Most observers believe the Rangers got a steal when they drafted Mitch Moreland 17th round of the 2007 MLB Draft.
The same could eventually be true of outfielder Mike Bianucci, who the Rangers took in the eighth round of last summer's draft.
Like Moreland – who starred at Mississippi State – Bianucci spent his collegiate years in the SEC West, at Auburn University. Both players had excellent college careers and both had success in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Bianucci finished his three-year career at Auburn with a .335 batting average, 43 doubles, and 35 home runs. After an excellent junior campaign, Bianucci elected to play in the Cape while he was negotiating with the Rangers. The 22-year-old proved to be comfortable with the wood bat, hitting .282 with five round-trippers in just 24 games.
Because he signed late in the year and missed the season's tail end with an injury, Bianucci was limited to just 31 games in his pro debut. Playing with the Spokane Indians, Bianucci was impressive, batting .316 with 16 extra-base hits and 21 runs batted in.
Lone Star Dugout chatted with the outfielder following a recent Spring Training game in which hit a pair of doubles.
Jason Cole: It looked like you had a good game out there, getting two doubles. How are you feeling so far?
Mike Bianucci: We're still working on a couple of things. Me and some of the hitting coaches are still working on getting my timing down and making sure I'm down early and ready to hit. That's what Spring Training is for – working on things and getting ready to start the season in shape. That's what we're trying to do.
Cole: From the time you signed with the Rangers to right now, have you made any adjustments to your game offensively?
Bianucci: Yeah. In college, it's so easy to hit with the metal bat. You can make mistakes and still hit home runs. Once you get into the minor leagues, the pitchers are a little bit better and they locate a little bit better. It's hard to find the sweet spot on a wood bat as opposed to a metal bat. We're just working more on barreling balls up.
Cole: Before you signed with the Rangers, you played for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League and hit .282 with five home runs in 24 games. How did you feel about your performance there?
Bianucci: I felt really good. My sophomore season, I went to the Cape, got hurt, and left early. The Cape is a great league and that's where the best guys go to play. I really just wanted to hone in my skills and get ready for the minor league season. That's why I went there for a little bit.
Cole: How often were you talking to the Rangers while you were playing in the Cape and how often were they watching you play?
Bianucci: They were there. I think probably for three-quarters of the games I was playing. We were probably talking once or twice a week.
Cole: When you were playing in the Cape, were you pretty sure that you were going to sign with the Rangers?
Bianucci: I really wasn't sure. I still had one more year of college, and college was such a good time. It was fun. So I wasn't really sure, no.
Cole: After you did sign with the Rangers, you were assigned to Spokane. What are your thoughts on your performance there?
Bianucci: Good. I loved Spokane. That was a great place to play. My teammates welcomed me right away and it was a great team up there. I loved it.
Cole: You got hurt towards the end of the year, didn't you?
Bianucci: Yeah, I ended up breaking my hand right before the playoffs. I didn't get to play in the playoffs, but that's alright.
Cole: How long did it take you to get over the injury?
Bianucci: It was about six weeks. There was a little bit of rehab, which wasn't too bad. It has healed up good and everything is okay.
Cole: Is that hurting your game at all right now?
Bianucci: No, it actually happened at a good time. It was right before the season ended, so I had the whole offseason to rehab and get it strong. It's fine now. I'm not feeling it.
Cole: At what point in the offseason did you start hitting?
Bianucci: Right around mid-November. In November, I started off a tee. Mid-December is when I really started cranking it up every day off machines and stuff.
Cole: Tell me about your game at the plate, your approach, and what you're trying to do when you're in the batter's box.
Bianucci: Yesterday I had a rough day – 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. I was pulling off a lot of balls and today we were focusing on just staying inside the ball – almost getting jammed a little bit. It transferred into the game and I had a couple of good at-bats.
Cole: Any idea where you'll begin the 2009 regular season?
Bianucci: I don't know. They don't really tell you until the end of Spring Training, which is good. They let the guys compete for spots and that's what makes it so much fun. Everyone has a chance to compete for a spot.
Bianucci working on timing
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