The Texas Rangers may not have signed top pick Matt Purke this summer, but they went over MLB's slot signing bonus recommendation to ink more than a handful of talented players.
One of those prospects is fifth-round pick Nick McBride, who commanded a $325,000 bonus–nearly twice the recommended number for his slot.
The Rangers like McBride because of his projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame and his upper-80s, low-90s fastball that should gain velocity as he matures. In fact, as McBride told Lone Star Dugout in June, he topped out at 95 mph this summer.
After signing a few days before the mid-August deadline, McBride headed to the Rangers' complex in Surprise, Ariz., where he worked out and threw bullpens with the rookie-level AZL Rangers. He didn't appear in any games, however, because he signed a contract for the 2010 season.
McBride is getting his first live professional action against hitters at the club's Fall Instructional League. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the hurler about the experience.
Jason Cole: When you finally got out to Arizona right around the mid-August signing deadline, you didn't pitch in any games with the AZL team. Did you throw any bullpens, though?
Nick McBride: Yes. I threw about three or four bullpens out here. They didn't want me pitching in any games because they told me just to take the summer off. When I came out here, it was more or less trying to get my arm back in shape. Then we got two weeks off, and I threw about four more bullpens at home. Now I'm actually starting to throw in some games.
Cole: You're at instructs now. How many games have you thrown in so far?
McBride: Just two.
Cole: Are you going one inning per outing right now?
McBride: I went one inning my first time and two innings today.
Cole: How do you feel it's going so far?
McBride: I feel like I'm slowly progressing. I haven't thrown in a game since early May, so I feel like right now it's just a process of trying to get my feet back under me and trying to find out my surroundings and everything.
Cole: I was there in Peoria the night you guys had the dust storm followed by the lightning and heavy rain. Were you expecting that kind of weather when you went out there to the AZL?
McBride: When I saw that, I was totally surprised. Where I'm from in North Carolina, whenever we're playing ball and there's lightning far away–even like heat lightning–we usually step off the field. That night, the lightning was coming by the side of the field. I've never seen anything like that before. I was actually pretty freaked out.
Cole: I know it can be tough to work in the AZL since the workouts are generally played in 100-plus degree heat in the middle of the day. Is the weather better for instructs?
McBride: Yeah, it has actually been real nice. I think the weather is supposed to cool down this week. It seems like it's going to be a really nice week. In North Carolina, we have a lot of humidity, so right now it feels about the same as it does back home.
Cole: What things in your game are you focusing on improving at instructs right now?
McBride: Right now, I'd say I'm really focusing on fastball command, command of all pitches, and just being consistent. I want to go out every time and be the same person. Right now, I love this. Instructional League to me is just a ball. I love the classroom setting in the morning then going out to the field and practicing. Then we come in for a little break and then go back and do it again.
Cole: I'm glad you mentioned that, because I was going to ask you about a typical day in the life of a player at instructs. Can you take me through a day?
McBride: For us, you show up anytime before 7:45 a.m. A lot of people show up about an hour and a half early so they can get some breakfast in and get a little loose before. Then at 7:45, pitchers and hitters split up and we both have meetings. After our meetings, pitchers go out and stretch. If you have a bullpen that day, you get loose for your bullpen. If not, you just toss to whatever feels good to you–some people long toss, some people toss 90 feet.
After that, you come back in and we have what we call our breakfast club meeting. We just talk about a certain topic every day–one day we talked about the media, one day we talked about what it's like to be a professional. Then after our breakfast club meeting, we go back out and pitchers take some PFP and some fundamental things. Then we shag for batting practice. After batting practice, we go back in for lunch and then come back out for the game.
Cole: And you guys are usually done by, what, 3:30 p.m. in weekdays, right?
Cole: All of that is packed into about half a day, and I know that leaves a lot of free time around there. What do you do with all of the free time? Is it just a lot of sleeping?
McBride: A lot of the free time–I actually hate free time because if you don't have a car, you just sit around the hotel. I guess a lot of people do even if they have a car. They're more or less resting because being a professional athlete, it'll take it out of you. You're more or less just recuperating when you get back.
Cole: Since you didn't get to pitch in professional ball before instructs, what is this like? Obviously instructs is even a step above the short-season rookie and A-ball leagues. Does it feel like you're being thrown into the fire a bit?
McBride: To me, I love it. Since I took so much time off, I'm actually glad that they're putting me in a league that has so much talent. It's more or less trying to make my body hurry up and get back into midseason form.
Cole: I'm sure you're looking forward to your first season in pro ball at this point. Have you set any expectations for yourself? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?
McBride: I'm really looking forward to Spring Training and getting to see a lot of the older guys and how they go about their business. I want to pick up little bitty things like routines and what they do to make themselves better.
If there are any expectations, I'd love to start in Spokane. I know it's hard for a younger guy to start at a full-season club, but I'd love to be in Spokane and maybe Hickory by the end of the year since that's so close to home.
Cole: Are you from Greensboro?
McBride: I'm actually from Winston-Salem. I went to school in Greensboro, so I'm about an hour away from Hickory and 45 minutes away from Greensboro.
Cole: Since you see the other guys at instructs and you play with them every day, give me a couple of players that you've been impressed with in camp so far.
McBride: With pitchers, I'd have to say a bunch of the older guys like a Robbie Ross or a Justin Miller. A bunch of the older guys. Then with position players, I really don't know much about them because we're separated a lot during the day.
McBride enjoying time at instructs
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