Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jayce Tingler (Part 2)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – At the conclusion of spring training, Lone Star Dugout sat down with Rangers minor league field coordinator Jayce Tingler for a two-part interview series. In part two, Tingler talks about some of the organization's younger talent, including first baseman Ronald Guzman and left-hander Yohander Mendez.

Cole: Odubel Herrera played some shortstop earlier in his career but was the everyday second baseman at Hickory last season. He's played shortstop consistently in camp with the Myrtle Beach group, and it seems that he'll be playing shortstop there this year. Tell me about moving him back to short.

Tingler: Yeah, he's certainly going to be the everyday guy. We've had history of seeing Odubel play shortstop. Due to situations last year––it was his first year and he kind of transferred over full-time to second base. So he's had two or three years of professional ball at shortstop, so he'll be making that transition back.

He has got the skill-set to do it, from the hands to the feet to the arm. Odubel's challenge is switching back and making sure he's concentrating. His errors come from more mental breakdowns than it really is technique. But he's up for the challenge, and he wants to get back to shortstop. And that's the position that he's in. It's going to be his job to run, and hopefully he grabs it, takes it, and doesn't look back.

Cole: Is it a similar thing with Leury Garcia, where it's not so much the tools when he makes errors, but it's more rushing things and the mental side?

Tingler: I think, with Leury, there has certainly been––he has got all the tools and all the talent to be that impact shortstop and that impact player that we're looking for. That's part of the maturity process.

We saw steps last year when he was with Jason Wood and Julio Garcia in Myrtle Beach. He was able to string some weeks or a month together. It has been the longest time that he's been able to focus. And we look at this year like he has got to continue to maybe add another month of concentration––another six weeks of concentration. If he does that, to us, that's showing maturity. That's showing the progress that we want to see.

Cole: Drew Robinson was excellent in extended spring training last season and then, coming off the injury, really struggled in Spokane. He seemed to turn it around at instructs and then hit well here in spring training. What do you think his issue was in Spokane last year? How was he able to correct it?

Tingler: I think Drew––in extended last year, he was so hot. And then unfortunately he got his hand broke. When he came back, he was swinging the bat well in Arizona. Then he got up to Spokane and got in a hole. He got in a little funk. It was probably the first time in his life, probably––for sure in his professional career––that he'd struggled.

Now, we're hoping that he has taken those lessons that he learned from last year and will be mentally stronger this year. To be able to keep your 0-for-4s or 0-for-5s that day and take it into the next day with a new day. That's part of his maturity on the mental side.

We certainly like all the physical things that Drew brings to the table. He has been working hard, and he has been playing well. That's the biggest thing. You want to see guys that are able to handle failure and make them better. Hopefully that's the situation with Drew.

Cole: Watching Robinson in games and drills in third base out here, it really seems like he has improved defensively. How much do you feel he's progressed in the field over the last year?

Tingler: There's no doubt that he has improved. He's getting more comfortable. You've got to remember that he came in as a shortstop. He has bounced around the field. And this year, we're looking to settle him in at third base. Not to say that he won't bounce around the field a little bit when he gets to Hickory.

But he is certainly making the strides. He is working on his defense––working on his footwork over at third. One thing I've seen is that his throws are getting better from across the diamond. That just comes with time. It comes with experience and it comes with the reps. All the things that we're looking to provide for him is in Hickory.

Cole: You talked about Robinson hopefully being able to turn those mental struggles into a positive this season. David Perez falls into that category as well. He was lights-out at extended spring and early on in Spokane, but he seemed to struggle mentally and got out of his mechanics late last summer. He's continued to have issues mechanically this spring. What is your view on him right now?

Tingler: I think it's a couple things. Danny Clark and the pitching staff has put challenges in front of David Perez. And through spring training, he has been able to match those. He has been able to hit those. He's been working on his command. He's maybe taking a tick off the fastball right now to concentrate on command. And he has answered those challenges.

Now, he's going to have steps in front of him. I think the biggest thing with David is continuing to build confidence. Confidence like we've seen in the past. For whatever reason, he got off his game and got off his rhythm in Spokane. And he has got to learn from that. He has got to learn where to go when his mechanics break down. That's probably on the mental side. That's probably on the confidence––rely on his ability, his techniques, and all those things that come with that. Hopefully David is ready for that.

Cole: You got a chance to coach Jordan Akins during his first year in professional ball, and he has gradually improved ever since. Can you talk about about he's improved and, if you can, just break down his overall game as it stands right now?

Tingler: From where it was in 2010 to where he is now––it's certainly a credit to Jordan and the work he has put in. Right now, he is locked in on getting ready to hit the fastball. His hands are back, and he's doing damage when he's getting hittable balls. He's starting to handle secondary pitches.

He's a guy with a lot of ability that needs a lot of games. That's what we're going to be looking for. We're going to be looking for Jordan, throughout the year, to continue getting better. He's a big, strong kid. He should be able to handle the workload. He should be able to handle the games. We're hoping that Jordan hits the halfway point, and in the second half, his ball is the best of what we've seen so far.

Cole: What are the preliminary plans on how the organization will handle Ronald Guzman this season? He's definitely more advanced than most hitters his age.

Tingler: No doubt. I think, just like we've done with young players in the past––players that are mentally mature and can handle failure that certainly have ability––in the past, we've chosen to push those guys. If Ronald can meet those requirements that have been set in front of him, then the sky is the limit for him. There's no boundaries. There's nothing like that.

He is continuing to work on shortening his swing. He's a big man––he's 6-foot-6, and at times he has a tendency to get long with taking his hands from ‘A' to ‘B', which is the ball. We want to shorten him up and continue to have a line-drive stroke in all three directions––left, center, and right. And then defensively, he is making so much progress at first base. If he continues to grow, my guess is, as a group, we're going to have a discussion on how to push this guy.

Cole: Like you mentioned, Guzman is a big guy with long arms. Is it difficult to keep a guy with such long arms compact and short to the ball in his swing?

Tingler: For a lot of long-armed, big-bodied guys, it is. For whatever reason, Ronald has been pretty efficient. Now, Ronald hasn't seen a lot of velocity quite yet. And that's one thing we've given to him in these spring training games. He's seeing velocity. That's one thing that will go on in extended––he'll see a lot of live pitching, a lot of sliders, and a lot of breaking balls in the game. We want him to continue to handle velocity and continue to stay short to the ball and stay gap-to-gap.

Cole: Yohander Mendez was impressive in the Dominican Republic after signing last season. I know he's been working on a rehab program out here. Is he going back to the Dominican to log some innings?

Tingler: Right now, it has been very positive. He has been on the rehab program with Keith Comstock and the training staff. The plan was, right after spring training, to get him back to the Dominican and get him throwing. He is putting on weight, he is getting stronger, and he is getting great reports from Keith Comstock.

So, right now, we're probably going to extend that program and see if we can continue to get him more physical and stronger––especially in the lower half and the leg area. He is continuing to increase his long toss. The ball is coming out of his hand well. He has got a lot of positive things going right now.

So we're probably going to extend that up to the point where he's about ready to start seeing some live game action. At that time, we'll probably have a discussion whether to send him down and pitch down in the Dominican or stay here.

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