Teagarden comes home

With his eyes on the future, catcher Taylor Teagarden's pathway to the major leagues has taken him to Double-A Frisco - a mere 17 miles from his hometown of Carrolton, Texas. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the brightest catching prospect in the Rangers organization.

Rangers fans can't help but be excited for Taylor Teagarden. After spending time in baseball locales like Bakersfield, Spokane, and Surprise, Arizona, for the remainder of the season he'll finally get the chance to display his craft in front of a crowd sure to be filled each night with plenty of friends and family alike.

"It's nice," he said of his new minor league home. "Obviously the atmosphere here is totally different than what it's like in Bakersfield. There's a lot bigger crowds, nicer environment, and it's a little louder."

When the Rangers pulled the trigger on a deal that brought them back minor league catcher Max Ramirez, it created an opportunity for the Teagarden to move up in the organization.

Now, the 23-year old Carrolton native leaves behind a 2007 season in Bakersfield that saw him rank in the top 10 in five significant offensive categories: batting average (.316, 9th), home runs (20, T4th), on-base percentage (.450, T2nd), slugging percentage (.611, 2nd), and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.061, 2nd).

"I feel like I've done fairly well offensively," Teagarden said of his performance so far. "I worked well with Brant Brown, our hitting coach in Bakersfield, and I've been able to make a lot of strides. I didn't feel great coming out of spring training but I got comfortable pretty quick and I think I've been able to remain consistent throughout most of the year."

Things weren't looking so promising for Teagarden in November of 2005 when the catcher's first full season was shut down thanks to a sore elbow which required Tommy John surgery.

But that too is a thing of the past, according to Teagarden, who says the surgery and its repercussions aren't an issue for him any longer.

"My arm is fine now," he said. "I've been catching the whole season from May to this point, so it's been bouncing back really well and I'm able to play everyday if I need to."

The surgical procedure, while a serious one for a pitcher, is not necessarily as substantial for a catcher. If all goes well, the rehab time is usually considerably less for a backstop. But as Teagarden explains, some tweaking was still needed.

"When I'm behind the plate, I've had to change my arm slot a little bit to compensate for my elbow, but it hasn't affected my play overall. I'm pretty comfortable with it now and I've adjusted to any problems I've had in the past with my arm."

The University of Texas product enters into a crowded catching situation at Frisco, but should still find time behind the plate for as many as 3-4 days a week. On other nights, he'll be relegated to the role of designated hitter for a Roughrider team with a very potent offense.

As for his Double-A debut, it occurred last Sunday in front of a crowd that featured between 10-20 of his closest family, friends, and relatives. Teagarden, who went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, had his share of jitters.

"Oh yeah, I definitely felt nervous today," he reminisced afterwards. "My body was kind of out of whack and I wasn't seeing the ball well, but I expected that. I just have to get used to the crowd and the atmosphere and I think everything will be fine."

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