The Rangers drafted left-hander Cliff Springston in the 11th round of the 2008 MLB Draft last week.
A native of Lorena, Texas, Springston spent his first two collegiate seasons at Baylor University. In two seasons with the Bears, the lefty amassed a 5-4 record with a 6.72 ERA in 65.2 innings.
Springston's career turned around when he chose to transfer to the University of Arkansas for his junior season.
The summer before his junior campaign, the 6-foot-3 hurler played with the Chatham A's of the Cape Cod League and posted a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings pitched.
Springston was able to build on that success with the Razorbacks, as he emerged as Arkansas' staff ace this past season. He went 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA. In 87.2 innings, Springston surrendered 93 hits, walked 26 and struck out 63.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 11th round pick for a Q&A session.
Jason Cole: Can you describe how it felt to get drafted by the Rangers?
Cliff Springston: It's an exciting thing to get drafted period, I think. Especially being from Texas – kind of a hometown thing. It was a surprise. I didn't expect to get drafted by the Rangers, so I'm more than happy.
Cole: Were you much of a Rangers fan growing up?
Springston: Not a huge Rangers fan. I was a big Rangers fan when Will Clark was with the Rangers. I haven't really followed the team for a long time. But like I said, I'm definitely glad to be a Ranger more than anybody else.
Cole: You were picked in the 11th round. Is that about where you were expecting to go?
Springston: I was kind of told earlier rounds, like between four, five, and six. But with some of the teams that told me they were going to take me in those rounds, I'll take the 11th round to go to the Rangers over that.
Cole: Had you talked to the Rangers much before the draft and during your season with Arkansas?
Springston: Not a whole lot. Just regular over the phone and through letters and stuff. But not a whole lot.
Cole: Tell me a little bit about your game as a pitcher, like what pitches you throw and the speeds you usually work at.
Springston: I throw a lot of fastballs as a pitcher. I'm not too overpowering – I'm 88-92. I throw a good changeup and a hard slider. I use the curveball early in counts. My coach at Arkansas always said that I'm just a competitor. I compete on the mound and if it's a tough situation, I usually come out on top. That's the kind of pitcher I am.
Cole: Which pitch would you consider to be your best?
Springston: Definitely my fastball.
Cole: Which would you say has the most room for improvement as you go into pro ball?
Springston: I definitely need work on my slider to make it a better out pitch. I want it sharper with more downward break. I feel like if I get good help on my slider, I'll move quicker through pro ball.
Cole: This was your first year at Arkansas after two years at Baylor. I think it's safe to say you were one of the best – if not the best – pitchers on the Arkansas staff this season. What allowed you to improve so much between your sophomore and junior campaigns?
Springston: Really I just kept working hard with my opportunity and pitching during the summer. I was learning myself. When I got to Arkansas, being under the coaching staff and being under coach Jorn, it really just helped my career take off. Coach Jorn taught me a lot about the game, he taught me a lot about pitching. He is really what helped me the most between my sophomore and junior years.
Cole: You also got to play in the Cape Cod League between your sophomore and junior seasons. What was that experience like, playing against a bunch of other top draft prospects?
Springston: It was fun. It is always different whenever you get to show up to the game and you know the names instead of the numbers of the guys throwing or the guys hitting. We all got to become friends and it is fun going into the draft and going to different teams. I'm still going to get to play them.
I threw well in the Cape. I had a real good season. I went back a little bit early and went home so I could get to Arkansas. But the season was good and I'm looking forward to seeing my friends again in pro ball.
Cole: So Rangers fans can kind of get an idea of what you're like on the mound, is there a big league pitcher that you would say you try and model your game after?
Springston: Not in particular. I have always been a huge fan of Roger Clemens. That's kind of a big name. I have always loved his attitude, his determination, and his competitiveness. I try to be as competitive as he is. I don't really pitch like Roger Clemens. I'm left-handed and I don't throw quite as hard. But I definitely would take his demeanor on the mound, as competitive as he is.
Cole: What would you say has been the best moment of your baseball career so far?
Springston: Going to Arkansas was probably the best moment. Not really one outing stands out more than the others. I threw a complete game against Ole Miss and that was a real good highlight of my season. Being a part of sweeping South Carolina when we had to sweep them to make a regional was big time. But really just making the move to Arkansas was kind of the highlight of my baseball career so far.
Cole: You mentioned playing against South Carolina. You got a chance to pitch against Justin Smoak this year [Note: Springston retired Smoak all three times he faced him, including one strikeout]. Exactly how good of a hitter is he?
Springston: Smoak is a great hitter. He was the first pick by the Rangers and he deserves it. The guy has got so much potential. He can hit for power from the left and right side. He's really just fun to watch. I watched him take BP and it's a different sound when the ball comes off his bat. He's a great player and hopefully for us he'll pan out and be the guy we hope he is.
Cole: Being a junior at Arkansas this season, you have the option to return for your senior year. Can you talk a bit about the chances of you signing with the Rangers versus going back to school?
Springston: Actually, the deal is pretty much done. I'll be coming to Spokane soon. I'm probably going to sign a contract tomorrow [Wednesday]. Jay Eddings, my area scout, is going to come to the house. It wasn't too big of a decision for me. I feel like I'm ready to play pro ball. Arkansas would be a great place to go back and play my senior year, but I talked to my coaches and parents about it and I think I'm just ready to move on and go ahead and start my pro career.
Q&A with 11th Round Pick Cliff Springston
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