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01/28/08 1:13 PM ET

Mailbag: Coaching future for Lieberthal?

Beat reporter Ken Mandel answers fans' questions

Now that Mike Lieberthal has announced his retirement, is there a chance he'll return to the Phillies as a coach or instructor?
-- Ludo, K., Amsterdam

First, good luck to Mike in his endeavors. From a personal standpoint, he was always professional and offered refreshing honesty and perspective regardless of the story. He was also an entertaining guy to talk to -- on or off the record -- with a unique sense of humor.

As for coaching, I don't see it with Lieberthal, at least right away. Teammates often joked that he would never be seen near a baseball field again once he stopped playing. Randy Wolf predicted a life of X-Box for his close friend. Lieberthal once said that he would manage as long as he could "do it from my living room through a satellite hook-up," and I'm not sure he was kidding.

Lieberthal will hang on the golf course and enjoy married life for the time being. He expressed an interest in being a television analyst, so that might materialize. He might return as a Spring Training instructor at some point, but I don't think he's in a hurry.

Why haven't the Phillies signed Ryan Howard yet? If the Phillies don't sign him, what would happen?
-- Weston B., Princeton, N.J.

To reiterate last week's explanation, it's not a question of whether Howard will be signed. The arbitration process merely determines his 2008 salary. The sides are $3 million apart. Unless they settle somewhere in the middle between now and Feb. 20 (his scheduled hearing date), a three-person panel will hear both sides and decide between the $7 million and $10 million figure. The only way Howard doesn't play for the Phillies between now and 2011 is if he's traded.

What is Freddy Garcia's status?
-- Tom P., Woodbury, N.J.

Garcia is still a free agent and still not returning to Philadelphia. That chapter has been closed.

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What is Mike Zagurski's injury status? Does he have a realistic shot to make the squad with a good Spring Training, or is he ticketed to get more seasoning down in Triple-A?
-- Ron M., Ventnor, N.J.

Zagurksi is expected to be fully recovered from August surgery on his torn right hamstring. He'll get a fair look in Spring Training as the second lefty in the bullpen, but he'll need to be outstanding to get serious consideration. He could wind up riding the Philadelphia-Lehigh Valley Ironpigs route in 2009.

What's the deal with Matt Smith, and who is most likely to round out the bullpen after Brad Lidge, Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero?
-- Kyle C., Middletown, Del.

Smith likely won't be a factor this season, as the lefty recovers from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Assuming the Phillies go with 12 pitchers, it appears the 12th man will come from a group that includes Clay Condrey, Fabio Castro, J.D. Durbin, Anderson Garcia, Joe Bisenius, Francisco Rosario and Rule 5 Draft picks Travis Blackley and Lincoln Holdzkom. Two others, Scott Mathieson and Shane Youman, are considered starters. There's only one spot open because the fifth reliever will likely be swingman Chad Durbin.

What are the chances of the Phillies keeping either Javon Moran or Greg Golson for added late-inning speed to replace the lost speed of Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn?
-- John C., Malvern, Pa.

Nil. It is more important for those players to develop in the Minors, not serve as pinch-runners late in games, not to mention that neither player is anywhere close to being Major League ready. Also, manager Charlie Manuel needs a better hitting option than a one-dimensional player (at this point) who can only run.

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