No player in the Rangers' system has earned the ‘organizational soldier' tag more than left-hander Ryan Falcon.
In 182.2 career innings over three seasons, Falcon has posted a 2.91 earned-run average.
The reliever has spent the past two years in Bakersfield, a place where—let's face it—no player wants to be for very long.
After a strong showing with the Blaze in 2008, Falcon returned to Bakersfield in 2009, and he has continued to improve.
The 25-year-old [Falcon's birthday was on August 27] has logged 65 innings out of the bullpen this season, posting a 2.22 ERA. He has surrendered just 54 hits while walking 13 and striking out 68.
The UNC-Greensboro product has been particularly clutch down the stretch. Falcon was stretched out in his last two outings due to extra-inning games, and he's combined to yield one run on three hits in 8.1 innings over that span, walking zero and fanning 12.
Falcon's mid-80s fastball is far from overpowering, but he is able to work both sides of the plate with it. During his career, Falcon hasn't given up many home runs, despite a ridiculous flyball rate. That is because the southpaw jams hitters and gets an incredible amount of infield popups.
The 6-foot-0, 195-pound hurler's go-to pitch is a plus changeup, which rates as one of the system's best. Although he is left-handed, Falcon has limited right-handed hitters to a .218 batting average this season. He also mixes in the occasional curveball to left-handed hitters.
Lone Star Dugout was on-hand for Falcon's outing on August 19 against the Inland Empire 66ers. He tossed two scoreless innings in the game, giving up one hit, walking one, and striking out one. We were able to speak with the reliever after the game.
Jason Cole: It's your second year with Bakersfield. You pitched well last year, but it seems like you've made improvements across the board numbers-wise. How do you feel about your season?
Ryan Falcon: I think it has gone well so far. I'm just trying to be able to pitch as often as I can and every time I'm asked to. I'm trying to throw strikes—to throw all my pitches for strikes. I think everything has gone well so far. It's nice that we're in the playoff race. I'd say that everything, to this point, has gone pretty well.
Cole: Bakersfield hasn't been in the playoffs since 2001. Obviously the Rangers haven't been part of about half of that. But how does it feel to be in the race this year?
Falcon: It feels real good. I think we've won ten out of eleven or something like that. We've been on a roll here lately. I guess it's unusual for Bakersfield, but it is also a lot of fun to be playing on a winning team. It's a lot more fun when you're winning, especially here in August when it's kind of hot and getting towards the end of the year. When you're in a playoff race and you're winning games, it makes it a lot more fun.
Cole: I mentioned the improved numbers for you this season. Do you feel like you have changed as a pitcher at all in your second year here? How have you developed as a pitcher?
Falcon: Coming back to the same league, you kind of know what the hitters are good at hitting. But more than that, I really just try to concentrate on locating my fastball down—not leaving it up. And being able to mix in offspeed pitches quite often—throwing those for strikes. Also, just being able to really throw my fastball to both sides of the plate and have confidence in doing that. I think that has helped this year.
Cole: Maybe it is from the outings that I've seen and it's just by chance, but are you throwing more fastballs and fewer changeups than you did last season?
Falcon: I think a lot of times, yeah. Especially against some of the teams that we play quite often. I guess they have reports and they know that certain people like to throw a lot of fastballs or people like to throw offspeed. Sometimes they're looking for pitches against a certain person, so you have to pitch to that.
I think I am throwing more fastballs maybe, but I'm still obviously using my offspeed—the changeup and breaking ball quite often. I would say that I'm probably using my fastball a little more.
Cole: You didn't throw a curveball tonight, did you?
Falcon: Nope. Usually I throw that sometimes to righties, but a lot to lefties. And I didn't face any lefties tonight.
Cole: Do you throw a four-seam fastball or two?
Falcon: Mostly four-seams. Some two-seam, but I would say mostly four.
Cole: Your changeup has obviously always been a great pitch for you. How do you feel it has developed this season?
Falcon: I think that is my go-to pitch. It is usually a good pitch for me as long as I can get it down in the zone. Sometimes when I leave it up, it gets hit a little bit. But I would say that is probably the pitch where, if I feel like I'm in a tough spot or a tough situation or really any situation, I go to that pitch. I feel that it's the best pitch I have as long as I can locate it down in the zone.
Cole: What kind of grip do you use on that changeup?
Falcon: Pretty much just a circle change.
Cole: Is that what you have always used?
Cole: How long has your changeup been your go-to pitch? I know most guys don't even develop one until they get into professional ball.
Falcon: I had Tommy John surgery at the beginning of my junior year in college. Ever since coming back from that, I've developed it and used it a lot more. Really, my senior year of college is when it became the pitch that I depended on a lot. Then obviously, ever since I've been pitching professionally, it has been a go-to pitch for me.
Cole: You've been here for two years now, and you have had a lot of success. Just talk about the possibility of going up to Double-A, especially to start next season. Have the Rangers told you anything about it?
Falcon: No, they haven't really said anything about that. Everyone wants to advance throughout the year or next season. But I guess really right now, those things are out of your hands. You just try to pitch as well as you can every time that you get the opportunity, no matter where you're at. I'm real excited, along with the rest of the team, just to be here in this playoff race.
Falcon continues to produce
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