Right-hander Ben Henry took his lumps with the rookie-level AZL Rangers in 2007 after being selected in the 30th round of that summer's MLB Draft. The South Carolina native struck out 29 in 27 innings, but he posted a 7.07 ERA while doing so.
The Rangers left the 6-foot-4, 190-pound hurler in extended spring training at the beginning of the 2008 season. He was sent to Single-A Clinton for a spot-start, in which he yielded three runs in three innings, walking two and striking out five. Henry returned to Arizona after the outing and did not make another ‘official' start until the AZL season began.
This season, Henry has shown a great deal of progress with the AZL Rangers. The 19-year-old has a 3.71 ERA in 34 innings pitched. He has allowed 31 hits, walked 25 and struck out 40.
With Lone Star Dugout on hand for Henry's outing against the AZL Padres on August 16, he allowed just one unearned run on one hit in 3.2 innings. The tall hurler showed a good arm with potential, throwing his fastball between 88-90 mph, topping out at 91. His strikeout pitch was a good 12-to-6 curveball.
While in Arizona, Lone Star Dugout was able to sit down with Henry for a Q&A session.
Jason Cole: You went 3.2 innings on Saturday, giving up one unearned run on one hit. How did you feel about the performance?
Ben Henry: It was pretty good. We kind of started off a little slow. It just felt good to come out and give our team a chance to come back with a win, but it didn't work out that way.
Cole: You have started about as many games as you have relieved this season. Even though you are generally throwing three or four innings every time out, have you noticed a difference between the two roles?
Henry: With starting, you have a lot more time, so you get to stretch out your arm a little bit. But relieving, you get the call and you've got to warm up quick. It is almost like the same, but without the time.
Cole: How do you feel about your season with the AZL Rangers thus far?
Henry: It has been pretty good. The team as a unit has been a lot closer than I remember last year. I was out here last year as well. The team – we've bonded a lot better, which has helped us put up a good season so far. Hopefully we can close it out.
Cole: Being a guy that was also here last year, how do you feel you have improved since last season?
Henry: I guess I've learned to be a little smarter of a pitcher. I'm not worrying about how hard I throw or how many strikeouts I get, but with getting outs. That's pretty much all it is.
Cole: With 40 strikeouts in 34 innings, it seems that you are still getting the strikeouts. Do you feel that they're still coming even though you aren't worrying as much about it?
Henry: Oh yeah, they come. Whenever you get in the situation, I go for it. But if it doesn't work out, I'm not going to put my head down about it.
Cole: Tell me a little about you as a pitcher. What pitches do you throw out there?
Henry: I throw a fastball, as with every guy. Both two-seam and four-seam. Changeup – I've been working on changeup a lot this year. That's my third pitch. And probably my out pitch would be a curve – 12-to-6.
Cole: How often do you throw the two-seamer versus the four-seam?
Henry: Pretty much they're all four-seam, but when I go inside I'll throw a two-seamer just to give it a little tail.
Cole: Are you throwing your changeup more often this year than last?
Henry: Oh yeah, a lot more. A lot more down in the count and behind a hitter trying to get a strike in.
Cole: Did you throw a changeup in high school?
Henry: I never threw a changeup in high school. I really never had to. A changeup, with a lot of high school hitters, is right in their alley. In high school, it was just fastball, curve.
Cole: Have the Rangers been telling you how often you need to throw the changeup or is that something you have done on your own?
Henry: I'm doing it myself. Lately I've been trying to throw it more often – getting feel for it as a third pitch so I'll be able to throw it more confidently later down.
Cole: Has your curveball improved since you signed with the Rangers last year?
Henry: Oh yeah, it has improved a lot. In high school, it was always my out pitch no matter what the situation was. Then last year I came out here and struggled with it a little bit. Maybe it was the new baseball; I don't know what it was. But out here in spring training this year I got a feel for it again and it has been good ever since.
Cole: What has been your primary focus as you work with the coaching staff here in Surprise?
Henry: Tempo. A lot of tempo. That is one of the big things with our manager, Bill. He wants us to have a good tempo out there. Just throwing strikes and getting us in and out quickly.
Cole: You got a start with Clinton earlier this season. How many days were you there?
Henry: I was in Clinton for what would have been four days, but it was three. My plane got canceled out of Denver, so I had to stay in Denver one night and I went the next day.
Cole: How did you feel about playing in Clinton and getting your first experience with a non-complex league?
Henry: It was a great experience to finally pitch in front of fans. I think the most I had every pitched in front of maybe was a couple hundred in high school. I think there were a little over 5,000 at that game, so it was a pretty good experience.
Cole: How did you feel you pitched in that game?
Henry: I pitched alright. In the first inning, I got a little bounce-back with two on and nobody out. Then the second inning, I made one mistake with two on – I gave up a home run. Those were my three runs. But other than that, I felt pretty good.
Cole: In your limited experience there, did you see much of a difference in the hitters there versus what you see here in Arizona?
Henry: It's a lot quicker of a game. Not as much difference. A lot of hitters that are down here end up making the jump to Low-A. And a lot of the hitters I faced last year were up in Low-A, so it was kind of like a repeat for me. I had already seen some of those guys and some of those guys I knew.
Cole: Have you set any goals for yourself for the last few weeks of the season?
Henry: I just want to come out and pitch good. I'm not going to worry about strikeouts, I'm not going to worry about winning. I'm just going to come out and maybe get zeros and hopefully finish this season strong.
Cole: I'm guessing you also pitched in extended spring training, is that correct?
Henry: Oh yeah, I pitched a lot in extended.
Cole: Would this be your first year of pitching basically wall-to-wall for an entire season?
Henry: Yeah. Last year, I came out here 15 games into the season, so I missed almost three weeks of that. The season has been long, from spring training all the way to here. I came out two weeks early for spring training, so I have been out here since February 15.
Cole: How has your arm been feeling through that? Are there days where it is pretty worn down?
Henry: It actually feels good. There have been a few days where you go a lot of pitches and there is a little fatigue, but the coaches here are great about giving you rest with bullpens and all that in between.
Henry showing progress in Arizona
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