Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale

The Single-A Hickory Crawdads have one of the most talented rosters in all of minor league baseball this season, and they're off to a strong start with a 19-13 record. Lone Star Dugout sat down with Crawdads skipper Corey Ragsdale to discuss the early performances of Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, and more.

Corey Ragsdale is seving his first season a manager of the Single-A Hickory Crawdads. A second-round pick of the Mets in 2001, Ragsdale played in the New York organization for parts of seven seasons before joining the Rangers on a minor league contract.

The Arkansas native appeared in 68 games for Double-A Frisco as an infielder in 2008 before converting to the mound in '09. That season, he spent the bulk of his time as a sidearming reliever for the Single-A Crawdads.

Now 30, Ragsdale has returned to Hickory as the club's manager. He made his managerial debut with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers last summer, capturing the Arizona League crown with a 34-22 mark.

Jason Cole: You have a young-but-talented team in Hickory this season, and you're off to a strong 19-13 start. What are your general thoughts on the year to date?

Corey Ragsdale: It's a learning process for the guys. Obviously we've played a bunch of games in a short amount of time––more than they've ever played before. So they're kind of figuring out that it's kind of a fight every night. You're going to get the other pitcher––the other team's––best stuff every night, so you've got to be ready to fight every night.

We're starting 25 games in 25 days tonight, so I'll be able to get a better pulse on how it's going. But it has been good. They're figuring it out, and they're learning. A lot of them are 19 years old, and they're learning how to play professional baseball.

Cole: A lot of these guys were in the Arizona League or Dominican Summer League last season, where travel is at a minimum and you're never going on road trips. You sleep in the same bed every night. How much of an adjustment period is there with those guys?

Ragsdale: There's no doubt there is an adjustment period there. I think that's something that a lot of people don't take into account. We had to tell them to pack bags––to bring bags––and all that stuff. That's all part of the process and part of becoming a professional. It's part of learning what goes on in professional baseball and development. That's all part of development.

So there is a lot of stuff that they've never been exposed to that they have learned in the first month of the season. To be honest, they have handled it really well. They are 18 or 19, and sometimes their focus isn't quite where we'd like it to be. But they have done really well so far, and hopefully we continue to get better with it.

Williams hit seven home runs in his first 18 games.
Cole: Nick Williams is on the disabled list with a shoulder issue right now. What exactly happened to him? Are you guys expecting him to be back pretty soon?

Ragsdale: Yeah, we are. We are expecting him back. He hurt it diving––let me make sure that you guys know that he did make the catch. He made a catch in left-center field. To be honest, I'm not sure what the exact term for what he did was. But he just kind of maybe hyper-extended his shoulder a little bit.

More than anything, it's a precautionary thing. He has gone through the rehab, and he's swinging and everything now. Now, we're just working him back into some live BP's here shortly and getting him ready to go. It's nothing too serious, really. We just want to be sure that nothing lingers with him.

Cole: Sam Stafford made a brief trip to the DL before coming off and starting a couple days ago. He's obviously coming back from shoulder surgery this season. Was he just getting some temporary rest?

Ragsdale: Yeah, yeah. What happened was that he had a little tight forearm. Sam is on a very strict innings count this year. He had a little tight forearm––he actually went out and was able to throw a bullpen. But they just didn't want to put him into a game scenario. So they just skipped a start, and he came right back for his next start. Everything is fine, but it wasn't really a big deal considering that he is on a very strict innings count for this year. He is still well on pace to reach those innings.

Cole: Nomar Mazara is off to a slow start numbers-wise. I've spoken to a couple scouts who felt he was still seeing the ball and putting together decent at-bats. Has that been the case to you?

Ragsdale: Yeah, no doubt. For an 18-year-old kid, there are some days––just like all the other ones––that maybe it's not locked in as much. But for the most part, yes, he really is having good at-bats and seeing lots of pitches. He just went through a stretch for the first month or so where the ball that he's getting––his pitch to hit––he's just missing. He was fouling it back. And then, as the at-bat proceeds, maybe he doesn't come out on the end that he wants to.

But he has had good at-bats. He is showing glimpses of starting to come out of it a little bit. Has has swung the bat better, for the most part, over the last 10 days or so. And he is still working at it. Nomar will be alright. Nomar's going to be fine.

Brinson is showing lots of power and swing and miss.
Cole: Lewis Brinson is hitting .238 and striking out quite a bit thus far, but he's also showing excellent power and has drawn some walks. What are your thoughts on his start?

Ragsdale: He's learning. He has been really hot, and he has had to battle. The kid wants to be good––he's not scared to work. He is the type of kid that you always want on your team. As talented as he is, as hard as he works, he is going to be very successful.

Cole: Did he rob a home run in center field a few days ago?

Ragsdale: He did. It was really cool to see––really cool to watch. I mean, it was a full-speed sprint into left-center. There was no stutter step or anything. He jumped at the wall––all in one motion, it was run, jump, over the fence, and catch. He saved a home run. It was very cool to see––especially when you see him being 18-years-old at the time (Jason's note: he turned 19 on May 8) athletically jumping and sprinting at the same time. It was pretty impressive.

Cole: Jorge Alfaro has been on a power surge over the last week. You didn't work with him last year, but what are your thoughts on his play and progression both offensively and defensively?

Ragsdale: I think he is maturing a little bit. He's still 19 years old. He is still maturing. I think the maturity aspect has helped him a little bit, though. He is able to focus a little bit more and for a little bit longer.

Defensively, he gets tired back there sometimes, and that's part of his gig. We want him to catch as much as possible this year. There are times when maybe he loses focus when he gets a little tired, but he's learning to work through that. He's battling. He wants to be out there every day.

And it's the same thing offensively. When he's focused and ready to go like he has been the last few days, he's pretty good. He has got a lot of talent and a lot of ability, obviously. And it works pretty well when he's able to put it together.

Cole: You had right-hander Connor Sadzeck last season during extended spring training. He was touching the upper-90s in short bursts there but having a lot of problems controlling and commanding the ball. So far this year, he has thrown strikes while working comfortably in the low-90s, and he's working deep into games. How has he developed as a pitcher?

Ragsdale: I think the number one thing is just repeatability. I think that's the thing. He has got a little bit better of an idea of what he is doing––how to repeat and how to execute his pitches now.

He's long and lanky and gangly a little bit. Maybe he didn't have as good an idea of how to repeat and how to get all those body parts going in the same direction like they need to be in the past. But this year, I think he has been able to do that, for the most part. He has been much more consistent. I think that is the main reason.

Edwards is focusing on his changeup.
Cole: Like Sadzeck, C.J. Edwards is off to a fantastic start on the mound, with a 2.27 ERA through seven starts. I have the same sort of question on him––in what areas has he developed since you had him early last season?

Ragsdale: You know what, he is just staying within himself and doing what he does. C.J. obviously has very, very good stuff. He's up to the mid-90s––and maybe even a little bit better––at times. Obviously the curveball he has. He has got a little more confidence in his changeup now. He's throwing it more regularly.

Everywhere he has been, he just continues to go out and put up numbers. It's a lot of fun to watch, and he has a lot of confidence. Every time he goes out, you know pretty much what he's going to give you, and it's usually pretty good.

Cole: The last guy I want to ask you about is slugging third baseman Joey Gallo, who's hitting just .228 but also has 10 round-trippers in his first 32 games. What is he working on right now, both at the plate and in the field?

Ragsdale: Defensively, we've just got to keep him focused. We have to keep him ready to field defensively––getting him into a good ready position. When he's ready and the feet are working, he is very good over there––better than a lot of people expect because he's athletic and moves well. He has got great feet for a big guy. Sometimes he gets a little stagnant out there, and the feet don't work as well and everything kind of gets stiff.

Offensively, the power numbers are there, but he has scuffled a little bit at times, and he knows that. He is working on things to try and get that straightened out. I think he is at a point where, more than anything, he's not trusting himself a little bit. He's maybe getting a little excited when he's in the box and sometimes swinging at pitches that are out of the zone. Maybe he's putting a little more pressure on himself than he needs to at times. And we've talked about it. He is working on it. We expect a lot of good things out of him from here forward. He'll be just fine.

Cole: I haven't seen you guys yet this season, but once his power reputation got around in the Arizona League last season, he really wasn't getting pitched to very often. Is he getting pitched to with a little more frequency so far this season, or is it about the same?

Ragsdale: He scuffled for a little bit, and I think the teams have sensed that a little bit and went at him a little bit more. But it won't be long and he'll have it figured out and I'm sure they'll start pitching around him a little more––once he heats up.

Cole: Between extended spring and the Arizona League, you managed 17 of the current Crawdads at some point last season. How much fun is it, for you, to work with a group with this much raw talent?

Ragsdale: To be honest, it's great. Every day you come to the field, and you know the talent you're putting out there, and you know the abilities they have, and you know what could happen that night.

Obviously we hit five home runs our last game and all that stuff. Everybody sees the power numbers. But it's not just that. It's defensively, it's offensively, it's running the bases. These guys are talented and can do everything. So really it's a lot of fun to watch and a lot of fun to be part of. I just try to stay out of the way and let those guys do their thing.

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