Ortiz finding his focus

SURPRISE, AZ - Following an impressive season at the plate with the Arizona Rangers, first baseman Michael Ortiz is making it a point to focus on his game defensively. Lone Star Dugout has a question-and-answer session with the young lefty.

At first glance, it's hard to believe Michael Ortiz played just one year of high school baseball.

But lack of experience didn't matter for Ortiz, who was the Rangers' 28th round pick in last summer's draft. Ortiz batted .302 with the rookie-level Arizona Rangers during his professional debut last season.

After the season, Ortiz moved on to fall instructional league, where he worked to use less upper body in his swing. Hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger believes Ortiz made progress with the adjustment, as he even won a game with a long home run towards the end of instructs.

Because he didn't have much experience, Ortiz spent much of his senior season at Miami's Palmetto High School working as a designated hitter. The first baseman, who made 14 errors in 46 games with the AZL Rangers last year, has made his defense a priority since signing.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Ortiz after a recent spring training game.

Jason Cole: You've been getting some time with the Triple-A team here in spring training. Have you been able to pick anything up from the older guys?

Michael Ortiz: Yeah, tons of stuff. Just little things about the game. The way they run in-and-out, the way they handle all their practices, the way they work out in the gym, and the way they go about their business in general. But at the same time I try to incorporate my own style – a little bit of fun.

Cole: As a guy that doesn't have much baseball experience, do you think that can be even more beneficial to you?

Ortiz: Yeah, for me I'm loving it. I'm good friends with Foxy [Adam Fox], who is playing third base in Triple-A. Meyer is a good friend of mine, he's playing second, and he has gotten some big league time. I'm enjoying it to the fullest. I'm just grateful I'm here and I want to keep working and see where I can end up.

Cole: How long have you been out here in Surprise?

Ortiz: Since the first.

Cole: That's a bit before the normal reporting date was. What were you doing out here before everyone reported?

Ortiz: I reported when the pitchers reported just so I could take some extra ground balls and some extra B.P. I'm doing a lot of conditioning, getting my agility working. I came out here to work on everything I've been working on.

Cole: What did you do over the offseason to stay in baseball shape?

Ortiz: Tons of hours in the gym and on the field. Not only that, I'm studying the game. I read about the game and watched videos of other players. I watched tons of videos on Alex Rodriguez because my main focus was defense. So I watched tons of videos on him just because I love his style of defense. I studied his defense and everybody's hitting style. I did tons and tons of hours of video, field work, in the gym. Just on and off the field every day.

Cole: Even though you had a great season at the plate last summer, I know you struggled a bit in the field. But how much do you feel you've improved as a defender since signing with the Rangers?

Ortiz: As a defender, I feel I've improved a ton just because I've worked on it constantly. Out here I feel great. I get a lot of good comments. I get a lot of advice from the older guys. I feel like my fielding this year is going to be a lot better.

Cole: What has been the most difficult thing for you to adjust to in the field?

Ortiz: To be honest with you, the toughest thing was my focus. When I was young and kind of immature my focus was the main thing. I always had the ability to play, but my focus wasn't there. I think as I've grown up and gotten a little more mature, I've developed focus for the game off the field, on the field, and in the dugout. I think that was the main issue I had over the offseason and I worked on that. Basically it's see the ball, hit the ball; see the ball, catch the ball. That's basically what baseball is all about.

Cole: What are you currently focusing on at the plate?

Ortiz: Pitch selection, definitely. I would definitely call myself a free-swinger. I kind of swing at anything in the strike zone. I basically just try to hit it as hard as I can. I definitely worked on offspeed pitches low and away.

Cole: Have you set any goals for this year?

Ortiz: My first goal is to make a full-season team. I'm not really sure yet because I'm young and Spokane is there, but I'm definitely looking forward to raising my batting average. Every year I want to hit more than I did the year before. I had a great season last year, but that's behind me. I haven't thought about it and I'm not thinking about it. I'm just going to focus on this year.

Cole: Have the Rangers told you where you will be going once spring training breaks?

Ortiz: No, I haven't asked and I don't think I'm ever going to ask. I don't want to know. I'm just going to work hard and play well. Where ever I end up – where ever they think I should be – I'll let it go there and play as well as I can there. I don't feel like I have any reason to be asking because I'm a younger guy. Basically I just work hard, play, and they do what they want with me.

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