Alignment an issue for Wilkins

Sixth round pick Bobby Wilkins recently attended the Rangers' fall instructional league after making his professional debut this past summer. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the 18-year-old about his experience at instructs and what he's doing to prepare for the 2008 campaign.

With five first round picks in the 2007 MLB Draft, it would come as no surprise that some of the Rangers' early-round picks would be overlooked. Though right-handed pitcher Bobby Wilkins was a sixth round selection, he was the seventh pitcher taken by the club this past June.

But with a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame and a 92-94 MPH fastball, the 18-year-old has just as much upside as some of the Rangers' earlier picks.

Wilkins began his professional career with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers and posted a 5.25 ERA in 24 innings while battling some arm fatigue. He then joined the Rangers at their fall instructional league about a month after his debut campaign came to an end.

"It was a great experience," said Wilkins of his time at instructs. "I learned a ton through the coaches and through my experience of playing out there."

The San Diego native estimates he appeared in six games during the month-long league. Although Wilkins feels there was room for improvement, he was largely pleased with his performance.

"I thought I did pretty good," he said. "They mostly had me going one inning. I didn't do too bad. I thought obviously there was some stuff for me to still work on. They gave me a lot of stuff to do during the offseason with bullpens and stuff."

One area of focus for Wilkins this winter will be his alignment. The pitcher says the Rangers have made an adjustment to his windup that he will iron out over the next few months.

"They gave me a new type of style with my windup," Wilkins said. "Instead of stepping towards the side, I'm stepping straight back. It's supposed to keep me aligned with the plate. I was real back-and-forth with my windup, so they decided to simplify it. Instead of having too many swinging and jerking movements, they've got me going straight towards home plate now."

Wilkins believes the alignment problem was leading to multiple issues during his professional debut.

"[The changes] will keep me from flying open, losing velocity, and losing my location," he said. "It kind of got me more squared up to the plate, got me going straight to the plate instead of going from the first base line to the third base line and swinging all over the place."

Because Wilkins only made 10 appearances with the AZL Rangers, not all of the organization's pitching coaches had seen him. As a result, the Rangers decided to watch him pitch at instructs before making any adjustments.

"At the beginning of instructs they just kind of let it go to see what other guys would think," replied Wilkins. "Then towards the end, Dave Chavarria said this was what he saw and he wanted me to work on this. It was the last week of instructs that he really put it into play for me."

One of the reasons Wilkins appeared in just 10 games over the summer was his aforementioned arm fatigue. The right-hander says he felt nothing of the sort during his month at instructs.

"I felt really strong to tell you the truth," said the 18-year-old. "What happened with my fatigue was that I was throwing so much more than what I was used to in high school. I really think I got used to doing the bullpens in between the starts. I think it really started to help my shoulder out a little bit."

Currently in the middle of his offseason, Wilkins hasn't thrown a baseball since he left Surprise, but he hasn't stopped working out.

"I haven't thrown anything yet," he said. "I'm supposed to be throwing in the beginning of December.

"I have just been straight running. I didn't take any time off from doing that. I did my running program and I just got back into weights. I'm going to hit them hard now so I can build a little bit of muscle."

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