Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jesse Ingram

After tearing through California League hitters last season, Frisco reliever Jesse Ingram has 11 saves with Double-A Frisco this year. Lone Star Dugout recently chatted with the 25-year-old closer.

The Rangers selected pitcher Jesse Ingram in the 36th round of the 2004 draft after the right-hander had spent three years as a reliever at the University of California.

Ingram was particularly impressive in his junior year, posting a school-record 10 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 30 appearances for the Golden Bears.

The Bay Area native reported to the Short-Season Spokane Indians after signing and impressed immediately. Ingram put up a 1.42 ERA in 22 games. He gave up just 19 hits and struck out 45 in 31.2 innings.

After missing nearly the entire 2005 season with a rotator cuff injury, Ingram was a man on a mission in 2006. The reliever dominated the California League with High-A Bakersfield, as he struck out 95 batters in just 59.1 innings before being promoted to Double-A Frisco.

With the RoughRiders, Ingram went 3-2 with a 5.21 earned run average in 15 relief appearances.

The Rangers sent Ingram to play in the Arizona Fall League over this past offseason. He got off to a strong start, earning a roster spot in the league's Rising Stars showcase. However, the righty struggled down the stretch and finished with a 12.41 ERA.

Ingram has done a good job of closing out games this season with the Frisco RoughRiders. Despite his 5.27 ERA, the 6-foot-1 Californian has converted all 11 of his save opportunities. Opposing batters are hitting just .194 against Ingram this season. He has also struck out 29 hitters in 27.1 innings.

Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the reliever for an interview.

Jason Cole: Are you happy with how your season has gone so far?

Jesse Ingram: Yeah, in terms of closing. Thankfully I've been successful in that. It didn't start off as well as I'd hoped. I'm just trying to get into the rhythm of things and try to be sharp. Thankfully every time I went out, I got the save. We're getting wins, so it's very successful in that term. But personally it was a little bit of a rough patch to get going.

Cole: Like you mentioned, you got off to a bit of a slow start, but you seem to have gotten going the last couple of times out. What do you think has been the key to getting back on track?

Ingram: Just relaxing and realizing that if you've had a couple of bad outings, making it up in one outing is not going to happen. Just minimizing things and going back and making sure that what I'm doing is what has made me successful. That's locating my fastball, which will be able to complement my slider when I'm locating it.

Cole: Tell me a little bit about what pitches you throw and the velocities that you typically work at.

Ingram: I really just throw a fastball and a slider. I'll throw a changeup every once in awhile. My fastball is a pitch that is my go-to pitch. If I locate it and it's going well, then I feel more confident. My slider is more like a hard slurve. It's not really a traditional slider. It has become a good pitch for me, deceiving the hitters, especially when I work low in the zone. My fastball is usually between 89-92 MPH if I'm going well. If all the stars align right, maybe 93 MPH, but that hasn't happened recently.

Cole: Last year in Bakersfield, you had 95 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. What pitch were you getting most of those strikeouts on?

Ingram: I don't know, last year was a weird year. It just seemed like every time I was going out I was striking out guys here and there. It was really just good location with my fastball. I just used fastballs down in the zone. We worked on getting a lot of angle on my pitches in spring training and really working the ball down. It's really nothing crazy. I don't think my ball moves all that much, but the angle of the pitches and the way it comes out of my hand was deceptive to the hitter. Luckily I was deceiving them enough last year to where it paid off. Guys kept swinging and missing or looking at pitches. You try to repeat that. The toughest thing this year is that you revert back to last year and you keep thinking ‘what did I do last year that I'm not doing this year?'. I don't think it's really what I'm not doing. It's just that I was doing it very consistently last year. It's just about getting back to that and continuing to go out there and be as consistent as possible.

Cole: You moved up to Double-A in the middle of last season. What adjustments did you make between High-A and Double-A?

Ingram: The adjustment I'm still trying to make is reading hitters. You learn that they read you, and now it's time for us to really try to read what they're trying to do in the box as much as possible. How they foul a pitch off, or whether they take a pitch will setup your next pitch. It's just kind of getting in rhythm with that and trying to figure all that out. The hitters are good and they make you pay for mistakes at the plate, but it's quality strikes in the zone. You don't necessarily get a lot of guys to chase out of the zone. You just have to establish yourself in the zone.

Cole: You got into four big league spring training games this year. Can you describe that experience and how does that help you develop as a pitcher?

Ingram: Anytime you can rub elbows with those guys, especially pitching in a game, it's great. I backed up a good amount the last couple of spring trainings, but I never got into a game. This year I faced a lot of guys that I faced in the fall league. A lot of it is just routine. The stuff is not incredibly different, but it's how consistent they can be and how they prepare themselves. Just watching those guys do their job is really a fun deal. Getting into games was important to show that you can pitch to big league hitters and have success. That was just a confidence builder. Now the thing is doing it night-in and night-out while being effective.

Cole: You mentioned the Arizona Fall League. Was there anything in particular that you worked on there in the offseason?

Ingram: Not really. It was just about facing good hitters one-through-nine. The first half went really well, but I just ran out of gas. I came off a shoulder injury the year before. I really didn't take an offseason for myself. I missed pretty much the whole 2005 season and I worked really hard that offseason and into '06. Come November, I was just out of gas, but those hitters are good. If you leave balls in the middle of the plate, they're going to crush it. It was a great experience. Thankfully I never felt overmatched, but it was definitely a sweet experience. It wasn't so much ‘work on this, work on that' as it was the experience. You just go out and face really good hitters and learn how to get them out.

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