Ortiz gets unexpected call

The Rangers invited 18-year-old first baseman Michael Ortiz to fall instructional league at the midway point of their month-long schedule. Ortiz received the invitation after batting .302 in 172 at bats during his professional debut with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers.

When first baseman Michael Ortiz was drafted by the Rangers in the 28th round of the 2007 MLB Draft, he didn't know exactly what to expect.

Ortiz had played just one year of high school baseball at Miami's Palmetto Senior High School. Even then, he appeared in only 21 games with the Panthers. Ortiz had signed a letter of intent to play collegiate ball at Miami-Dade College, but he elected to sign with the Rangers just four days after the draft.

Despite the lack of experience, Ortiz proved to be successful in his professional debut, as he batted .302 with three home runs and 29 RBI with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers. The performance was ultimately good enough to earn the 28th-round-pick a spot on the Rangers' fall instructional league team. Ortiz was able to join the team about midway through their month-long schedule, filling in for – among others – injured third baseman John Whittleman.

Though Ortiz says he has always believed in his abilities as a player, he certainly didn't expect to be performing at such a high level this quickly.

"I didn't even expect to be out here," said Ortiz. "I just expected to be given a shot and do my best. I didn't think I was actually going to perform this well. I've always had confidence in myself, but I never thought it would be to this level.

"I'm with guys that have graduated from big universities – big time schools that play good baseball – and I'm out here keeping up with the competition. It's just a great feeling."

Because he wasn't expecting to get called to instructionals, Ortiz was already preparing for the 2008 season at his home in Miami.

"I worked out," replied Ortiz. "I actually took a week off and then I was going to get ready for spring training immediately. But they ended up calling me so I came here midway through instructs."

Ortiz did not see much game action while at instructs, and he feels the lack of consistent at bats made it tough for him to find a comfort zone.

"Today [October 18] I had two hits and the other day I went 1-for-3," said Ortiz. "It has been kind of shaky only because I haven't played much. But today I had a full start – I was in the starting lineup – so I felt comfortable."

One of Ortiz's two hits on the 18th was a long two-run home run to right-center field. Though he doesn't consider himself to be a home run hitter, Ortiz also admits that he's still learning about himself as a player.

"I don't know because I haven't played much," said Ortiz when asked if he considers himself a home run hitter. "My first full season since I was 14 was this summer. I don't really consider myself a home run hitter. I just consider myself a guy who puts the ball in play. Good things happen when you make contact."

Ortiz has worked hard to improve in the field.
One main focus of Ortiz's since joining the professional ranks has been his defense. Primarily a designated hitter during his senior year of high school, Ortiz has worked hard to improve his raw defensive game over the last few months.

"Lots of ground balls," said Ortiz on what he does to improve at first. "Hours and hours of work. Everything from short-hops, picking the ball at first, to bunt plays, to throws to third, double plays at second – tons of stuff. Also PFP's – pitcher, fielder drills. All that stuff."

Ortiz was limited towards the end of instructs because of an ailing elbow. The first baseman believes the injury – which kept him from being able to throw a ball – stems from inexperience.

"To be honest with you I think it was just the excess throwing during the summer," he said. "It was my first real long season and I'm not used to throwing the ball like that. But I adjusted, came back out here, and started throwing hard again. I got back into it and I guess my arm just wasn't rested."

As he heads into the offseason, Ortiz has been advised to rest his left elbow for three-to-five weeks.

"I don't think it's serious," said Ortiz. "With some rest it should be fine."

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