With the big league club quickly falling out of the American League playoff race, Rangers fans were in desperate need of some good news. And, on Thursday, they got it in a big way—in the form of Tanner Scheppers.
Scheppers became the Rangers' newest elite pitching prospect when he signed for a $1.25 million bonus, nearly $500,000 over the recommended slot for the 44th overall pick. However, the contract is not a Major League deal.
After leaving the Fresno State program last season, the 22-year-old worked with the independent St. Paul Saints prior to the 2009 draft.
According to Baseball America's J.J. Cooper, Scheppers' arm appeared to be just fine, as he was sitting between 96-97 mph and touching 99. Reports said that he even touched 101 mph one time.
The hurler has a four-pitch arsenal overall, including a 12-to-6 curveball, a hard slider, and a changeup.
Scheppers has already reported to the Rangers' Fall Instructional League in Arizona. He will pitch in games at instructs before working as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League.
Lone Star Dugout spoke with the California native on Friday afternoon.
Jason Cole: First off, just give me your thoughts on getting the deal done and getting your professional career underway.
Tanner Scheppers: It's definitely a relief. I couldn't be more happy. I'm finally done and I have a great chance here to learn a lot in instructional league and being able to see some hitters in the Fall League.
Cole: When you were in the negotiation process, how much were both sides kind of pushing to get a deal done by the time instructs started so you could work with the Rangers and get some innings before next season?
Scheppers: I don't think it was as big of a concern to get me signed right away and get me going into the minor leagues during the second half of the season. But we both pushed extremely hard to get it done now, for the instructional and fall leagues. I think we both thought that it was beneficiary for both of us to do that and get it done as quick as possible. It became kind of urgent in the last week or so.
Cole: You've been through this before and obviously you weren't able to get a deal done last year. In your mind, was there ever a doubt you'd reach an agreement with the Rangers this year?
Scheppers: That never really crossed my mind. You definitely have to keep your options open and anything can happen. But I was pretty confident that we'd be able to come to terms.
Cole: You officially signed your contract with the Rangers yesterday. Did you sign that in Surprise, or did you go to Arlington?
Scheppers: I flew out to Arlington and did that.
Cole: So I guess you had your physical and everything yesterday as well?
Cole: Tell me about making that trip to Arlington. Obviously the Rangers were off yesterday, so you didn't get a chance to catch a game, but how was the experience out there?
Scheppers: I had both of my parents with me. We had this little press conference and they got me signed and squared away. I took a tour of the facility and it was a great feeling. I'm glad to have it all over with.
Cole: You were in Surprise for the first day of instructs, and now you're back there. Even though it has only been a couple of days, what are your thoughts on the general feel of the Rangers organization so far?
Scheppers: I'm actually so impressed with everything that they have. The facilities are amazing. And the coaching staff that they have here—it's just so much knowledge and so much experience. I really wasn't expecting that I would be this lucky—to be part of this.
Cole: I know the Rangers have quite a few California guys in the system. Coming into the organization, do you already know a few of the guys?
Scheppers: Yeah. I played with two guys from Fresno State—Tommy Mendonca. He'll probably be here tomorrow or so. And then also Justin Miller.
Cole: You had quite a bit of time off between playing indy ball and the time that you signed. What were you doing to stay in shape and what was your throwing program like?
Scheppers: I was throwing five days per week. Out of those five days, two of them were bullpen sessions. I was working with a former coach of mine at Fresno State, Ted Silva. He's currently the pitching coach at UC Irvine. And I was just kind of developing pitches and working on certain mechanics and just kind of fine tuning myself and getting ready for whenever the Rangers called on me.
Cole: You mentioned the Rangers coaching staff earlier. Now that you're in professional ball, is there anything in particular that you'd like to work on at instructs?
Scheppers: I'm definitely trying to basically become a better overall pitcher. I want to pick the pitching coaches' brains a little bit on how to approach hitters and now to mix up my pitches. I think that's what I'll be focusing on, as well as trying to control and command my pitches.
Cole: You'll also be going to the Arizona Fall League. Are they going to have you pitching at instructs as well to get you some innings?
Scheppers: Yes. I think I'll probably be throwing sometime next week. I've already been starting to play a little catch here in Surprise. Then basically I'll probably be a reliever in the Fall League—not a starting pitcher. So I won't necessarily need to be built up into starting yet, so I'll be able to get some innings and get ready for the Fall League.
Cole: As I'm sure you know, the Fall League guys are advanced and a number of them even have Major League experience. Give me your thoughts on signing a contract and then, just a month later, facing guys like that.
Scheppers: To be able to prove that you should be at those levels, you need to beat the people at those levels. I think it is a great opportunity for me to be able to prove myself and hopefully get my career started in the right direction.
Scheppers ready for Fall League challenge
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