Thompson developing mentally

After finishing the 2008 regular season with the AZL Rangers, right-hander Matt Thompson entered Fall Instructional League looking to improve in the game's mental aspect. Lone Star Dugout features the 18-year-old hurler, who was the Rangers' seventh round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft.

"It was all a new experience," said right-hander Matt Thompson of his first summer in professional baseball. "I had to adjust for awhile and the more I was in it, the more I loved it."

The Rangers drafted the Burleson native in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB Draft. They were able to pry him away from a commitment to TCU for a well-above-slot signing bonus of $600,000.

Though Thompson wouldn't have minded playing for Jim Schlossnagle's Horned Frogs, he was able to sign with his hometown Major League team.

"It was hard," said Thompson on his decision to sign out of high school. "It was something I had to think about. But the longer we went, the more things fell into place for us. I prayed about it and it all worked out."

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler, Thompson intrigued the Rangers because of his good pitcher's frame, 88-92 mph fastball, and potentially plus curveball.

But Thompson proved to be raw in his pro debut with the rookie-level AZL Rangers, as he yielded 23 runs [just 11 earned] on 25 hits in 8.1 innings. He struck out 12 over that span.

"The AZL, I came into it and I was still adjusting," he said. "I didn't throw as well as I would have liked to."

Thompson returned to the Metroplex for two weeks before he went back to Arizona for the Rangers' Fall Instructional League. Though he was going up against even stiffer competition, the righty felt he had more success at instructs.

"I came back for instructional league a little more prepared mentally," Thompson explained. "I threw a little better than I did in the AZL."

The 18-year-old believed instructs was beneficial to his development, especially mentally.

"[Instructs] was really cool, having the whole coaching staff there and some of the older guys to kind of learn from them. Playing better competition is always good for me because I like to compete a lot.

"I was able to pick up a lot. Not really a lot of physical stuff, but just the mental side of the game. That really helped me and it will help me for the future."

Specifically, Thompson used his time at instructs to improve both his tempo and windup.

"Just to keep my tempo and don't lose my head or anything," replied Thompson when asked about his focus in Surprise. "Just to stay calm, stay in the game, and keep attacking.

"They kind of tweaked my windup a little bit to give me more momentum to the plate. That has really helped a lot."

Like most professional organizations, the Rangers stress the importance of a good changeup in a young pitcher's arsenal. But Thompson—along with most elite high school pitchers—didn't need to change speeds in order to succeed at the amateur level. The addition of a reliable changeup has predictably become a focus for Thompson over the past couple of months.

"Coming into it, I wanted to get my feet on the ground and see how I could do with my fastball and curveball because that's really what I used in high school," Thompson said. "But as instructional league went on, I started throwing it a little bit more and I got a little more confidence in it. That's going to help a lot going into spring training."

Although the Rangers drafted Thompson as a starting pitcher, he worked out of the bullpen this past summer. The right-hander expects to start once again when spring training breaks for the 2009 season.

"I think going into spring training, they're going to try and start me just to kind of see where that goes," he said.

Thompson, who hopes to join short-season Spokane when their 2009 season opens in June, plans on training hard over the offseason just in case he is a starting pitcher.

"I'm just going to condition a lot. Lift a little bit and run a lot so if I do end up starting, I can go deep into games."

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