Wieland showing some polish

SURPRISE, AZ - With a 1.87 ERA in 33.2 innings with the AZL Rangers, 18-year-old right-hander Joe Wieland has been one of the most impressive pitchers in the Arizona League this season. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher after he tossed three scoreless innings on Friday night.

Since signing with the Rangers on June 8, right-hander Joe Wieland has lived up to his billing as being advanced for his age.

The Rangers' fourth round pick in this summer's draft currently has a 1.87 ERA in 11 games [5 starts] with the rookie-level AZL Rangers. He has pitiched 33.2 innings and surrendered 26 hits while walking seven and striking out 28.

The Nevada native has been particularly impressive in his last five outings, in which he has yielded just one run in 15.2 frames.

Wieland delivered a strong performance in his most recent outing, in which he threw three scoreless innings against the AZL Angels on August 15. In that appearance, he scattered four hits and fanned four without walking a batter.

The 6-foot-3 hurler displayed strong command of all three pitches, especially in his ability to work down in the zone with an 88-91 mph fastball. Wieland also mixed in a curveball at 76-78 mph and a changeup which checked in at around 78-79.

Although Wieland did not throw many changeups at Reno's Bishop Manogue High School, he used the pitch fairly often on Friday. Wieland showed some feel for the pitch despite his lack of experience with it.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with Wieland after Friday night's outing.

Jason Cole: How do you feel about your first go-round in pro ball?

Joe Wieland: It is working out well. It took a couple days to get used to it. It is a little different coming from high school. It's a big change. I feel pretty good. My arm is starting to get back into shape – it's getting stronger. Everything is working out.

Cole: What are the primary differences between high school ball and pro ball?

Wieland: Coming out every single day and playing. Mentally, it gets on you a little bit. But after a couple of days, you start thinking, ‘Alright, I've got to go to work everyday.' It's like a job – coming to work. I've got to come out and perform every day. I can't dog it any day.

Cole: How often are you throwing here?

Wieland: Every sixth day. They're kind of giving my arm a little rest.

Cole: Are you throwing any bullpens in between outings?

Wieland: Yeah, I throw one bullpen in between.

Cole: Is that pretty typical for the pitchers here?

Wieland: Yeah, one bullpen. Sometimes relievers don't really, but they'll throw every day or suit up every day.

Cole: After a full high school season and then coming out here, how is your arm feeling right now?

Wieland: At first it got pretty tired because I wasn't used to throwing every single day like this. My velocity dropped quite a bit – at least seven or eight miles an hour. After working out, getting the arm stronger, and finally getting the strength and endurance back up, my velocity is starting to pick up and everything is starting to come back.

Cole: When your fastball velocity was down early in the year, were you ever worried that you may not get it back before the season was over?

Wieland: No, because a bunch of the guys told me that when you get here, your velocity for the first time or two will be there, then it starts just dropping off quick. Then you start picking it up once you get going again. I kind of just trusted that and that's what has happened.

Cole: What was that like, throwing to professional hitters after seeing your velocity drop so much?

Wieland: I kind of had to adjust. I ended up throwing more and more two-seamers. I had to move the ball around – inside and outside. Actually, it kind of taught me how to pitch because if I throw an 85 mph fastball down the middle, it's going to get hit. It kind of brought out a different side of me.

Cole: It looked like your fastball was in the 88-91 mph range tonight. Is that pretty much normal velocity for you since it has picked back up?

Wieland: Yeah, pretty much.

Cole: How long have you been back up to that?

Wieland: This is the second time. Last week, I was 89-93 and tonight it was 87-92.

Cole: Are you throwing mostly two- or four-seam fastballs?

Wieland: Away on lefties and in on righties, I'll throw two-seamers. Everything else, most away or in on lefties is a four-seam. It's just kind of a mix.

Cole: Is there much of a difference in velocity between the two- and four-seamers?

Wieland: About three or four miles an hour. My four-seam usually is a little harder, but the two-seamer, now it's starting to move a lot more. As long as I'm throwing it hard and with movement, I'm happy.

Cole: Did you use the two-seam fastball much at all in high school?

Wieland: Not as much as I am now because I was able to get away with throwing a ball more down the middle and straight. I wouldn't have to worry about making a mistake and getting hit. Here, I've got to start mixing it up more and hitting my spots.

Cole: How do feel about your curveball not only tonight, but for the season as a whole?

Wieland: The last two outings, it has finally started coming back. Early on, it wasn't as sharp and it wasn't breaking as much. Now it is starting to get that break back and I'm starting to throw it for strikes more.

Cole: What do you think has been the reason for its improvement?

Wieland: I'm starting to throw harder now. It was more like I was going 80 percent on it because my fastball wasn't up there anyways. Now, throwing it at 100 percent and being able to throw my fastball and curveball harder, it has definitely helped it.

Cole: Being a great pitcher in high school, I'm sure you threw seven innings just about every time out. But since your pitch count has gotten up in pro ball, you have been throwing three or four innings per outing. And tonight, you came out of the bullpen after John Rheinecker pitched one inning. How much different has it been, just throwing a few innings instead of knowing you're going to start and go for the complete game every time out?

Wieland: I never really came out of the bullpen in high school. Just early on, the first few outings, I came out of the bullpen. But now I'm moving into that starting role and it is more comfortable. But throwing less innings doesn't really affect me. They've put me on a pitch count and I can't really have much say in that. As long as I'm out there, I'm going 100 percent the whole time.

Cole: What is your pitch count at right now?

Wieland: It's like 50 or 55 pitches.

Cole: It looked like you were throwing quite a few changeups tonight. How did you feel about that?

Wieland: I've definitely had to use that more here. I didn't throw many in high school and now I'm starting to get the feel for it. It is starting to be a better third pitch that I have.

Cole: Are you using a different grip on it than you did in high school?

Wieland: No, I just never really threw it as much because I didn't really have to. Down here, I've had to use it to mix up my speeds.

Cole: So you would say the progress with the change as mostly come from throwing it more often?

Wieland: I'm just throwing it more and starting to get the feel for it.

Cole: How would you say the effectiveness of your changeup currently compares to that of your fastball and curveball?

Wieland: Pretty well because I'm able to get ahead of guys. First-pitch strike is my goal every time. If I can get ahead, then I can set myself up for pitches later on in the count. Then it goes in my favor.

Cole: What have you been working on so far with your pitching coaches here in Surprise?

Wieland: Early it was curveball, because I couldn't get it to bite and I was dropping my elbow on it a little bit. Lately, it's just trying to get my arm slot higher and I'm just working on same arm speed and getting out in front on the changeup.

Cole: Have you set any personal goals for the remainder of the season?

Wieland: Just keep doing what I'm doing – keep putting up zeros. Hopefully, my goal when I got here, was to get moved up as quick as possible. I don't know if that's going to happen or not, but that should be a goal for everybody – to get moved up. Just keep going, just keep throwing like I am.

Cole: Have the Rangers said anything about possible going to fall instructional league after the season is over?

Wieland: Yeah. I'll be going. I know they told me that they were 99 percent sure that I was going to go.

Cole: What are you looking forward to most about getting to pitch there?

Wieland: Pitching against the tougher competition. Going against guys that are higher up and to see how my stuff compares against that. Just kind of see how I compare to everybody else in the organization. And I want to get more one-on-one instruction.

Cole: You'll finally get a few weeks off from baseball in the time between the AZL season and instructs. What will you be doing then?

Wieland: Yeah, I'll probably just play long toss to keep my arm in shape. Not too much, not to where I would tire and then come here with nothing left.

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