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

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The rookie Surprise Rangers currently sit atop the Arizona League's West Division with a 10-3 record, and slugging third baseman Joey Gallo is helping lead the charge with five home runs in his first 13 professional games. Lone Star Dugout sat down with manager Corey Ragsdale to discuss Gallo and outfielder Nomar Mazara in part one of this two-part interview.

Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale (Part 2)

Jason Cole: Talk to me about the talent you guys have down here, especially with the position players. What's it like to just work with all that talent?

Corey Ragsdale: A lot of fun. It's fun for me. I'm excited to come to the park just to see what those guys are going to do. A lot of talent and very young. Until this started––there's obviously the draftees––but you've got to remember that Nomar and Guzman still had never played a professional game before. So everybody wants to put them up on a pedestal, but they'd never played a professional game. They had never played a game under the lights. That's what a lot of people don't understand. It was their first game at night.

So it's a lot of fun every day. We're going to make mistakes. We're going to do things that leave me scratching my head. But we're going to do a lot of things that are really fun and exciting. Hopefully we let the kids display their talent and get them better every day they're here. That's what we're here for.

Cole: When I interviewed you during extended spring training, we talked about Nomar Mazara and how much he'd improved from March. How far has he come since then?

Ragsdale: He's continued to improve. The last three weeks of extended, he was having the best at-bats of anybody we had. He was seeing pitches well and taking pitches well. He was confident. He just came a long way. Don't get me wrong––he's still young and there's still a long way to go. But you get excited when you see that willingness to work, willingness to apply what he's working on, and it showed in the games.

Fast forward to now––we had the 12 days off or whatever it was. And I think his timing has been, the first few games, was off. He was scuffling to find himself a little bit again. But two nights ago, he had really good ABs. He got himself a couple hits. Last night, he got behind in a couple counts but still battled and took pitches well. He put good swings on balls. He didn't get a hit every time, but he hit some balls hard even when he didn't get hits.

So for me, I kind of see him––I think he's on the track to getting back to where he was. Don't get me wrong. There's going to be growing pains with him. He's young, and he's not as consistent. Obviously that's where a lot of the struggles come from. But he's definitely made a lot of progress, and we're very proud of him.

Cole: You mentioned that Mazara is seeing the ball better, and it seems that, as a result, the pitch recognition has also improved. Do you feel that part stems from him being a little more calm at the plate with the leg kick and everything?

Ragsdale: 100 percent. I think he is confident, first and foremost. But I think, with the timing, the foot is getting down a little earlier. That is helping him. He's not rushed to get there and then flailing. Now he's getting the foot down, and he's confident in what he's doing. Especially when he's going good, it's nice and easy, he's going to see it, recognize it, and put a good swing on it.

Again, that's exciting. There are still going to be struggles for young kids. The timing, obviously, that's what pitching is all about––disrupting timing. And he's going to have struggles with those. But as he gets older, as he gets more mature, hopefully he continues to have longer spurts where he's in that locked-in zone.

Cole: Joey Gallo seems to move around pretty well at third base, and he's got the elite arm strength, but it also looks like he's speeding the game up a little too much defensively right now. What are your impressions of him at third base so far?

Ragsdale: He has surprised me, to be honest. He's made some errors, but he has got to balls. He has fielded the balls very cleanly. He's just doesn't always get himself in a good throwing position, and the ball will sail on him sometimes. And that's not a huge deal. That's something we're obviously going to get to and work on.

But he's got good feet for a big guy. If you watch him run the bases, he has got great instincts––he has got very good instincts for a young kid at his age. He's maybe the most instinctive player we've got. So he has got good feet. He plays a little too tall at times––both fielding and throwing. So that's something that we're going to work on and get him into a little better position.

But yeah, he has surprised me with the glove. And we're just going to work on getting him into a little bit better position throwing the ball. I think that will take away some of the throwing misfires that he's had in the first few games. But I'm excited about him and not worried about the errors at all. Those are something that I think will not be a tough issue to fix.

Cole: Gallo has drawn 15 walks through nine games. With the free passes, how much of it has been the advanced plate discipline and how much has been the sometimes erratic pitching he's seen so far?

Ragsdale: I think it's a lot of both. It's tough. I don't know how many kids his age could go through what he's going through and still be able to put it together on a nightly basis. He's getting 2-0 changeups. Don't misunderstand this––it's not like these kids down here are big leaguers. But he's getting pitched like he's a Barry Bonds-type hitter. When he comes up to the plate, they're throwing three or four balls up there. If he swings, he swings.

Cole: Do you think a big part of that is just how mature physically he is? Standing approximately 6-foot-5, 200-plus pounds, Gallo really stands out at this level.

Ragsdale: Oh, no doubt. He walks in at 6-foot-5, 220 lbs. He stands up there and has a taller stance with the bat up there, and he looks like he's about to do damage. It's going to be better for him in the long run because he's learning that he has to get his pitch 2-0 because they're not throwing one in there. On 3-0, they're not––I turned him loose on 3-0 the other night and he just hit an absolute laser over the fence. And that was like the only pitch he saw all night.

He did go out of the zone a couple times. He will get himself out some. But that's what he's learning to deal with right now. He has to think, ‘Hey, I've got to get a pitch that I can handle and do damage with. And if they don't throw that pitch, then I'm just going to take it and go to first base.'

But I think it's tough. I don't know how many kids could handle it the way he has handled it––seeing so few pitches to hit. But he's doing a really good job with it, and I think down the road, it'll help him because he's always going to be that big kid that they're going to be careful with. He has got tremendous power that we've already seen––that you've seen. Last night, he just lifted a ball over the batter's eye like it was no big deal.

Cole: Yeah, I don't think that pitch was in the strike zone.

Ragsdale: Yeah, it was at his ankle. He's learning. He's learning to get a pitch he can handle in all counts.

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