Thompson showing rapid improvement

SURPRISE, AZ - Matt Thompson took his lumps in the AZL last summer, but the talented right-hander has steadily been improving, and he is expected to pitch with the Spokane Indians this summer. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 19-year-old for a Q&A feature.

Judging a prospect by statistics generally isn't the best way to evaluate a player -- particularly in their first season.

That is certainly true with right-hander Matt Thompson, the Rangers' seventh round pick in last year's draft.

Thompson has an excellent arm, and he could eventually be one of the club's top pitching prospects. But the Burleson native gave up a whopping 23 runs in just 8.1 innings with the rookie-level AZL Rangers last summer.

The 19-year-old received a $600,000 bonus from the Rangers, and he's got the stuff to match the money. He throws an upper-80s, low-90s fastball [bumping the 93-94 mph range at times] and a curveball that has potential to be the system's best. Like most young pitchers, Thompson is also tinkering with a changeup, but it's a definite work in progress.

Thompson was solid in the club's Fall Instructional League, and he has continued to pitch well this spring. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Thompson in Surprise.

Jason Cole: You pitched the other day -- how did it go?

Matt Thompson: Went well -- I threw well. I've still got a lot of work to do, but that's what Spring Training is for.

Cole: Looking back to your time in the AZL last year, how did you feel you pitched?

Thompson: I was a little rusty coming into the AZL. I definitely could have thrown better. I think I came out in instructs in more of the right mindset than I did in the AZL. It helped me pitch better.

Cole: What did you adjust at instructs to allow you to have more success?

Thompson: It was mostly in my head. I had to slow down the game and focus more like I normally do.

Cole: Tell me about your fastball. I believe you told me that you were keeping it down in the zone more often lately. Is that coming because of better mechanics or is it a mental thing?

Thompson: I think it's a little bit of both. I've adjusted my mechanics to slow it down a little bit. I'm also thinking about it more. I'm not trying to blow it past guys -- I'm trying to locate. It seems to help a lot.

Cole: How do you feel your curveball is coming along?

Thompson: It's good. It's a little rusty early on in the year, but it has come along good.

Cole: How is your arm feeling right now -- throwing in bullpens and in games -- compared to when you started in the AZL last year?

Thompson: A lot fresher. Last year I pitched and then I didn't really throw for two months. Then this year, I'm starting the season fresh. My arm is really fresh.

Cole: You got out to Surprise early, didn't you?

Thompson: Yeah, I came out here two weeks early.

Cole: Did getting out here early help your arm get ready for the season?

Thompson: Oh yeah. The preparation out here is so much better than it was at home.

Cole: What were you mostly working on when you were throwing bullpens both at home and out here?

Thompson: Just mechanics mainly -- keeping the ball down. I'm not just trying to fire the ball. I'm trying to make sure all my stuff is right.

Cole: What kind of stuff have you been working on mechanically?

Thompson: Just staying balanced -- not rushing forward. I need to keep more weight on my back leg and not rush and let my arm drag.

Cole: Is that something you've done a lot of in the past?

Thompson: Yeah, usually.

Cole: How do you feel you're doing with it right now?

Thompson: The last outing I had, it was okay. I rushed a little bit on a couple of pitches. I have a bullpen tomorrow, so I'm going to start working on staying back more.

Cole: Do you have any expectations for yourself this season? Have you set any goals?

Thompson: I just want to move up and pitch as well as I can in my first full year.

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