Falcon keeping hitters off-balance

Former 29th round pick Ryan Falcon has emerged as an intriguing relief prospect over the last two seasons. During that time, the southpaw has held opposing left-handed hitters to a .191 batting average. Lone Star Dugout features the 23-year-old hurler.

Left-hander Ryan Falcon opened some eyes when he posted a 2.68 ERA out of the bullpen for short-season Spokane last summer. In 47 innings with the Indians, he struck out 62 batters while giving out only six walks.

Falcon has seen continued success with High-A Bakersfield in 2008. The former 29th round pick has been steady and reliable all season, as he's gone 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 39.2 innings. Over that time, he has allowed 34 hits, walked nine, and struck out 35.

"I feel like things are going well," said Falcon of his season. "It's a different experience obviously from last year, jumping up a couple of levels. The hitters are better and all that, but I think so far things are going pretty well."

While many players begin their first full season at Single-A Clinton, a small handful go directly to High-A each season. Falcon says that entering his first spring training, he wasn't sure where he would be headed.

"I had no idea where I would be or what was going on until they actually posted the rosters at the very end of spring training," he said. "I just went to spring training trying to do well there and just see what happens. I really had no idea where I would be at."

Because Falcon's mid-80s fastball is not overpowering, he often has to rely on location and his strong offspeed offerings. The southpaw has spent much of the 2008 season focusing on both aspects.

"I think the main thing is just trying to get ahead of the batter – staying ahead," Falcon said. "I think in this league where it seems to be more of a hitter's league, or it traditionally has been, if you just get ahead of the batters, that allows you to use all of your pitches.

"Also, when you're behind in the count, being able to throw offspeed pitches for strikes. Hitters are expecting fastballs and if you're able to mix in a changeup for a strike, it tends to help out a whole lot."

Although, as Falcon points out, the California League is historically hitter-friendly, he tries not to let the ballparks or the reputation change the way he approaches an outing.

"There are some ballparks, if you get late in the game and you're a reliever coming in, you kind of try and stay away from them in some of those parks like Lancaster," he said. "But I think you just kind of have to block that out and just pitch your game and what you feel confident in. If you try to adjust to the ballparks and stuff like that, I think that is where you can really get into trouble and get out of the strength of your game."

When the Rangers draft a player, they generally wait until their first season is over to make any drastic adjustments. After letting Falcon pitch with the mechanics he was accustomed to last summer in Spokane, they made a couple of changes this past spring training.

"I have actually sped up my leg kick a little bit," replied the 23-year-old. "I go strictly from the stretch now. I think that has helped me out some as far as just being consistent with a windup. I've sped that up a little bit. I think it has just helped me stay more consistent, being able to repeat my mechanics."

As a starting pitcher at UNC-Greensboro, Falcon used four different pitches. Now that he comes out of the bullpen in professional ball, the lefty recently decided to cut out one of his offerings.

"I don't throw the big curveball anymore," said Falcon, who throws a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. "Coming out of the bullpen, I think you only need three pitches. You don't mess with all four of those pitches because on a given night, it's hard to get all four of them working right. I throw more of a slurve – it's a little bit harder than a curveball."

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