Coming into Fall Instructional League, right-hander Justin Grimm hadn't taken the mound in a competitive situation since he pitched eight innings to defeat the University of Kentucky on May 20.
The former Georgia Bulldog was selected by the Rangers in the fifth round approximately two weeks after that game. He signed for a reported $825,000 on the August 16 deadline. And then he played the waiting game.
After signing with the Rangers, Grimm flew to Arizona and worked out with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers club until the season concluded in early September. Because he signed a contract for 2011, he wasn't able to appear in any of the games.
Finally, on September 22, Grimm made his professional debut against Oakland's Fall Instructional League team. The 22-year-old tossed a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and getting one strikeout.
Grimm threw nine of his 16 pitches for strikes, and he was clearly just trying to establish his fastball in the early-instructs outing. He threw 15 fastballs between 92-94 mph to go along with a sharp 81 mph slider that was thrown out of the zone. The lone strikeout was recorded when he climbed the ladder and got a hitter to chase a 94 mph heater out of the zone.
The Rangers inked Grimm for supplemental first-round money because of his potential. With a consistent low-to-mid-90s fastball that can reach even higher at times, he has a legitimate power arm. Grimm also has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-4, 195-pounds. But inconsistent mechanics and command led to up-and-down results during his three-year collegiate career and caused a fall to the fifth round.
The Rangers used Fall Instructional League as a time to work through some of those mechanical issues, which Grimm discusses in the following interview.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Grimm to discuss his recent progress.
Jason Cole: You've been pitching in live games during Fall Instructional League. What has it been like to get back into game situations?
Justin Grimm: It felt good. It had been awhile since the college season, when I was last back out on the mound. But it was good to go out there and be able to compete again.
It always makes it a lot more fun when you're actually able to go out on the mound once or twice per week and see the progress you're making. It's good to see all the hard work you put in show up a little in game situations.
Cole: How many times have you pitched in games at instructs?
Grimm: I believe five or six times.
Cole: How do you feel about the results and how you're throwing?
Grimm: Well, I really feel good about the way I performed this fall. I went in with no expectations, just looking to improve on things I need to work on and not really worry about the results of things.
When you try to work on things every day, you come to the field and try not to get caught up in results. You try to understand it to be more of a process of getting better, but my results ended up being really good so far. It has just kind of made things flow a little easier.
Cole: I know instructs ends on Saturday afternoon. Are you done throwing in games?
Grimm: I finish up tomorrow in the Advanced Instructional League game and I'll throw two innings. I believe that will be the end of my instructional league.
Cole: Have you spent most of your time in the advanced league?
Grimm: I have thrown in two advanced games before this one.
Cole: As you mentioned, instructs is a time to really work on things without worrying about immediate results. What have you been refining?
Grimm: My main focus has been to slow things down and gain control of my body, which was very successful for me. It helped me control my pitches a lot better. Also I've been working on keeping my shoulders and head going toward the catcher. I still kind of struggle with a ‘headjerk' in my delivery, but it has gotten a lot better, which also helps my pitches stay in the zone a little more.
Cole: I know they take a lot of video at instructs. Have you been studying the video clips at all?
Grimm: Yes. Danny Clark and I and some other pitching coaches got together and some of the problem was my lead arm being pulled down by my landing knee. So I have been trying to work on bringing my lead arm toward the chest instead of a downward angle. We believe that is a factor in my head jerking toward the ground.
Cole: Last time I interviewed you, we talked about how you didn't use a changeup very often in college. Have you been using it in games during instructs?
Grimm: I haven't used the changeup as much as other guys, but I have thrown it a lot more than I did in the past. I show flashes of having a good changeup, but I definitely still need to work on that pitch.
Cole: You also mentioned that you throw two different curveballs––a get-me-over 12-to-6 and more of a slider-like pitch to chase strikeouts. Are you still doing that?
Grimm: Well, I actually have been just throwing a slider lately. I feel like it is just as good as my 12-to-6 breaking ball, but it comes out of the hand better and looks more like a fastball than the other. I also have more command of the pitch and I've been able to throw it early in counts, which has helped me a lot.
Cole: Leading up to the draft, it seemed that scouts were split on whether you'd be a starting pitcher or a reliever in the long run. Do you know what the plan is going forward?
Grimm: I think that is up in the air right now. I've heard that maybe I'll start as a reliever and then convert to a starter later on, but I don't worry too much about either role. Which ever role will get me to the big leagues quicker is the role I would like to fill. I will leave that decision up to them but I believe that I could do either role.
Cole: Your offseason officially begins in a couple days. How are you planning on preparing for your first professional season?
Grimm: I will take a couple weeks off first and just enjoy my family and friends. Then I will start training in Athens, Ga., and I am going to get on a throwing program and do that religiously.
I will continue to work with Danny Clark in the offseason since he lives 45 minutes away from my hometown. I always like to use the offseason to gain strength and get my arm the proper rest as well as get my arm strong enough and prepared for Spring Training.
Cole: You're from Bristol, Virginia. Is there ever an issue with throwing and working outdoors when you're training in the winter?
Grimm: We will get a little snow here and there, but for the most part, I just throw some sleeves on and start throwing. For the most part, though, I'll be in Athens, so I don't think I will have to worry about snow. But I will have to deal with some cold weather. There are always indoor facilities if the weather gets too out of hand, though.
For more information on the 2010 Fall Instructional League, check out this thread on our subscriber-only message board.
Grimm getting control of mechanics
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