lot of what he brings to the table is terrific defense at shortstop and great baserunning. He's also someone the Rangers, from the time they got him from Atlanta, have talked about as being the type of player they want to build around...they brought him up in 2009, from Opening Day, despite the fact he was only 20 in part because they felt he was a key part of the rebuilding plan. Jon Daniels said, at the press conference announcing Elvis's extension, that in a lot of ways, Elvis exemplifies what the Rangers are all about. I think there's still growth there offensively, and we'll see more out of him in the way of his slash line, but even if we don't see much growth there, he'll be one of the upper echelon shortstops in the league for the next decade.

Jon: Adrian Beltre put up one of his best seasons last year as a 33 year old. Besides his age, are their any warning signs that suggest a decline before the end of his current contract?

Adam: There's some thought that hitters with Beltre's profile -- righthanded, slow power hitters who don't walk much -- tend to decline much more rapidly once they hit their early-/mid-30s. Beltre is someone whose offensive game is predicated on power and making frequent contact, so if you start seeing him hit more ground balls, that would be a warning sign. The other issue with Beltre is that he's had to play through a lot of injuries. He's been in the majors since he was 19, and is sixth among active players on the all-time games played list (and will likely pass Jason Giambi and Todd Helton this season if he stays healthy). He's a marvel to watch, but at the same time, I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up falling off a cliff in the next year or two, offensively.

Jon: For years the Texas Rangers were a team known for their offense and hitter's dream of a ballpark, and for struggling to build a starting rotation capable of making the same impact. Unable to attract free agent hurlers, the organization has finally built a winning rotation via the draft (Derek Holland), trade (Matt Harrison), and the posting system (Yu Darvish). From a fan's perspective, what has it been like to finally factor in a top tier pitching staff?

Adam: I think the pitching has been a strength the past few years...the World Series teams had very good pitching, and the collapse last season owed itself as much to injuries (Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz) and ineffectiveness (Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, Scott Feldman) from pitchers counted on to be major factors as anything else. Pitching can be somewhat unpredictable, and so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for now, but if Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison can come off the d.l. in May and pitch like they have the previous couple of years, this rotation is as solid as any in the A.L.

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