Ragsdale having success from down under

HICKORY, N.C. - The Texas Rangers converted Corey Ragsdale into a pitcher late last year, and they made him a sidearmer during Extended Spring Training this season. Lone Star Dugout updates the hurler, who is currently with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads.

Entering the 2008 season, Corey Ragsdale still had designs on making it to the Majors as an infielder.

The New York Mets' second-round pick in the 2001 MLB Draft, Ragsdale played parts of seven seasons in the Mets organization as a shortstop. Despite his outstanding athleticism and near flawless play defensively, Ragsdale was never able to get it going at the plate.

With minor league free agency looming, the Mets converted Ragsdale into a pitcher near the end of the 2007 season. After batting .192 with the Double-A Binghamton Mets, the Arkansas native went to rookie ball, where he logged four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out five.

But Ragsdale wanted another chance as a position player.

He signed with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2008 season because they wanted him to play shortstop and second base at Double-A Frisco. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound infielder showed flashes of excellence as a hitter, but in the end, he batted just .217 with five home runs in 203 at-bats.

Eventually, the Rangers also felt Ragsdale's future was on the mound, and convinced him to give pitching a second chance. After throwing a few bullpen sessions, Ragsdale went to short-season Spokane, where he logged seven innings out of the bullpen, giving up three runs on eight hits.

Sensing he had a future on the mound, the Rangers re-signed Ragsdale just after the 2008 campaign and invited him to Fall Instructional League. Unfortunately, the now-pitcher suffered a bit of tendinitis in his right shoulder, and he wasn't able to throw at instructs.

Or the entire offseason.

"I didn't throw all winter," Ragsdale said. "I tried to but I just couldn't do it, and I was kind of late getting into Spring Training."

The arm troubles led to a drop in velocity, and the Rangers weren't sure Ragsdale would be able to stay healthy or effective enough to progress through the system. So pitching coordinator Danny Clark came up with a plan.

"After Spring Training was over, I stayed there to work on some stuff," he said. "We just played around with some stuff and DC [Danny Clark] was in town. We were looking at some stuff. He said he wanted me to drop down."

Ragsdale was comfortable with throwing sidearm, largely because he used a similar arm angle while making throws from shortstop for his entire professional career.

"That's how I've thrown my whole career," Ragsdale explained. "As a shortstop, I never really threw straight over the top. I had really good movement on my fastball like that, I was able to control it, and I threw some offspeed stuff from down there."

So far, the 26-year-old is pleased with the stuff he is showing from down under.

"We kind of dropped down to get some movement and stuff like that," he said, "and I've got pretty decent stuff. A good sinker, a little slider from over there, and I've actually been throwing just as hard sidearm as I was from over the top.

"It's good. It feels a lot better, and it's easier on my arm. I'm getting some more guys out now."

Ragsdale has only been throwing sidearm for a few weeks. He began appearing in rookie-level AZL Rangers games almost immediately after he made the change. There, he got 2.67 groundouts per flyout and yielded four earned runs in seven innings.

Then it was off to Single-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League. Ragsdale debuted in the Sally League as a hitter seven years ago. Although he's happy to be out of Arizona, his long road motivates him to continue progressing through the system.

"I was ready to get out of the heat," the pitcher said. "I've been in this league before, at least a few years ago. It's not like Double-A or anything like that, where I've been. But it was good to get out of there and this is a step up. I'm trying to work my way back up and see how it goes."

Ragsdale may get the chance to move up before the season is over. The right-hander is having success with the Crawdads thus far, surrendering just two runs on seven hits in ten innings. His arm angle has spelled doom for right-handed hitters, as they're batting just .111 off him.

Perhaps the only negative in Ragsdale's results are his nine walks—versus seven strikeouts—in those ten innings. The control is something that should develop as he gets accustomed to the arm angle.

Being a 26-year-old veteran pitching in A-ball, Ragsdale knows he is under pressure to produce immediate results.

"I came in and shut them down for a couple innings," Ragsdale said of his first outing with Hickory. "That's just how it's going to have to be every time. I need to go out and prove myself every time. I've got to take that mentality out there every time."

Ragsdale isn't exactly sure how good he can be on the mound. But for the remainder of the season, he just wants to see how far his arm will take him.

"I just came in wanting to give it a true shot," he said. "I wanted to commit to it and see what happens. So I'm just going out every day and I basically want to see how well I can pick it up—how good I can be at it.

"As far as goals and being certain places, obviously the goal is the big leagues. But I just want to give myself the opportunity to really see what I can do as far as pitching."

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