Teagarden finds his timing

OKLAHOMA CITY - After struggling early in the season with Double-A Frisco, the Rangers chose to promote catcher Taylor Teagarden to Triple-A Oklahoma. The move has been nothing but positive for the backstop, who has since found his groove and gotten back on track. Lone Star Dugout features the 24-year-old native of Carrollton.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden entered spring training hoping to put his injuries in the past. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, Teagarden figured to be fully healthy and ready to catch every day in 2008. But it didn't take long for the backstop to run into bad luck, as he hurt his wrist at the beginning of spring training, causing him to miss the majority of camp.

"I got 10 at-bats in the last three days," said Teagarden of his playing time in spring training. "I had to sit out about three and a half weeks with that wrist injury – most of March. I tried to get as much in as I could so I could just break camp. Then I did and I pretty much went into Frisco just not in game shape."

Teagarden certainly didn't appear to be in game shape when he opened the season with Double-A Frisco. Through 16 games [59 at-bats] with the club, Teagarden was batting just .169 with four extra-base hits and 23 strikeouts. It didn't take long for the slow start to get to Teagarden's head.

"I was just in a funk," explained Teagarden. "I wasn't feeling comfortable. I had a lot of things going through my head. I was kind of wondering why I wasn't off to a good start, like I ended last year. It just took me awhile to figure out mentally what I was doing wrong."

Towards the end of his rough stretch in Frisco, Teagarden finally was able to pinpoint the flaws in his swing.

"I was late with my timing," he said. "My hands were late. I wasn't in a good position to hit. Balls that you're supposed to be hitting, I was fouling off. Consequently, I was getting behind in the count and striking out a lot. Things just kind of piled up and before I knew it, I wasn't in a groove at all."

With the backstop struggling so much at the Double-A level, the Rangers decided to promote him to Triple-A Oklahoma. Although the move was puzzling to some, it proved to be beneficial for Teagarden, as he was happy to get a clean slate.

"It's starting to click and starting to come back a little bit now since I got the fresh start in Triple-A," Teagarden said. "That helped a lot. I'm just trying to put together quality at-bats and get my numbers up."

The fresh start has seemed to help, as the University of Texas alum is hitting .295 with a .908 OPS [on-base plus slugging] in 61 at-bats with the Triple-A club. While Teagarden believes a change of scenery was helpful, he knew he wasn't going to stay in the slump forever.

"I was ready to kind of turn the page and start putting together some more quality at-bats," he said. "I think the change of scenery helps, but I was kind of due to start hitting better I think once I got that first month over with."

Teagarden also believes he was able to get out of the rough patch because of his hard work and dedication.

"You have got to take advantage of the early work, of your coaching staff, and the video," said Teagarden. "You've got to take it all in and figure out what you're doing wrong because it's definitely a mechanical thing. There is only so much mental stuff you can do. You've got to figure out your swing and figure out why you're not on time. Before you know it, you'll start hitting the ball well."

Now that he has found some success this season, Teagarden is focusing on position and pitch recognition when he steps into the box.

"I'm just trying to get my feet down and get into a position where I can see the ball early, react, and make a good decision on whether I want to swing or take," he said. "The situation I was in last year, I was not swinging at bad pitches. I'm starting to feel that I am recognizing the pitch a little bit earlier. When I get into a hitter's count, I want to take advantage of it.

"I've had a couple of times where I still need to get a little more comfortable – get my base going. But it will all click together."

Looking at his strong production since the promotion to Triple-A, it would appear that Teagarden's wrist is no longer an issue.

"The wrist is fine," said Teagarden. "It was like a four-week injury. I got hurt in the early part of March and it kind of lingered on into early April. But at this point it's not affecting me at all. I've been healthy for about three weeks now and I don't even think about it anymore."

Another injury question of Teagarden's has been his elbow. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, Teagarden only caught about once every three days last summer. But the backstop says there are also no more issues with his elbow.

"The elbow feels good," he explained. "I have caught a lot of games so far. I caught four in a row at one point. I feel fine. My lingering effects are gone. I feel pretty solid."

With his health problems in the past, the 24-year-old is hoping to get a look in the big leagues at some point this season.

"Hopefully I get to stay with this team as long as I can," he said, "and hopefully I get a chance to play in the big leagues. I just want to put together quality at-bats, continue to catch consistently well, help this team win, and whatever happens, happens."

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