Right-hander Joe Wieland made his much-awaited official 2009 debut with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads last weekend.
Wieland had been playing with the Rangers' Extended Spring Training club in Surprise, Arizona. Because the club wanted to limit Wieland's innings during his first full season, he stayed back and pitched in one game per week.
The Rangers' fourth round pick last summer, Wieland had an outstanding professional debut with the rookie-level AZL Rangers, posting a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings. At 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, Wieland has a projectable body, but he also has polished stuff, with a fastball, a good curveball, and a developing changeup.
Wieland pitched 4.2 innings during his first start with the Crawdads, giving up two runs on four hits. He struck out five without issuing a walk. The Reno native had allowed just one hit over his first 4.2 innings.
The 19-year-old usually works between 90-93 mph with his fastball, but his velocity was a bit down during his Hickory debut, as he dipped to 87-91 mph. The Rangers expect Wieland to add at least some velocity down the line, as he continues to mature.
Wieland is currently on the seven-day disabled list with a strained groin, but he is expected to be back relatively soon.
Lone Star Dugout chatted with the pitcher about his first full-season professional outing.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your first professional start away from Surprise?
Joe Wieland: Exciting. It was the first time I've pitched in that type of environment. I thought I did well. I didn't try to do too much. I just went out and pitched. I threw strikes and was able to locate my fastball. I got ahead of guys, but ran into a little trouble in the fifth. I gave up a couple of hits, but overall I thought it was a good first outing.
Cole: The Rangers had you begin the season in Extended Spring Training to try and limit your innings, since this is your first full season. How often were you pitching while you were back in Arizona?
Wieland: I was pitching five innings every Monday and throwing a bullpen and live batting practice during the week.
Cole: How did you feel about your performance there?
Wieland: I thought I did well. I could have done a little better locating my fastball, but I was working on my changeup while I was there. I feel like I'm more consistent with it now.
Cole: Compared to your time in the Arizona League last summer, how much more often are you using your changeup?
Wieland: A lot more. I was using my curveball more in the AZL, but now I feel like my changeup is getting closer to the consistency of my curveball. I will be using it more frequently now.
Cole: What else were you working on at Extended?
Wieland: Locating my fastball in on lefties. At times, I have a tendency of opening up a little and the ball runs over the middle of the plate. I just have to stay closed and stay on top of the ball.
Cole: You began your first Hickory outing with four scoreless innings, and then got two strikeouts to begin the fifth. Then you allowed a few singles and a batter reached on a strike three wild pitch. What was the difference in the fifth?
Wieland: I don't really think anything was different. I was still getting ahead of guys. The three hits were just good hitting on their part. But I had two strikeouts with two outs and I got my third. It was a curveball in the dirt and it scooted away from the catcher and the next guy up got a two-run single. But things like that happen. It's part of the game.
Cole: What kind of pitch count were you on?
Wieland: It was about 75 pitches.
Cole: Do you expect that pitch count to stay the same about all season?
Wieland: Yes. I don't think they are going to extend me too much this year.
Cole: Have you set any goals for your first full season?
Wieland: Just to continue throwing strikes. If I don't, my outings will be short. I'm going to go out there with the mindset of pitching all nine.
Wieland happy to be in Hickory
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