Henry impressive in first spring outing

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Right-hander Randy Henry, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles this past offseason, is expected to work as a starting pitcher this season––perhaps at High-A Myrtle Beach. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old prior to his first spring appearance.

The Texas Rangers acquired right-handed pitcher Randy Henry from the Baltimore Orioles this past offseason as part of the trade for catcher Taylor Teagarden.

While Henry came to the Rangers as somewhat of an unknown, logging 29 appearances in relief between the Low- and High-A levels last season, he has stood out as one of the minor league camp's most impressive performers in the early going.

The 21-year-old was initially selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, and he signed for an above-slot $365,000 bonus. After undergoing Tommy John surgery during his senior year of high school, Henry says (in the following interview) that he pitched approximately 10 innings at junior college the following season.

The stuff Henry flashed in that short time on the mound was enough to get him drafted high and earn a healthy bonus. The Oklahoma native made 11 regular season relief appearances in 2010 before coming back relatively injury-free last season.

Henry pitched most of his '11 campaign at Single-A Delmarva, where he posted a 1.67 earned-run average in 20 appearances. Overall, he logged 52.2 innings and yielded 48 hits, walking eight and striking out 40. He also induced more than two groundouts per flyout.

In his first minor league spring training game on Friday, Henry worked a perfect 1-2-3 inning, striking out all three batters he faced. He mixed in a fastball, cutter, slider and changeup––missing bats with all four offerings in the short inning. As he explains below, he expects to work as a starting pitcher this season––after being a reliever during his first two professional seasons––and is working on adding a curveball.

The following is Henry's chart from Friday's one-inning appearance: B (ball), C (called stirke), S (swinging strike), F (foul ball), FB (fastball), CT (cutter), SL (slider), CH (changeup).

Righty hitter: 91 FBC, 89 CTF, 84 SLF, 93 FBB, 89 CTF, 92 FBS – strikeout swinging
Lefty hitter: 91 FBB, 89 CTS, 84 CHS, 86 CHS – strikeout swinging
Lefty hitter: 90 FBC, 83 SLS, 85 CHB, 88 FBS – strikeout swinging

Henry threw 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes, mixing in the deep arsenal in impressive fashion. His fastball sat between 90-93 mph but can reach higher in bursts when at full strength. The pitch also had some life––a little cutting action. He located all four pitches down in the strike zone and on the corners. His 83-84 mph slider had good tilt, and his hard cutter had a little tilt to it as well.

Perhaps most impressive, Henry flashed a quality changeup despite the fact that he didn't throw it often out of the bullpen the last two years. His 84-86 mph changeup had late dive and tumble low and away from left-handed batters. It looked like a potential plus offering.

It's difficult––and dangerous––to take too much from a one-inning appearance in which a prospect throws only 14 pitches. But there's no doubt that Henry's first outing was a promising one, and he showed a good mixture of a quality deep arsenal with command that has enticed the Rangers to try him as a starting pitcher.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with the former Baltimore prospect prior to his first spring outing.

Jason Cole: Tell me about the trade, coming over to the Rangers from Baltimore. How did you find out about it? What were your initial thoughts?

Randy Henry: I was actually doing workouts at the time, and I got a call from my agent, saying there would be a trade later on during that day. And then later on, I got a call from John Stockstill, the player development guy from the Orioles. And he said I had been traded over here.

At first, it was kind of a shock. It wasn't something I was expecting. I was kind of expecting to go back to the Orioles organization. That's what I was getting ready to work for. So it was shocking at first, but I was definitely excited about it. I grew up watching the Rangers ever since I was a real little kid, so that was kind of an exciting part about it––to be over here. I'm from Oklahoma. Being from Oklahoma, that's really close to home. It was definitely exciting, and I was ready––I'm always ready for new things. I liked the Orioles organization. I'd always been treated very well there, so I liked it.

But I was definitely excited to be over here. Then I started talking to Danny Clark, the pitching coordinator over here, and he said that they were going to try me out as a starter. When he said they were going to try me out as a starter over here, that definitely excited me too. It was a shock at first, but I was definitely excited about it.

Cole: When Danny Clark told you that you'd be working as a starter with the Rangers, did he mention anything about why they felt you could excel in that role?

Henry: No. I was a starter in high school, and I had come off surgery. When I came off surgery, I'd kind of been working back towards those innings. He told me that's what they're going to do, and I'm going to listen to what they're doing and what they're telling me to do. I'm going to work my best to do it. Since they told me, that's just what I've been working for.

Cole: You had Tommy John surgery during your senior year of high school, right?

Henry: Yes, sir.

Cole: And you signed with Texas Tech but then switched to a junior college here in Phoenix. I know you've missed a little bit of time during your first couple professional seasons as well. Tell me a little about the history with the elbow and all that.

Henry: I had that surgery in 2007. And after I had that surgery in 2007, I came back playing a position. I was a shortstop in college most of the time. I started pitching that spring in college. And when I started pitching then, I was still playing shortstop and closing some games. So I'd thrown a limited amount of innings––I think I threw 10 innings in college, and that's what I got drafted off of. Any time that I'd thrown since then, I was definitely going up in innings.

In 2010 with the Orioles in Delmarva, I threw around 30 innings I think. I was kind of still coming back from that surgery since I hadn't thrown a lot. So I definitely had some down time. I ended up getting a PRP shot and ended up doing some therapy in that offseason. Then I came back last year and threw somewhere around 80-some innings in relief, which is a pretty good workload for a guy. And I haven't had any problems since then, so it's feeling better than ever.

Cole: Leading up to that surgery during your senior year of high school, had you felt that you'd need Tommy John eventually?

Henry: I definitely didn't feel that it was going to come. I knew that I'd been used a lot in high school. In Oklahoma, you play for a state tournament in the fall and the spring. And I'd had heavy workloads during the summer, also. So I know that I had definitely used my arm a lot.

I didn't feel it. It kind of all happened at one time, and it was kind of a shocking thing when it happened that fall. But I had definitely thrown a lot of baseballs and had a large workload before then.

Cole: You had good numbers last year between Low-A and High-A. What were your thoughts on last season, which was basically your first full professional workload?

Henry: I work out at a pretty good place in the offseason, so I definitely––I got a little tired at the end. I wouldn't say that I didn't get tired. But I was definitely ready for the workload. I would say, as the season went on, I got better pitching-wise. I was learning the more that I got to keep pitching. And the more that I keep throwing, I think I'm going to get better.

So that was nice––to be able to have a full year to where I could keep testing my stuff and keep figuring out a way to get guys out and everything. I wasn't having to worry about my injury and more of that part of throwing. I was able to go out, try things, and get people out. I was learning about what I can do. That was really nice last year. It was a nice learning process, and I'm ready to see what's going to become of this next year after I had that full year.

Cole: Tell me about your arsenal. What's in it? What do you throw?

Henry: As a reliever last year, I was fastball dominant. I would throw fastballs with a slider and cutter. I would just try to spot up my fastball. And I have a changeup that I throw in there, too. So nothing out of the real ordinary––just fastball, cutter, slider is what I was there.

They've been working on me throwing a curveball here, so I've been throwing that in. And I'd thrown one of those in college. That will be one of the things that I'll talk to them more about the farther I go and the more they see me throw out of the bullpen, in the games, and everything.

Cole: So you're adding the curveball on top of the slider, correct?

Henry: Yes, sir.

Cole: Is the curveball something you're working with in the bullpens right now?

Henry: Yeah, that's something I've been working in the bullpens, and I'll definitely be implementing it into my games during the spring.

Cole: Having relieved the last couple years, have you gotten much of a chance to develop the changeup? I'm sure that will be a big part of your developmental process as a starting pitcher.

Henry: I had always thrown a changeup. Last year, they had me throwing one, and I threw it in situations where I needed to. I think when you're a reliever, you kind of tend to go to your second-best pitch after that––or your out pitch, if you're a reliever. And as a starter, it's not that it's not as important as a reliever, but you have more chances to set that pitch up as a starter. So I've always thrown it. And I'm excited to be able to use that more because it's something I've always had.

Cole: I know you said you were excited about moving into the starting role. Can you tell me more about your thoughts on that?

Henry: I'm very excited about it. I think it's a different mindset. But aside from the different mindset, I'm going to be facing the same batters, I'm going to be doing the same thing, and I'll have an even better routine––pitching every five days and doing that type of thing. So I'm very excited about that.

Cole: What are you looking for out of yourself performance-wise this spring?

Henry: The first time out, you always want to go out and throw strikes. I just want to go out and throw strikes. I want to keep my team in the game. I don't want to go out there and be all over the place. I just want to go out there, get in my rhythm, and I want to be comfortable on the mound. That's going to be a big thing––I just want to get out there, get started, and get in a rhythm. I want to be nice and comfortable on the mound. I just want to get started going. I want to see where I'm starting at––see where my slate is going to be at to go through the rest of the spring.

Cole: When was the last time you started a game?

Henry: The last time I started a game would've been in the fall of 2007.

Cole: What do you really want to improve upon as you look forward to your first season as a starter?

Henry: I want to improve upon everything. I want to go out and get better command of my fastball. I want to go out working better on reading hitters, fielding bunts, and doing things like that. Also being able to hold runners on. I want to go out and be able to work on everything.

There's not one thing that I just want to go out and, say, focus on something. At times, there will be things that I focus on more than others. But I want to be able to go out and work on changing speeds, work on reading batters and what I need to throw against them more. All of that stuff.

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