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11/26/07 10:00 AM ET

Mailbag: How long will Oswalt play?

Beat reporter Alyson Footer answers Astros fans' inquiries

I read in an article a couple years back that Roy Oswalt only wants to pitch 10 years in the big leagues. Is that still true, or do you see him signing an extension after his current contract is up?
-- Alex C., Houston

Roy swears he's done after this contract, which expires following the 2011 season. Oswalt cares only about winning, not about numbers, so pitching long enough to compile Hall of Fame credentials is of no importance to him. He sounds serious about not playing past 2011, but as we know, anything can change. If at that time the Astros are still a team that has a very real chance to win a World Series, it may be hard for him to walk away, especially if he doesn't have a championship ring yet. He'll be 34 when his contract runs out, and I can't fully believe he won't want to keep going, but we'll have to wait and see.

If we look at the Phillies organization, we see players such as Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell. During his tenure as Phillies GM, Ed Wade filled the farm system up there with stocked players, so to speak. Would it be fair to say that Drayton McLane hired Wade mostly for his ability to stockpile our Minor Leagues?
-- Jason, Houston

McLane hired him for a variety of reasons, and that's one of them. He also hired Wade because he has experience as a GM and there was a comfort level with Tal Smith, whom Wade has known for many years.

Do you think there is any chance we can get a better slogan than "Return of the good guys"? It just doesn't come across as a powerful slogan. How about "Count on me"? It works for the players to turn it around from an individual standpoint, and for the fans to feel a part of it. If not that, maybe something a little more powerful.
-- Steven M., Houston

Not a bad idea, Steven. Just keep in mind clubs have to be very careful about what slogan they use, just in case the team doesn't do well. Many years ago when I was in college, the athletic department decided the University of Cincinnati football experience was "Football you Feel." After going something like 1-5 to start the season, it quickly became known as "Football you Smell." Not good.

Please tell me no one in this organization is sold on Ty Wigginton as a long-term answer at third base.
-- Doug B., Lubbock, Texas

Wigginton is on track to play third base next year, and probably in '09 too. You never stop exploring your options but certainly the Astros have more important issues to address than third base at this point.

Why do Minor League pitchers just pitch around 130 innings a year?
-- Jimmy P., Tomball, Texas

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Part of that is simply because Minor league seasons are shorter than Major League seasons. The top levels play only 142 games, compared to 162 on the big league level. But also, the top prospects are going to be protected. The worst thing you can do is blow out someone's arm before he ever reaches the Majors. That's why when Troy Patton came down with tendinitis in his left arm, he was shut down immediately. No need to push it.

Dennis Sarfate recorded saves in his first three outings in Mexico this fall. What role do you see him competing for in 2008?
-- Mike T., Houston

Well, given the gaping holes in the bullpen, I'd say Sarfate has a shot to prove he can hold down a job at the back end of the bullpen. I seriously doubt the Astros would go so far as to anoint him the closer, but the hard-throwing right-hander could emerge as a setup option.

How do you think Brandon Backe will do in 2008? And do you see any chance of Woody Williams improving after having had a year of experience in Houston?
-- Emily S., Houston

The optimist in me says Backe's in for a good year. Pitching with less than his best stuff after returning from surgery this past September, he still did pretty well. I'm anxious to see what he can do at full strength, which he should have reached by the time the season begins next year.

With regard to Williams, I have absolutely no idea how that's going to go. He had a bad year in 2007, which could have been an aberration but it also could have been because he's 41 years old and nearing the end. He certainly didn't do anything to give us confidence he can be a staple in the rotation next year. Judging from his comments in September, he's determined to prove us wrong. He's a terrific person and a tremendous leader in the clubhouse, and it would be nice to see him bounce back and end things on a positive note.

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