Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale (Part 1)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The young pitching prospects in the Texas Rangers' extended spring training have impressed early on, with a handful of projectable hurlers featuring mid-90s velocity. Lone Star Dugout sat down with Surprise Rangers manager Corey Ragsdale to discuss a few of the arms––plus some infielders––in part one of this two-part feature.

Jose Valdespina: 5/8/2012 (best viewed in full screen and HD).

Jason Cole: Jose Valdespina threw very well the other day. Can you talk about his development and how he's been pitching? I know he has been particularly strong in his last few outings.

Corey Ragsdale: Our pitching guys have done a very good job with him. When he first came in, it was just a little erratic––a little timid. Every outing, you see that he has been growing. Again, he's a young kid. We don't expect him to go out and throw three perfect innings every time. But with his stuff––he's up to 96 mph and working at 94. He's throwing strikes, and it's a hard and heavy ball.

And he is really coming a long way with his offspeed pitches. They have really done a good job with him. It was a lot of feel and uncertainty about it. Now, he goes out there and he's throwing three pitches with conviction. He's throwing them for strikes and throwing them out of the zone when he needs to. So he has come a long way, and he has been throwing really well for us.

Cole: When I saw Valdespina in spring training, his curveball was in the mid-60s at times and didn't really even have the shape that you want to see. On Tuesday, he was throwing it at 71-75 mph with that good shape. What do you think the difference has been on the quick turnaround?

Ragsdale: They just worked with him and got him to believe in it, I think. There were some things obviously mechanical that they do. And they're smarter than me about it. It's over my head. But the biggest thing, for me, is that he's confident in it now. He's throwing it with conviction instead of feeling for it. That has a lot to do with the speed on it. Now he believes in it. He can throw it with a good arm speed and arm action. And he's getting really good results out of it.

Cole: Connor Sadzeck threw the first day I was out here. Obviously it's great raw stuff––with big-time velocity and some swing-and-miss curveballs––but he was also a little erratic. Is that kind of what it has been for him since he began sitting around the mid-90s?

Ragsdale: Yeah. You see a guy hit 99 mph––obviously it's an exciting arm. He has very good life on the fastball. He is working with the pitching guys, and they're doing a good job with him. He's trying to repeat his delivery a little bit. I think, sometimes, he doesn't repeat and maybe doesn't find the same release point at times.

For him, I think that's the biggest thing they're working on––just repeatability in his delivery. They want to get him in a good position to let the arm work and repeat it. That way, he can find the strike zone consistently. He goes out sometimes and he's right there when he's feeling it. And sometimes it's a struggle––just like the young kid that he is. But no doubt––any time you see a guy at 98-99––and it comes out pretty good. It's pretty easy. So it's exciting. He has definitely got a live arm.

Cole: When guys add a tick or two of velocity suddenly, do you think there's a bit of an adjustment period in learning to re-harness the stuff?

Ragsdale: Yeah, no doubt. I know Connor didn't throw that hard coming out of college. But as he has gotten on the throwing program, they long toss now. They do all that stuff to strengthen it. It was obviously in there, but he just hadn't learned to get it out. Now that he's getting stronger and matured a little bit, all that stuff is coming together.

I think there's no doubt that it's going to take a little while now that he's got some more stuff in there. He's going to have to kind of re-harness that a little bit. Our pitching guys are doing a good job with him. He's going to be there. He is going to be fun to watch throughout the next few years.

Cole: From watching the pitchers out here, it seems that we're getting to the point where some of the first-year guys have strengthened their arms and the velocity is starting to tick up.

Ragsdale: That's part of it. We draft these guys, a lot of times, on what the scouts think they're going to be. I heard one time––my scout, the famous Larry Chase, said, ‘We watch these guys, and then we go home and dream about what they're going to be.' That's something I'll never forget.

There is a lot more to it than just the on-field coaching that comes in with these high school kids. And even a lot of the college kids, who have never had some of this stuff before. They've got to get in and do the shoulder maintenance. We get them in the weight room and in the training room and do their cuff programs and all that stuff. And it's all that, when it comes together––strengthening the shoulder and all that stuff. Then, as they mature, it's kind of the perfect storm a lot of times.

They're getting stronger, they're maturing, and before you know it, you have C.J. Edwards throwing 96 mph. And there's probably more still in there. So it's exciting. It's not all about––a lot of it is cleaning up mechanics, of course. But a lot of it is also the strengthening and the maturation process that goes along with these young guys.

Cole: I also wanted to talk about Smerling Lantigua. He has some pop in his bat, as he showed yesterday by hitting a double off the wall to dead center field. While he looked okay during defensive drills in spring training, he appears to be maybe a little unsure of himself defensively in games. Can you talk about him at third base? It seems like he has the tools.

Ragsdale: There's no doubt. Smerling has a lot of tools. He's going to be a big kid, and he's going to be able to hit with some power. He's going to be good at third base, too. I think, right now, like a lot of kids, he's just not completely sure of himself over there.

He's still figuring himself out. He's figuring his feet and coordination out still––things like that. As he gets a little more coordinated and cleans up his arm action a little bit––and all that comes together––he's going to be hitting right. He's going to be fine and good defensively out there.

Cole: You're a former middle infielder who was known for your glovework and arm. How nice is it to have a mix advanced middle infielders here like Alberto Triunfel, Luis Marte, Nick Urbanus and others?

Ragsdale: They really are. And you're right. It is fun for me. Obviously, I love all of the game, but at the end of the day, I also love coming back to the middle infield. That's why I stayed in the game as long as I did, I guess.

It is fun to work with those guys. They've got good hands, good feet, and it's just kind of harnessing it. It's about getting them to slow it down a little bit on routine plays. And I was the same way when I was that age. I think it helps, understanding where they're coming from, where they've been, and trying to relate to those guys. But it is a lot of fun, just like you said, with the ability that those guys have.

Cole: Do you ever pick up the glove again and take some ground balls to show them how it's done?

Ragsdale: You know what, we do some. A lot of times, it's when they start to speed things up. I'll go out there and I'll challenge them. I'll say, ‘Hey, pushups,' or something like that to make them re-focus and slow it back down a little bit. They don't want to let me show them up a little bit (laughs). So then the focus and the concentration is back on making the plays. It's fun. It doesn't happen very often, but there have been a couple times that we get out there, and we have a good time with it.

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