Blackwell showing feel for his change

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Tall right-hander Shawn Blackwell hasn't pitched in an official professional game yet, but he recently wrapped up his first Fall Instructional League. Lone Star Dugout spoke to the 18-year-old about his game and his development thus far.

As this past summer's mid-August MLB Draft signing deadline approached, most of the talk was about whether or not the Rangers would sign top picks Matt Purke and Tanner Scheppers.

While the Rangers weren't able to ink Purke, the club signed a handful of promising high school pitchers just before the deadline.

One of those hurlers was 24th-round pick Shawn Blackwell, who chose to pass up a commitment to the University of Kansas in favor of a reported $300,000 signing bonus.

The product of the Houston area's Clear Creek High School generally works in the upper-80s, touching 90 or 91 mph on occasion. He also has a big curveball and a changeup.

During a recent outing at Fall Instructional League, Blackwell worked in the mid-80s with his fastball. His big-breaking mid-70s curveball showed potential, but the changeup was perhaps his most impressive offering. Although Blackwell hasn't been working with the change for long, he showed an advanced feel for it.

At 6-foot-5, 195-pounds, Blackwell has a projectable frame and he could add some velocity to his fastball as he gets into a professional weight training and throwing program. The 18-year-old isn't one of the system's more advanced prospects, but he has plenty of potential.



Jason Cole: I want to talk to you about signing with the Rangers. You had the commitment to the University of Kansas. Right when the Rangers drafted you, did you know there was a pretty good chance you'd get a deal done?

Shawn Blackwell: No, definitely not. I went through times when I thought I was going to and times I didn't. They followed me all summer long. Actually for awhile, I thought I was going to end up going to Kansas. Towards the end, I started to feel like that was the decision I was going to make. It was pretty nerve-wrecking the whole time. I just didn't know what I was going to do.

Cole: Were you playing summer ball?

?Blackwell: Yes. American Legion.

Cole: So I guess your area scout, Randy Taylor, pretty much followed you around over the summer?

Blackwell: Yeah, he did.

Cole: Everyone speaks highly of him, and he seems to bring a handful of talented players into the system each year. Talk about your relationship with him both during your high school season and over the summer.

Blackwell: Definitely after I got drafted and dealing with him, it was great because he has been around so long. He knows what he's doing. He was truthful and let us know what was going on the whole time. He let me know what was going on.

Cole: You signed pretty much right at the deadline. A couple of days before, right?

Blackwell: Yeah. I signed on that Thursday or Friday and the deadline was the following Monday or Tuesday.

Cole: The signing really kind of seemed to come out of nowhere and surprise most people. Was that when you guys finally reached an agreement?

Blackwell: Actually, that was when I got my offer. They followed me all summer long. They had a couple of guys come and see me. Then they came to the house that night and got it wrapped up that night. I was actually supposed to be moved into my dorm that Sunday morning.

Cole: You told me earlier that you have a lot of family in Kansas, and you grew up a big fan of KU athletics. You were probably looking forward to going go Kansas, but in the end, I assume pro ball was something you were ready to get going with?

Blackwell: Oh yeah. Kansas–I was excited to go to Kansas. It's where I've wanted to go since about six or eight. I grew up a Kansas fan, and it was a dream come true. But also, the Texas Rangers–being from Texas–that was also really cool. To me, it was the right choice. I prayed about it and put it in God's hands. I just wanted the choice to be easy at the end–get the money I wanted. It was an easy choice at the end. I definitely made the right choice looking back, and I have no regrets.

Cole: How did you pitch this summer?

Blackwell: I pitched really good. I went out there and I didn't worry about the Rangers. I just went out there, played baseball, had fun, and just showed them myself. I didn't try to do too much or anything.

Cole: Did you throw a bullpen for the Rangers before they signed you?

Blackwell: Yes. I went and threw a bullpen–it was actually raining when I threw my bullpen.

Cole: Did you go to Arlington?

Blackwell: Yes.

Cole: So you were in the big league stadium?

Blackwell: Yeah. I was back there and all the high-ups were there watching–Jon Daniels, Ron Washington, Mike Maddux. All those guys were watching.

Cole: What was it like to throw a bullpen in front of those guys?

Blackwell: You know, I was fine because they were behind me and next to me. It was just me and the catcher. But it was raining, so I'd have to get a new ball. They would toss me the new ball, and I'd turn around and I'd see them. But it wasn't too bad. I just threw.

Cole: Tell me a little about your stuff, if you can. What kind of pitches do you throw and what kind of pitcher are you in general?

Blackwell: In high school, I was mainly fastball-curveball. This summer, I've been working on my changeup. Coming here, we put an emphasis on the changeup. I really think since coming here, the changeup has really become a part of my game. I'm a guy that throws strikes, locates, and I don't try to overthrow. I'm not going to throw 95 or 98, but I'm going to run it up there a little bit. I just want to throw strikes and make them swing.

Cole: I noticed you were able to throw your changeup with confidence and for strikes a couple of days ago. Did you even really throw one in games in high school?

Blackwell: I threw it a little bit. It was just that I never really worked on it, so it was inconsistent. Then out here–before coming here and when I was getting ready to come here, I really worked on the changeup and I actually found a new grip that I really like. It really works for me. Now I'm confident in my changeup, as you said.

Cole: What's the grip that you're working with now?

Blackwell: Basically, it's the circle changeup, and I pulled my pinky up to get more run to the right–away from a lefty and into a righty.

Cole: You get a little bit of that same run on your fastball, right?

Blackwell: Yeah. I get some run on my four-seam fastball–it cuts back. Then my two-seam fastball, I get a little down action from it.

Cole: Instructs is wrapping up now. It was your first experience in professional ball. How do you feel it has gone for you?

Blackwell: It has been fun. I've learned a lot. We have pitcher's meetings. I tweaked my mechanics a little bit. It has gone really well. It introduced me to pro ball. Before that, I came out to rookie ball for two weeks and I didn't get to throw in a game. This is my first outing as a professional. It went really well and I learned a lot.


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