When the Rangers selected Michael Hollander in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB Draft, they knew they'd be getting a hard-working, versatile, and dependable player. A four-year contributor at collegiate powerhouse LSU, Hollander started a total of 212 games between shortstop and third base with the Tigers. He finished up his senior season in 2008 by setting career highs in average (.297), doubles (14), triples (4), home runs (6) and runs batted in (45).
During his college years, Hollander was best known for his versatility around the infield, his ultra-strong arm, and solid skills with the glove. But he also showed steady improvement at the plate during his career, and he hit well with the rookie-level AZL Rangers after being drafted last summer.
Hollander began his debut season with the Spokane Indians and played in just two games before injuring his thumb. The Louisiana native took some time off before finishing the year with the AZL club. He played in nine contests, going 12-for-34 [.353] with three doubles, one triple, and one home run..
After splitting his time between shortstop and third base last season, the Rangers have decided to give the 23-year-old a look behind the plate. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Hollander after his first day of catching.
Jason Cole: I saw you working with some of the Rangers' coaches as a catcher today. Was today the first time you'd ever caught?
Michael Hollander: Yeah, first time. I've never put on gear or anything.
Cole: How did it feel?
Hollander: Actually pretty natural. I was surprised at how comfortable I felt.
Cole: What positions have you played in the past?
Hollander: I've played second base, shortstop, and third base.
Cole: You started out in Spokane last year before having your season cut short due to an injury. What exactly was it?
Hollander: Yeah, I broke my thumb. The first metacarpal of my left thumb.
Cole: What exactly did that do to your game?
Hollander: Not much. It just took a long time to heal. It kind of messed up my first year of pro ball, but other than that it is fine and healed up pretty well.
Cole: Other than the injury, how do you feel you played in your first year of pro ball?
Hollander: Pretty well. I felt like I did pretty well. I only got to play in about 12 games, but the games I played in, I did pretty well.
Cole: Tell me a little about you as a hitter. What's your approach at the plate like?
Hollander: I'm not a power hitter. I just try to stay gap-to-gap and hit the ball right up the middle – back at the pitcher. I look for a fastball early in the count. That's my approach.
Cole: This catching thing – when was this brought to you?
Cole: What were you thinking when the Rangers told you about it?
Hollander: You know, I was happy about it. I've been told that catching would be my thing in pro ball by a lot of coaches, so I was prepared for it.
Cole: What about you made a lot of coaches believe you'd move to catcher in professional ball?
Hollander: The way I throw. I throw from my ear, and my arm is my best tool.
Cole: I saw you working out with a few coaches this morning, including Scott Servais and Mike Micucci. What were they telling you?
Hollander: They were just giving me some pointers. We were pretty much getting my feet where they need to be. We were just working on receiving – getting me to relax my hands and receive the ball like a catcher would receive it.
Cole: Is this going to be a full-time thing now?
Hollander: I'm not sure. That's up to them. I'm not really sure, but we'll see.
Cole: Do you have any idea when you're going to start playing behind the plate in games?
Hollander: No, I really don't. I'm not sure yet.
Hollander moving behind the plate
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