Wilkins impressive in relief appearance

Though Bobby Wilkins is currently flying under the radar, he has the potential to become one of the organization's top prospects with a breakout season. Wilkins displayed that potential with an impressive outing on Thursday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout was able to chat with Wilkins after the game.

Right-hander Bobby Wilkins signed with the Rangers just days after being the club's sixth round pick last June. When the San Diego native signed on the dotted line, he passed up an opportunity to play collegiate baseball for his hometown San Diego State Aztecs.

But for Wilkins, who has been impressive in spring training thus far, the decision to turn pro appears to be a good one.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound pitcher made 10 appearances – six starts – with the rookie level Arizona Rangers last summer. In 24 innings with the club, Wilkins gave up 29 hits, walked eight, and struck out 14. Though Wilkins didn't play up to his full potential, he did show flashes of what he could become.

Wilkins works with a three-pitch repertoire, including a fastball that sits in the low-90s. He also has an above-average curveball and a developing changeup.

Currently preparing for his first full season of professional baseball, the righty made his third appearance of the spring on Thursday afternoon. Wilkins pitched two scoreless innings, recording two strikeouts. Both punchouts – one swinging and one looking – were on impressive curveballs.

Lone Star Dugout chatted with the 18-year-old shortly after Thursday's outing.

Jason Cole: Minor league camp has been going on for a couple of weeks now. Outside of throwing in games, what have you been doing out here?

Bobby Wilkins: Running. The running is unbelievable here. They are trying to get us to go into the seventh inning during the season. They're tired of us going into the fifth inning and then pooping out. They are trying to get our legs stronger and our bodies built up so we are able to go seven innings every single time.

Cole: Did you do much weightlifting over the offseason?

Wilkins: Oh yeah, during the last month of the offseason I went all out. I wasn't doing huge weights, but I was still putting in a lot more reps just to keep my body strong so I can go 150 innings this season.

Cole: Last time I spoke to you, the throwing program hadn't yet begun. Can you tell me a little bit about how that went?

Wilkins: It was good. I started out slow and then I built up to throwing about two bullpens per week. Then I got a lot of simulated games in with my old high school team. I went down there. They would stand in and they were taking a few hacks. The last time I went before I came out here, I threw 60 pitches, a full game and everything. Everything went great.

Cole: What was your main area of focus during those bullpens and simulated games?

Wilkins: To keep my ball down. I wasn't worried too much about speed. Out here it doesn't really matter about speed. If you throw 98 but throw it down the middle, guys are going to hit it. I was worried about location on my curveball and location on my fastball – just putting it on the corners.

Cole: How many times have you pitched out here thus far?

Wilkins: I've thrown three games so far.

Cole: How do you feel about your outings?

Wilkins: I've felt good. Everything I have pretty much tried to prepare for has been happening. My ball has been down and everything looks great. My arm feels terrific. I feel great.

Cole: You went two innings today. Has it been two innings every time out?

Wilkins: This is my second time having a two inning game. My first game last week was a two-inning start. Then I went one inning in relief, and then I came in today and threw two innings.

Cole: Are you going to be stretched out a little more each time?

Wilkins: I don't know, to tell you the truth. They've started to build me up pitch-wise. They have got me up to 35 now. They were hoping that towards the end of camp maybe I could get 100 pitches. Obviously that's a full game. But I'm not sure. I haven't talked to them about that.

Cole: Your curveball looked pretty strong out there today. Was that the best it's been so far this spring?

Wilkins: That's the most movement I've had out of it this year. My first game I didn't have too much movement, but my fastball was so good, it had good speed on it, so the curveball just messed them up. It was more like a changeup-type thing. Today that was the most movement I've had on it.

Cole: As a high school pitcher, I know you rarely used your change, but it has been a focus of yours since signing with the Rangers. How has that progressed recently?

Wilkins: Oh it's great. I worked on that a lot during the offseason too. That was a minor goal for me, the changeup. It has been going pretty well out here. Every once in awhile I still think it's too fast, but most of the time it is pretty good. You have got a lot of these guys that are getting paid to hit the fastball, so you throw that changeup up there. It's another pitch to get them out on and it's another pitch to put in their head to mess them up at the plate.

Cole: Did you make any adjustments to your mechanics or grip on the ball that helped bring it along?

Wilkins: Really just getting the ball deeper in my hand. I used to have the ball on my fingertips and they said, ‘hey, get it back in your hand because the pressure on the ball is going to dictate the slowness of it'. If you get it back in your hand, you throw that as hard as you do your fastball, it slows down and drops a lot more.

Cole: Have the Rangers given you any idea as to where you will begin the season?

Wilkins: I don't have a clue. I was hoping Spokane, but from what I've been told through other people, Clinton is a possibility. Where ever I go, I'm going to love it. It's pro ball.

Cole: Where ever you go, do you expect to be a starter?

Wilkins: Yeah, I hope so.

Cole: Tell me a little bit about what you're trying to accomplish this season. Have you set any personal goals?

Wilkins: I'm trying to keep my WHIP down – the walks plus hits per inning. That's what I'm hoping to keep down. During the season I had a lot of walks. That, and just going after hitters. I don't want to worry about the strikeouts too much. I just want to worry about keeping the pitch count down and getting through to the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.

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