Gentry receives surprise call-up

Outfielder Craig Gentry is expected to be activated in time for the Rangers' doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the 25-year-old after he learned of his first big league call-up.

Craig Gentry just thought he was having a great season.

The 25-year-old was in the midst of his breakout season at Double-A Frisco, batting .303 with 21 doubles, seven triples, and eight home runs. He has been the Texas League's biggest threat on the basepaths, stealing 49 bases while being caught just six times.

Given Gentry's valuable skillset, any hitting he does is purely a bonus. The centerfielder has plus range in the field to go with a plus arm. His speed allows him to spend plenty of time camping under fly balls in the gaps, and his arm is above-average at all three outfield positions.

With his outstanding defensive and baserunning skills, Gentry becomes an valuable asset to any Major League team—even if he doesn't do much hitting.

But the bat is also coming along as well. Known as a top-of-the-order hitter without a top-of-the-order approach in the past, the Arkansas native has made himself more patient this season. Over the last three months, Gentry has 37 walks and just 39 strikeouts.

The patience has opened a number of doors for Gentry. Seeing a higher number of pitches and putting himself in better hitter's counts has allowed him to see his pitch, leading to a better average and more power.

Additionally, as Gentry mentions in the following interview, the 2009 campaign has been his first fully healthy season since entering the Rangers' organization in 2006.

Because he has been in the system for three full years, the Rangers must protect Gentry on the 40-man roster after the season in order to hide him from the Rule 5 Draft.

On Monday night, Gentry was informed that he would be placed on the 40-man roster—on September 1st. The outfielder is expected to be activated in time for the Rangers' doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gentry isn't sure if he will be with the big-league club for the remainder of the season. He doesn't know if he'll stay on the club's 40-man roster over the offseason.

But for now, that doesn't matter to him. He's a big leaguer.

Jason Cole: I guess I'll ask the obvious question to start this out—tell me about your first big-league callup. How does it feel?

Craig Gentry: It feels kind of like a dream. I've been working my whole life for this point, and then it finally happens and then you don't know how to react. It's like the best feeling in the world. Words can't describe it to be honest with you.

Cole: How'd you find out that you were going up?

Gentry: Scott Servais came in before the game and told me that I wasn't going to play because there might be a chance, and they didn't want to risk me getting hurt or anything. I had an idea, but he said it could still fall through.

Then after the game, I got called into the office with Servais, [Mike Micucci] and [Brant] Brown in there. He tried to pull the, ‘Yeah, I thought you were going to get called up—and you are.' It was kind of one of those things where he tried to trick me. He got me pretty good.

Cole: The Rangers have a doubleheader today. Do you know if you'll be in the lineup for either game?

Gentry: I have no idea. I haven't heard anything. I figure I'll come down there just to be a late-inning pinch runner-type guy.

Cole: You said you're in the car right now, running errands. And in a couple of hours, you'll be walking into the big league clubhouse. Have you ever been in there before?

Gentry provides speed, defense, and a developing bat.
Gentry: This isn't the first time I've been down there. I went down earlier in the season for an exhibition game. And I got to go there once this offseason. I know Chris Davis really well—I came up with him. I know Teagarden and Elvis pretty well, too.

Cole: Given that this was your protection year, you obviously knew that the Rangers had to put you on the 40-man roster this season if they wanted to protect you from the Rule 5 Draft. Did you see a September call-up coming?

Gentry: Honestly, no. I did not see it coming at all. I knew it was my protection year, and I knew they were still discussing whether they were going to be protecting me. I wasn't sure if I was or not. This is definitely a pleasant surprise. I definitely didn't think I'd be getting called up this year.

Cole: Knowing that this was your protection year, did you feel any extra pressure to perform this season?

Gentry: Yeah, a little bit. You try not to at first. I felt like I put a lot of pressure on myself, and then finally I told myself just to play and relax and things started to come along. You try not to think about things like that because you want to put the least amount of pressure on yourself as possible. The game is hard enough as it is.

Cole: Well, performance-wise, I think it's safe to say you had your breakout season in the minors this year, hitting over .300 with some power and 49 stolen bases. How'd you feel about your season?

Gentry: I worked hard and it is finally good to see it pay off for a change. This team is a good team and we had the chance to make the playoffs here. It was a lot of fun getting to play with Mike Micucci, my first manager in pro ball, again.

Cole: You batted just .200 in your first month of the season. After that, you've hit over .300 in every month. What was the key to getting it turned around?

Gentry: I think it was more mental approach. I made a couple of adjustments to my swing, but overall, I think mentally you've got to relax and take the tension out of it. Like I said, I want to put the least amount of pressure as possible on myself. If you do that, you're going to give yourself a good chance to succeed.

I put a lot of pressure on myself in the beginning of the season, and finally I made myself relax and try to go out there and have fun. It ended up paying off. I was able to be more consistent with my swing and it felt better.

Cole: Can you talk about those adjustments to your swing? What exactly were they?

Gentry: I kind of widened my stance out a little bit. That's how I've always hit growing up. That's just what feels most comfortable for me, and I've gotten away from that since I've gotten to pro ball. I wanted to get to the point where I'm up there and comfortable.

That's the most important part when you're hitting—be comfortable. I widened my stance out and made a couple of minor adjustments with rhythm and things like that and timing off the pitcher and that helped me out.

Cole: Were the adjustments something that came about from your hitting coach, Brant Brown, or was it you wanting to go back to what felt comfortable?

Gentry: It was one of those things where I was frustrated. And, as a hitter, sometimes when you're slumping, you'll try anything. I was frustrated and I just tried it. I kind of went up there and did it in batting practice and in the cages and everything. It felt great. Then I went into the game and kept repeating it. It felt good so I stuck with it.

Cole: For the last three or four months, your walks and strikeouts have been pretty much equal, and that is a pretty big change for you. Is that part of the mental adjustment you made?

Gentry: That's getting yourself into good hitter's counts. It helps you out as a hitter. When you're always down 0-2, it's kind of tough to hit. Getting good pitches to hit—getting good pitches that you're looking for and letting the ones you're not go. You end up getting yourself in good counts. You don't want to just go up there and swing at everything. These pitchers know what they're doing, and if you're just swinging, they'll expose that and they won't give you anything to hit.

Cole: In addition to all of that, your raw power has broken out a bit this year, with 21 doubles, seven triples, and eight homers. Do you feel that has been because of physical development, or is it becoming because you're putting yourself in better counts?

Gentry: I think a little bit of both. I worked hard all offseason, trying to get stronger and trying to stay healthy. This is the first year I haven't been put on the disabled list. The physical aspect—that's a lot of it.

But getting yourself in good counts definitely is another part of it too. When you're in hitter's counts, you kind of have an idea most of the time of what they are going to throw you, so that is definitely a big advantage.

Cole: You've been running quite a bit more on the basepaths this year than you did last year, no?

Gentry: Last year, I hurt my hamstring, so it was kind of tough to run. I just know what I've got to do. If I get on base, I need to get in scoring position and score runs for us. If that requires me to run, then that's what I've got to do.

Cole: Do you always have the green light?

Gentry: I have the green light unless he tells me not to. Whenever I feel like I can steal off the pitcher, I'll go.

Cole: I think it's fair to say that you've developed into a great base-stealer this season, with 49 swipes in 55 attempts. So I ask you—what goes into becoming a great base stealer?

Gentry: It's kind of like hitting—you've got to have confidence in that too. If you think you're going to get thrown out, then you are probably going to get thrown out. You've got to get a good read off the pitcher. If the pitcher is quick to the plate and the catcher is pretty quick, you're probably not smart to run right there. You've got to be smart and you've got to have confidence in that part too.

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