Borbon makes up for lost time

Speedy centerfielder Julio Borbon got just 37 professional at-bats after signing with the Rangers in mid-August, but he has worked hard to make up for lost time at the club's fall instructional league. Lone Star Dugout features the 21-year-old, who was the 35th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

No collegiate player raised their draft stock more in the summer of 2006 than Team USA's Julio Borbon. The University of Tennessee product played alongside several future first round selections – including the Rangers' Tommy Hunter – and excelled. Borbon batted .364 with four home runs, 17 walks, and 15 stolen bases in only 31 games.

The centerfielder's promising 2007 collegiate campaign got off to a disappointing start when he suffered an injury just prior to the beginning of the season.

"I had a broken ankle sliding into second before the season started," said Borbon. "It took me out for ten weeks, so I lost half the season."

Borbon came back to lead the Volunteers with a .345 batting average in 174 at-bats. He picked up seven doubles, six triples, and three home runs. The native of the Dominican Republic was satisfied with the way he came back.

"I was able to come back strong and finish the way I was expecting to finish," he said.

Because Borbon was arguably the 2007 draft's top collegiate outfielder, the Rangers were more than happy to pick him up with the 35th overall selection. The Rangers' negotiations with Borbon lasted until the day of the deadline – August 15 – when he was signed to a four-year major league contract worth $1.3 million. He also received a reported $800,000 signing bonus.

With Borbon's last college game coming on May 25, it would come as no surprise that the speedster was a bit rusty when he joined the Spokane Indians in mid-to-late August.

"Baseball is a slow process," said Borbon, who went 7-for-37 at the plate in limited action. "You can't just expect to hop in there and be on fire. You have to take it one day at a time. That's why this game is played every day. You have to come out here and give it your best."

Borbon encountered another setback shortly after reporting to fall instructional league in late-September.

"I just got a bad cramp in the first week of instructs," he said. "They shut me down for a week and a half, almost two. They wanted me to recover and make sure there was no tear or anything in there."

Despite the injury, the 21-year-old came away pleased with what he accomplished at instructs.

"I'm just trying to go through the learning process here," replied Borbon. "There's a lot of stuff you don't know and you need to realize it's going to take some time. I'm really happy with the way everything has been going so far. I'm learning a lot of stuff from pro ball with this being my first year."

One of the knocks on Borbon during his collegiate career was his inability to work the count and draw walks, two important qualities for a leadoff hitter. Borbon says he has worked to rectify the issue since joining the Rangers system.

"I've been working on working the counts, getting deeper into counts," he said. "I was more of a free-swinger, just hacking at whatever I saw in the first two or three pitches. Now I'm trying to make the pitcher throw as many pitches as I can. That's the main goal right now. I'm just trying to get experience working the counts and hopefully good things will happen from there."

As a table setter, Borbon just wants to get on base any way he can.

"If there is nobody on, the first thing I want to do is get on and try to get something going," said Borbon of his approach at the plate. "If there's somebody on, then it depends on the situation with the runner. But usually my approach is just to try and stay up the middle and use the whole field every time I go up there."

Borbon displayed his comfort with wooden bats during his aforementioned Team USA campaign in 2006. The outfielder says he has been comfortable with the wood since a young age.

"I definitely feel real comfortable with the wood and I always will," said Borbon. "It's something I knew I was going to be able to do ever since I started playing ball. It's just a matter of getting to play more, seeing some more live arms, and getting some more AB's."

With talented centerfielders Engel Beltre and David Paisano also playing in the instructional league, it can cause a dilemma. During Thursday afternoon's game, Borbon played in center while Beltre manned left and Paisano was in right field. But Borbon says he played center in all of his instructs games.

"I've been playing center," he said. "I missed two weeks, so there was definitely some time that I lost and didn't get to get on the field. I guess they were just trying to get me caught up and get me some playing time out there."

After reliever Andrew Laughter recorded the final out in Saturday's instructs game, Borbon officially entered his first offseason as a pro. He plans to work hard in preparation for his first full season in 2008.

"Just working hard, getting in the weight room, and trying to get stronger and faster," replied Borbon when asked about his offseason. "I want to develop my game and just do the little things that will help me once I get back here for spring training."

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