Moreland getting back to work

Outfielder Mitch Moreland had his phenomenal season at Double-A Frisco cut a few weeks short when his foot was broken by a foul ball. The 24-year-old prospect is currently getting back into the swing of things in Arizona. Lone Star Dugout spoke with Moreland on Wednesday afternoon.

No position player in the Texas Rangers' system proved his legitimacy more than Mitch Moreland did in 2009.

The former Mississippi State standout tore through the Midwest League in 2008 to the tune of a .324 batting average and 59 extra-base hits. But at 23 and with three years of collegiate experience, he was considered a bit old and seasoned for the circuit.

During last year's Fall Instructional League, the Rangers moved their multi-talented prospect to the mound, where he didn't pick up a bat except for the one time pitchers took batting practice. Moreland's plus arm played well on the mound, as he posted solid results and flashed a 90-93 mph fastball.

Still, the club wasn't ready to turn one of its top left-handed hitting prospects into one of its top left-handed relief prospects.

Moreland made the club's decision look good in 2009 by batting .341 in 43 games at High-A Bakersfield and .326 in 73 contests with Double-A Frisco. In all, the 24-year-old hit .331 with 38 doubles and 16 home runs between the two levels.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Moreland isn't quite a slugger, and he's not quite a batting average guy–he's a little bit of both. Moreland sprays hard line drives all over the field, and he runs into his share of home runs as well, with some of them even being tape-measure shots.

His advanced approach has always been a plus aspect of his game, but Moreland continued to improve on it after the promotion to Frisco. When Moreland fell behind in counts, he showed the ability to take pitches out of the zone, foul off ‘bad' strikes, wait for his pitch, and rope it when he got it.

In other words, he was beginning to look like a big league-caliber hitter.

After his showing in Frisco, Moreland looks like he could be an effective hitter in the Majors. But the biggest question mark is where he would play.

A natural first baseman, Moreland is overshadowed by Chris Davis and former top pick Justin Smoak. The southpaw's plus arm could certainly play in right field–and that's where he spent most of his time in 2009–but he is still getting accustomed to the position and doesn't ever figure to have a ton of range out there.

Moreland lost the final three weeks of his season when he broke his foot on a foul ball. He will be attending the Arizona Fall League in October and, as explained below, he will be spending most of his time in the outfield.



Jason Cole: You told me that you got to Surprise on Monday, and you're continuing your rehab. Are you in any kind of shape to run or anything like that at this point?

Mitch Moreland: Well, I haven't started running yet. I got here Monday, and I did some running in the wading pool and stuff. I got on the elliptical and the bike, doing some leg workouts and trying to get my legs back in shape.

Yesterday I hit off a tee and I took 30 swings off the tee. My foot got a little sore after that, but we were expecting it to be a little sore just because I hadn't done much on it. Today, I had 45 swings and it felt a lot better. There is definitely progress being made.

Cole: Was that the first time you had swung the bat since the injury? Did you do that at all when you went home?

Moreland: I didn't. I tried to let it run its course and let it heal as quick as I could so I could get back out here and get started. I knew I had to be ready by the 13th, because that's our first game. I wanted to be able to come out here and feel like I had some time to work with our trainers and let me get back to 100 percent.

Cole: Talk about that injury. I know it happened on August 13 in Tulsa. What exactly happened?

Moreland: I guess in medical terms, it's called the first metatarsal. It's the biggest bone in your foot and it runs into your big toe. It was a left-hander throwing and he threw me kind of a middle-in pitch. It had a little armside run–he was more of a sidearm-type pitcher.

I just tried to get the barrel to it and I hit it right at my front foot–right off the top. Needless to say, I couldn't walk it off. I came out of the game, went and got an X-ray the next morning at the hospital there in Tulsa, and I saw that it was broken.

Cole: At that time, did you know that you'd be out for the rest of the year? And did you know that you'd be getting an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League?

Moreland: I had just found out two days before that I was in the Fall League. I was really excited about that. I guess it's better–if it was going to happen, I guess it's better that it happened then. That way I had time to get back to 100 percent before the Fall League.

But they told me right from the beginning that I would probably be out for about four weeks, and I think we had right at three weeks left in the regular season. I wasn't expecting to come back for the rest of the regular season, or maybe even the playoffs because we were in the playoff race until right at the end in Frisco.

Cole: Even though you did miss those last three weeks, you still hit about .330 on the year between the two levels. In general, with your time in both Bakersfield and Frisco, how'd you feel about your season?

Moreland: I was happy with my season. I really had a good surrounding cast, I guess you would say. The coaches were good and the team was fun. It was fun–they kept it fun to play. You showed up at the park every day wanting to play, and that helped me out too. That comfort level–as long as you stay comfortable and go to the field every day wanting to play, it makes it a little easier.

Cole: I was looking at your numbers in Frisco, and I noticed that you hit .385 against left-handed pitching. Obviously you're a left-handed hitter yourself. What is it about your game that allows you to have such success against lefties?

Moreland: I don't really know. I couldn't tell you. My dad was left-handed when I was growing up. I don't know if that has anything to do with it. I saw his BP for a long time, so I guess I could give him a little credit on that one. There's a guy that throws us BP at home, too, in the offseason, and he does real well for us too. He is also left-handed.

I don't know. I try to see both sides, especially when I'm training in the offseason. I like to see right- and left-handers. I just try to make it like a game–what I would see during the season–so I can stay ready for both of them.

Cole: Have you always been a little better against left-handed pitching, or was that just kind of a sample size thing with Frisco this year?

Moreland: I usually hit lefties alright. I've been up and down, though. I've had my bad days against lefties, just like I have against righties, I guess like everybody has.

Cole: Tell me about your time in Frisco this year. Numbers-wise, you've pretty much held steady through Clinton, Bakersfield and Frisco. What adjustments have you made, and what areas have you developed in that have allowed you to keep the steady production as you go up the ladder?

Moreland: Frisco was great. I had a great time there. The competition was definitely better and the game was a lot faster. I guess the biggest thing I tried to do was to not let it get too complex for me–just try to keep it simple and play the game like I have since I can remember.

Just to go out and have a good time playing and hopefully things will take care of themselves. That's the way I try to approach it every day. I don't want to get too anxious on the field. I just want to try and stay relaxed when I'm playing. That helps me.

Cole: Have you made any mechanical adjustments with your swing or have you changed anything in your approach from the time that you signed with the Rangers to this point?

Moreland: I've actually narrowed up some. That's kind of hard to believe, because I'm still pretty wide when I'm hitting. But I've narrowed up some–I was really wide in college. That's something my hitting coaches with the Rangers have done. All the way up the ladder, everybody has helped me. It has been a good learning experience. I just try to take it in and use what works for me. So far, it's going good. I just hope it can stay that way.

Cole: I want to talk about your defensive game a little bit. I've heard you mention in the past that you are probably most comfortable at first base, but you spent most of your time this season in right field. How do you feel in right field right now?

Moreland: I feel good out there. It's just like everything else–I guess the most experience you have there, the more comfortable you feel. It has been fun. As long as I'm in the lineup, I'm not going to complain.

Cole: You've got the Arizona Fall League assignment coming up. Do you know what position you're going to be playing there?

Moreland: Yes. I've heard that it's going to be probably three games in the outfield and maybe one game at first per week, depending on the guys we have. I'm thinking right now that it's going to be more outfield, though.

Cole: Do you know if that's where the Rangers like you at down the road? Or do they want to get you more time at first base in the future?

Moreland: I think they just want me to get a little more experience in the outfield. I was drafted as a first baseman, and I guess I haven't had the experience in the outfield. Maybe they're just trying to expand my experience out there, but I don't know.

Cole: Tell me how much you're looking forward to playing against the type of competition that is even a step above what you faced in the Texas League.

Moreland: I can't wait. I've been looking forward to it, and I just want to get back healthy and get to playing again. It was eating at me. I got to go home for about a month and I couldn't do a whole lot because of my foot. I walked around in crutches for two weeks, so needless to say, I'm ready for a little baseball again.

Cole: Being a guy that hit about .330 and had success in Frisco, are you starting to look ahead to next year? Are you thinking that you might be able to get the call to the Majors at some point next year?

Moreland: I know if I do well in the Fall League, it'll help me tremendously. I just have to bide my time and I know things will work out. If I can just keep playing–put my cleats on every day, go out there and take the field, I think it'll take care of itself. I'm not really looking–I don't have a time set for anything. I just want to get there and stay for a little while and hopefully rack up some wins.


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