Wieland finds comfort on the rubber

SURPRISE, AZ - Coming of an excellent debut season, right-hander Joe Wieland is looking to pitch in full-season ball. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the 19-year-old for a Q&A session.

Right-hander Joe Wieland was well known for his polish on the mound when he came out of Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nevada. The Rangers liked Wieland enough to select him in the fourth round of last summer's draft, and they signed him for a reported $263,000 bonus.

Wieland's skills may have been even more mature than the Rangers were expecting, as he posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings during his professional debut in the rookie Arizona League. During that time, Wieland surrendered just 32 hits, walked only eight, and struck out 41.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with the 19-year-old after a minor league Spring Training game.

Jason Cole: You've been working with the Hickory club so far. How do you feel it's going?

Joe Wieland: I've felt real good. My first outing was real quick actually. It was probably about a three-minute inning. I just went out, threw strikes, got ahead of guys, and I put them away.

Cole: Was it a 1-2-3 inning?

Wieland: Yeah.

Cole: Last year in the AZL, your numbers were obviously great. What are your thoughts on your debut performance?

Wieland: I felt real good. The first year coming into pro ball, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I just went out and I just threw. I had to adjust my game a few times, but overall I thought I did real well – a real good job.

Cole: What do you mean by having to adjust your game?

Wieland: After about a month – at that midpoint in the season – my velocity dropped. Instead of being able to throw it by somebody at times, I had to actually learn how to pitch. It really helped me work on my two-seam. I'm not really throwing that anymore right now, but that's really what got me through it. I really had to work on command. You can't throw an 85 mph fastball down the middle, so you really have to work on the corners.

Cole: How did you pitch at instructs and was your velocity back up to normal by then?

Wieland: To be honest with you, during instructs I kind of thought I took a step back. I was in the process of moving to the third base side of the rubber. I was open to it. They wanted me to be a power pitcher. They said on that right side you get more deception on your pitch.

But it just wasn't comfortable for me. I felt like I couldn't get in on a righty, and going in on a lefty, I felt like I was throwing across my body. I went from not walking anybody during the AZL to walking two, three, four guys every time I took the mound. It just wasn't comfortable – I just didn't feel right. My confidence kind of went down a little bit, but my velocity was back up.

At the end of the AZL, I got it back up. I was bumping 93 a few times there. It just felt better. But it was just a whole comfort thing during instructs and now I'm back on that left side again – that first base side.

Cole: Do you think you'll ever try to go back to that third base side again?

Wieland: I don't think so. Instructs and the whole offseason – pretty much the whole offseason – I was working on it and it just didn't feel right. That first base side, I've feel like I've got so many more options over there.

Cole: What was your primary focus while working out during the offseason and early in camp?

Wieland: Putting weight on. Getting stronger. This was the first actual full year now of just baseball. I played basketball and ended up losing five to ten pounds every year because of that. Now I'm just focusing on workout out for baseball – baseball training. It allowed me to put weight on and overall it was a big success.

Cole: What has been your focus when you throw bullpens?

Wieland: Command and control. I'm really working on the corners. I've got a feel for my changeup, but I'm still trying to work on it and keep working on it every time. As long as I can keep improving on that, I feel like I can get a lot better.

Cole: How do you feel your changeup has progressed since you signed with the Rangers?

Wieland: It has definitely gotten better because I started using it more. In high school, I wouldn't have to use it as much. Now the hitters can hit a fastball, hit a curveball. The changeup is a big part of the game now. Throwing it more and more has definitely helped it out.

Cole: Did you ever throw it in high school?

Wieland: Rarely. Probably four or five times a game.

Cole: How often – on average – were you throwing the changeup during your AZL starts?

Wieland: I'd probably throw it about 15 times.

Cole: Did the coaches instruct you to throw it more or was that something you decided was necessary?

Wieland: It's something that I needed to do. You can't just be a fastball-curveball guy as a starter. You've got to have a third pitch. I just have to keep developing that pitch.

Cole: Where are you expecting to start this season when camp breaks?

Wieland: You know, I have no idea. I'd hope Hickory, but extended is probably the route I'm going to take. Going to Spokane or Hickory – although Hickory is a higher level, either place wouldn't be bad. It's a great atmosphere down in Spokane.

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